Friday, January 28, 2011

Master Young Cheol Park

This was my instructor and coach back when I used to do taekwondo. One of the best instructors in the world.
He's bending a steel bar with his throat in this picture.
Something you would literally die from if you even tried it. 

Taekwondo takes a lot of shit nowadays for not being "practical" and also because it was imported from Japan and Korea apparently has no indigenous martial arts of its own. I say so fucking what? Why should it matter if Korea imported karate from Japan? Japan got it from Okinawa. Okinawa got it from China. China apparently got it from India and it has been argued that India got it from Greece. What's the issue then? Is it because they renamed it taekwondo? Fuck off. Taekwondo sounds better than "Korean karate" and that's just the way it is, deal with it. Regardless of where it may have originally came from, taekwondo is quite a bit different from karate and not just because of the rules in competition.
At some point the South Korean government decided that the name taekwondo would encompass all forms of Korean martial arts. That includes tae kwon do, tang soo do, hapkido and Korean wrestling (name of which I can't remember right now). A lifetime of study in taekwondo would bring knowledge of an all-encompassing, complete martial art, combat sport and self-defense system. Since most people either start out as kids and then quit when they're teenagers or start out as broken down, past their prime pot-bellied middle-aged adults, most people don't put enough time into the art to get everything out of it that it has to offer. Competition is good for kids. Competitions have rules and that's a good thing. Do we really want kids knowing how to maim each other with their bare hands in the playground? Koryo is the first poomse you learn as a black belt. It contains a movement where you tear a man's scrotum off. Kids don't need that shit explained to them. Kicking each other in the face at tournaments is good enough. And for the middle-aged crowd, well, they're just lucky to be off the couch, aren't they? Their complaints don't even count. While most dojangs tend to focus on competition, why shouldn't they? Does it make more sense to train to compete in the Olympics or to cheap shot a mugger or some loudmouth at the bar? If muggers are that big of a concern for you you've probably got bigger problems than what martial arts style you should be studying. If you know taekwondo and still get rocked at the bar by some drunk asshole that's because YOU'RE a pussy. YOU. Taekwondo didn't lose that fight; you did. Own it and smash him with a cue ball next time. If you want to win a gold medal in the Olympics, good for you and good luck.
Koreans, both South and North, take their martial arts very seriously. Some of the demonstrations I've seen with my own eyes seemed almost superhuman. Their kyukpa or breaking is among the best in the world. Comparable only with China if you ask me and way beyond any Japanese tameshiwari. I've seen Koreans break shit with their bare hands that other people would need four or five hits with a sledgehammer to break (if they could even swing a sledgehammer, it's becoming a lost art) and Koreans don't tend to have the massive callouses on their knuckles that Okinawan and Japanese breaking specialists tend to have either. I have no idea why this is, but it's something I've definitely noticed.

What do you do with your empties?

He smashed a whole bunch of these beer bottles that day, all with his bare hand. After he was done he walked across the broken glass in his bare feet with a kid on his shoulders then he took his jacket off and layed on the glass bare chested while a grown man stood on his chest. Not a scratch on him afterward either. Believe it or not, Master Park has done shit way more impressive than this but there isn't a lot of photo or video footage of it. There is a video on youtube of him walking across a bridge made of floursescent light tubes. I was there live for that one as a kid and it was really impressive in real life. I'd link it but I still haven't figured out how all this blogging stuff works and don't know how to link youtube videos. That's the URL for it anyway. He once pulled an airplane by a rope with his bare hands and he looks like he's never even worked out. He used to make fun of me for lifting weights all the time. He was a big believer in calisthenics, stance training and plyometrics for strength training. He also practiced a form of ki cultivation that involved pointing with your finger. I can't even begin to explain it but it definitely worked for him. If he got into a stance and pointed his finger, staring intently at it, he couldn't be moved from that spot no matter how hard you pushed or pulled. He could chug a beer like a champion too.
His favourite poomse seemed to be Keumgang. He knew all the forms but would practice that one all the time. Anyone who knows what they're looking at knows that Keumgang is the most applicable to a real fight of all the WTF poomses. The naihanchi of taekwondo, if you will. I actually prefer naihanchi myself, mostly because it takes almost no space at all to perform while Keumgang takes a shitload.
Young Cheol Park dominated competitive taekwondo in South Korea in every weight class from flyweight to middleweight. He's been a coach for the Pan Am games and has enough medals to drown someone in. Served with the South Korean Marines too. I actually can't rememebr too many more details about the man right now. This whole blog post is pretty pointless anyway. I just happened to be thinking about him because my son asked me about taekwondo earlier tonight.

I was the third kid from the right on the floor in this picture, yellow belt at the time.
That's Young Park's son Jae jumping through the hoop.
His daughter is one of the people holding the boards being broken. I know her name but can't spell it. Hanju?
Last I heard she had become a pro golfer. She could wrist curl more than most people could curl and could put guys twice her size on their asses. Her style was more like hapkido, straight forward standing self-defense rather than competitive kicks.

Anyway, if you live in Hamilton, Ontario and want to learn taekwondo, Young Park is the man to learn it from. His dojang is across the street from Limeridge Mall. Seriously, how many people can bend a steel bar by leaning on it with their throats? You can't learn that sort of thing from anyone who can't do it either.


  1. Fucking brilliant post actually, even if it is pointless. This shit doesn't get out very fucking easily, you know.

  2. I miss taekwondo sometimes. That guy was very much like a father to me. When I would disappoint him it would literally bring me close to tears.
    When I helped him move he had packed all his shit by taping the drawers shut on all his dressers but not taking anything out of them. They were heavy as fuck. A lot of their stuff was simply wrapped up in bedsheets like giant sacks too. I was a 135 lb teenager at the time and could barely move most of this stuff. His daughter would pick the shit up off the ground and carry it to the elevator by herself. I once saw her throw a guy twice her size (and she wasn't small) by sticking her thumb under his chin. She threw her brother once by grabbing his head and tilting it really fast to the side. He was actually upside down for a split second from that one.

  3. very interesting read! I really do wish I could see Grand Master Park doing his thing! I love the twinkle in his eye and I get the impression he has an interesting sense of humor. He always calls me Mommy. LOL I get a kick out of that too.

    1. oh and I am pleased to report that Nicky got asked to demonstrate again last night. I fear he is becoming quite the teacher's pet (and annoying perhaps to some of the kids at the back of the class), but I can't help being proud of this despite myself. It seems to make him work just that much harder, and believe me he does! His hair and face and back are SOAKED in sweat every class. How can anyone not think this takes effort?

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