Few martial artists practicing today are given the opportunity to train in the country from which their chosen discipline has evolved.
Yet, that is exactly what 31 students from the Chosun Taekwondo Academy, a local martial arts institute headquartered at 60 Galloway Road in Warwick, did this past July when they journeyed to South Korea – the cradle of taekwondo.
The Chosun group was led on their martial pilgrimage by head instructor and 7th degree black belt, Grandmaster Doug Cook.
Flights totaling 16 hours
The 14-hour flight from New York to Seoul, followed by a two-hour connecting flight to Jeju Island off the southern coast, acted as a prelude to an intense eight days of physical, cultural and academic training.
The itinerary included instruction by world-renowned grandmasters at the Kumgang Taekwondo Center and Kukkiwon in Seoul, the World Taekwondo Instructor Academy in Yangsu-ri, Golgulsa Temple in Kyongju and the Jeju Taekwondo Instructor Association located on Jeju Island.
Each day presented a diverse training opportunity. Master Byeong Cheol An of the Kumgang Taekwondo Center, a face familiar to the Chosun students from previous training excursions, featured strenuous exercises in basic technique, kicking and poomsae – the choreographed, dance-like formal exercises unique to taekwondo.
Another significant component of the martial pilgrimage included a day of instruction at the World Taekwondo Instructor Academy in the tiny village of Yangsu-ri, surrounded by rice paddies, where the Chosun students practiced the most current iteration of poomsae taught by Grandmaster Kyu Hyun Lee, a sanctioned standard bearer of the art.
Yet for many, training at the Kukkiwon – the great cathedral of taekwondo - represented the highlight of the tour. There, Grandmaster Hong concentrated on all aspects of taekwondo practice.
In an effort to provide a balanced program that supported both the academic and cultural components of taekwondo, participants traveled to Kyongju, the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom located in the southeast portion of the country. There they sampled Korea’s rich cultural heritage including Bulguksa Temple and the Kyongju National Museum.
Yet, in what can only be compared to a scene borrowed from an action movie, a singularly memorable event of the excursion required the Chosun students to endure a steep climb through cloud-like mists to Golgulsa Temple perched high atop the mountains overlooking the Great Kyongju Plain.
There, Chosun students studied Sunmudo, or Traditional Korean Zen Martial Arts, and Zen archery, followed by a monastic meal shared with resident Buddhist monks.
'Ancient martial wisdom'
“It is an honor to provide our students with traditional training of this caliber mixed with the cultural exposure a martial pilgrimage of this nature offers," Cook said. "For that is truly what this adventure was – a path to enlightenment through the accumulation of ancient martial wisdom. The students who accompanied me returned with a less provincial view of taekwondo along with a variety of experiences they will recall for a lifetime."
This was school’s ninth training tour to South Korea; another excursion is planned for 2021.
Aside from offering authentic taekwondo instruction, the academy also features classes in qigong and hatha yoga taught by qualified, adult instructors.
For more information, call (845) 986-2288 or visit online at www.chosuntkd.com.