Q. From time to time Master Shinn, you and the Guest Masters who visit during Black Belt Testing share stories from your past that TaeKwonDo students can relate to and that allow them to learn from their Master's experiences. A frequently asked question is "How did you get your start in TaeKwonDo?" Please tell me that story again.
A. Many students have heard the story of me getting into a fight with my friend's older sister at six years old. Fighting may usually seem like a bad thing but it became a good thing because my father immediately enrolled me in a TaeKwonDo school near our home in Korea. The main instructor there was Hwang Tae Soo, who went on to become a Martial Arts movie star in Hong Kong.
Q. Tell me more about the early years of your training
A. At the age of twelve, our family moved to Missouri. I continued TaeKwonDo training with the black belt students at one of Master Choon Lee's branch schools. Later at the University of Missouri, Rolla, I joined the University Karate Club and soon became the leader/teacher and turned it into a TaeKwonDo Club. I taught classes 4 days a week while getting a Bachelors Degree in Engineering. The practice floor for the Univ. of MO. TaeKwonDo Club was nothing like you would imagine, no mats or mirrors, just a concrete floor in the hallway to the gym and sometimes the members would meet on the football field.
Between the Bachelors Degree and Graduate school, I took a year off to be a permanent resident/athlete at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. I also taught 2 or 3 classes at night for Master Sang Lee. Master Lee is currently President of the U.S. TaeKwonDo Union. I trained to make the Olympics my "last Hurrah" but when I did not make the Olympic team, I made becoming a National Champion my goal. Two months after the Olympics, I returned to college, won the National Collegiate Title in TaeKwonDo and in doing so, earned the bonus of becoming the youngest person ever to be named National Collegiate Coach of the Year.
Q. After your experience with national and international competitions and college coaching, why did you open your own school?
A. I was working as an Engineer with a goal of getting my MBA. I had an offer to go to Univ. of Michigan business school and have my education funded completely by the engineering company after one year in Michigan. The thought of doing nothing for one year was not acceptable to me. I wanted to start a TaeKwonDo club and train future champions. In the process of beginning a club, I visited other facilities and it was like a "calling". I knew I had to open my own school and my dream began to snowball. There is a saying that when a tiger dies, it leaves behind beautiful fur. When people die, they leave their name and some effect on society. I realized that by being an engineer, I might leave a certain mark on society but this was not the mark I wanted to leave. I knew I had good credentials and a good record and the qualities to be a good instructor. I wanted a quality facility where I could offer physical and mental training and offer a flexible schedule so people could learn the true martial art of TaeKwonDo that I loved.
Q. What obstacles did you face?
A. At first, working full time as engineer and teaching 3 plus hours everyday was physically exhausting. But I did not feel it because of the enthusiasm that I had. I did not see anything as an obstacle, but as something that needed to be done. This is an example of Indomitable Spirit which is one of the five tenets of Taekwondo.
Q. What would you most like your students to know about you?
A. I want my students to know that I have the best interests of my students in mind all of the time. The more I push some people, the more they grow. If I let them stay in a comfort zone, they will not grow. I see my students as a father sees his children. Some are like babies, rebellious teens, or foster kids. Some are like an older child with whom I can more easily communicate and on whom I can depend. Most of all, I want all my students to come to understand and learn the complete Martial Arts, including the proper Martial Arts protocol.
Q. What is the proper "Martial Arts Protocol.'?"
A. Humbleness and respect portray the underlying attitude of the Martial Arts protocol. As one becomes an integral part of the school and as ones power increases, one must become more humble. This is not a place for people who only "take" in terms of physical workout or who are looking for competitive accomplishments. In the forefront of martial arts training are the following: to lead, serve, and teach others and to treat others as you would like to be treated.