Thursday, March 12, 2009

Master Tae Hong Choi Has Passed Away

My Tae Kwon Do instructor, Master Tae Hong Choi has passed away. I spent years with this man, who provided me with the strong martial foundation I have tried to carry with me for life. There are many, many stories I have about training, working, and yes, even drinking with Mr. Choi. But now is the time to reflect on the strong organization Mr. Choi built and the comradery of his many, many students.
From Oregon Live:

Portland-area tae kwon do grandmaster pioneered sport in U.S. Tae Hong Choi, who established schools and taught thousands of students, dies at 73
Grandmaster - Tae Hong Choi, who ran schools in the Portland area, dies at 73
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
The Oregonian Staff
For years, Gordon Graaff had been sparring with -- and losing to -- his internationally heralded tae kwon do instructor, Tae Hong Choi.
Finally, Graaff thought he was about to topple the master, he recalled, thinking back to the episode some 20 years ago. "I was feeling pretty cocky. . . . I'm 25 or something, I'm young and strong, and he's got to be like 45 and an old man."
Next thing he knew, Graaff was flat on his back.
"(Choi) pumped me on the chest with his fist, and he just goes 'heh heh heh heh,' " Graaff said. Choi had a good sense of humor, he said, but the master still earned respect.

Choi, a grandmaster in tae kwon do, winner of multiple martial arts titles and a teacher of thousands of students, died Sunday at Providence Portland Medical Center. He was 73.

The eventual Korean national champion was initially shooed away by the martial artists he watched as a young boy delivering newspapers in Korea, according to a 2004video by NW Documentary that featured Choi and other Northwest Koreans.
After seven days of his pestering, the men seemed to relent -- but put him to work instead. After 20 days, they rewarded his work ethic and started teaching him. He earned his black belt after two years. He soon started winning titles and eventually earned a ninth-degree black belt, the sport's highest designation.
While in the Korean army, he fought in the Vietnam War and taught hand-to-hand combat skills to Korean and U.S. special forces. That got him his next job of instructing hand-to-hand combat for top-level U.S. security agents, his family said, and he moved to Washington, D.C., in 1971. He brought his family over to Oregon where a distant cousin lived, said his second son, Sung Choi.
After rejoining his family in 1972, Choi started teaching tae kwon do at the YMCA and later opened a studio in Northeast Portland.
He also helped establish tae kwon do nationally, serving in the sport's governing body in the United States.
Choi so impressed one young student, Leon Preston, that he decided to study under Choi, even though it meant making frequent trips down to Portland from his Seattle home.
"He represented what a true martial artist is," said Preston, who now is a master instructor himself and was a tae kwon do referee in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. "His teachings included self-discipline, a broader worldview of how we fit into society, and . . . dedicating yourself to making a change for the betterment of the community."
Choi eventually opened two more schools for students in Beaverton and North Portland, his son said, and at times, let students slide on tuition.
Choi's honors included traveling to Seoul with one of his students who competed in the 1988 Olympic Games; recognition from the Korean Minister of Culture; and a 2007 lifetime achievement award from the United States Taekwondo Grandmasters Society.
"Mr. Choi was one of the pioneers for tae kwon do in this country," said Joon Pyo Choi, co-chairman of USA Taekwondo's martial arts commission. "When the word 'tae kwon do' didn't even exist in this country, he was already teaching."
Survivors include his wife, Man Soon Choi of Portland; daughters, Ilsun Kim and Minsun Min, both of Seattle; sons, Hung Choi of Beaverton and Sung Choi of New York City; and five grandchildren.
Services will be held 3 p.m. Thursday in the Korean Mission Church, 9100 S.W. Wilshire St., Portland. Burial will follow in Skyline Memorial Gardens, 4101 N.W. Skyline Blvd., Portland.
Helen Jung: 503-294-7621;helenjung@


Charles James said...

I am truly sorry you lost him.

Ade said...

I am really sorry for your loss. Best wishes.


kungfucamp said...

my condolences to his family and you....


Hand2Hand said...

My condolences. It's always hard when you lose a great and influential teacher.

Anonymous said...

was just informed from a fellow student that Master Choi had passed away. We attended his classes when he was teaching at Sunset High School. I remembered seeing the effortless and powerful kicks. Attened classes at YMCA and a few at the newer Dojang in E PDX. With my family (Mom and Little Brothers and friends Mr Choi was legand). His teachings allowed me to avoid some very problematic issues in life. The confidence one gets to be in control of ones self is indeed powerful. So much to say, perhaps this is not the forum. But taking/ practicing martial arts in different countries students/ teachers where amazed at my kicking ability, and everyone knew where I got those kicks "Tae Kwan Do" and if they asked further, I'd tell them from the guidence of Master Tae Hong Choi in Portland, Oregon, USA.

I was going to Portland on Saturday March 14th after losing my job in Phoenix. A bright star was going to visit my teacher, and tell him of my life since we last met and his influence on my life. From being a scrappy and insecure Teen to a World traveling Professional Radio Systems Engineer and Martial Artist. His influence was felt all though my life. From my heart, I give him thanks, and to let you know, in a humble way, I share with you this grief and will continue to work toward a better life. Kindest regards,
Paul van Veen

BSM said...

The man left a legacy: Hundreds of lives touched and he spent years doing what he loved.

Most of us will never be that lucky.

Salute to a life that was well-lived.


Dojo Rat said...

Hey everybody;
Thanks for all the kind words, but let them be directed to the memory of Mr. Choi.
I have many, many stories to tell of how Mr. Choi helped me mature and find my place in the world, some perhaps a little too outlandish for this blog even.
I will be writing a lengthy article about mentorship, coming of age in a Martial Arts School, and the relationship of extended family it provided. It will be too much to present here on the Blog, but when it's ready I'll let everbody know.
- Thanks again for the kind words

K T said...

My apologies for my delay in posting this...firstly, I'm sad to hear that Mr. Choi is gone. I knew next-to-nothing about him, but reading Oregon Live's article, I couldn't help but admire how much he accomplished, during his lifetime.

Though the loss of a friend is a sorrowful occasion, I think it important to highlight how a person helped others, and how his contributions made this world a little bit better.

How wonderful that he accomplished so much. This is what we should all remember and strive for, in our own lives. And in so doing, we honor the memory of those like Mr Choi.

- Kostas

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Unknown said...

I had the honor to meet and be instructed by him for a short time before I quit it. As soon as I made yellow belt I backed out bc I wasn't ready. Now I wish I stuck to it to be trained for the rest of the time I could have shared with him. Just thought about him randomly and looked him up. I knew he passed a while back and was sad to hear the news. He was cool as hell, and the real deal and anyone who trained under him to the end I have my money on. RIP