“This Magic Moment”
For my eight friends in these pictures, I’m sure you remember this amazing song, first recorded by the Drifters and later made really famous by Jay and the Americans in 1968. (Yes, I am revealing my age, but I don’t care, so you younger readers can just google the song and enjoy it for a few minutes.) I realize that the song is about a kiss, but no one in this picture will deny that in July 2023 there is a very “magical moment” coming for these eight wonderful people.
I have comments and tributes for these folks in particular, but I also want all Taekwondo students to read carefully and appreciate the value of a dream. I am reminded of this statement from one of the best books on Taekwondo, PROMISE AND FULFILLMENT IN THE ART OF TAEKWONDO, by Sang Kyu Shim (1974), a book that has guided me throughout the past 45 years:
“That which seems impossible today can be achieved or even surpassed tomorrow if the mind is daring and the will is persevering.”
My journey in the ATA
By 1976, I had created a dream in which I could punch and kick like Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris. This dream was not unusual for a young guy in the 70s, but somehow, it took over my consciousness. I soon found Mr. Rex Veeder, my original instructor, in Tucson and began the exciting journey that would bring my dream to life, advancing all the way to 8th Degree and Chief Master.
I quickly envisioned myself earning a black belt, just like my instructor, pictured here in 1983 executing his howitzer-like side kick, and being in a picture like the one at the top. I trained hard and became part of some of Songahm’s greatest moments, like being on the mountain in 1983 when Songahm came to life. I also made some special moments like this one when EGM visited Arizona in 1992 and I was a brand new 5th degree. That’s me on the left, EGM in the middle, and Mr. Veeder on the right. (He passed in 2022.)
I also made some not-so-great moments, like this one. Here I am with EGM failing my test for first degree and demonstrating some really awful Choon-Bi in 1979.
But I got better! And here I am in 1998 (20 years later) about to become a master, still standing next to EGM.
And here I am being dubbed Chief Master by my next great mentor, Grandmaster Soon Ho Lee, in 2011.
A different direction
And that brings us very briefly to 2023. Although I am not in the pictures at the top, I have stood together with these amazing men and women at many tournaments, seminars, and camps. We began our Taekwondo journey over 40 years ago, in the 70s. We did not actually know each other in 1976 when I started, but soon thereafter, we started building a lifelong relationship.
Life, however, can be very interesting and take us on unexpected twists and turns, joyous moments and deepest disappointments. I must confess that I am deeply disappointed that I will not be with you in this magic moment. But if our journey with EGM has taught us anything it has been that disappointments are a part of life. Without the valleys, there can be no peaks.
Whether it is a no change at testing or an injury in a tournament or the loss of a very special student, these are moments that build our character. I have had enough of those “character-building” moments, and I am comfortable saying that I can move on from this particular one and spend some much needed time celebrating what you eight wonderful leaders will do in July 2023.
When you do something as long as we have done Taekwondo, you just assume that you will always do it. And then LIFE steps in and says, “You are going this way now!” I certainly did not expect it, but I have been blessed with a music business that has grown rapidly and taken me away from my active life in Taekwondo. Although I still have all of my Taekwondo uniforms ready, more often than not, you will find me dressed like this, ready for a wild and joyous performance
From one point of view you can’t see me in the pictures of “elite eight” soon to become 9th degrees, but from another point of view, the good news is that my life as a black belt master continues to thrive. I was fortunate to compete in Worlds 2021 and win a 1st place in forms, and I went on to win a silver medal in TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS at Worlds 2022–at AGE 70!.
I also was part of the Arizona demo team that welcomed GM M.K. Lee as he became presiding Grand Master in 2022. I work hard to support ATA owners and masters through a strong internet presence. I always want to reinforce instructors who are growing and carrying on the ATA traditions. I train regularly and still practice my kicks. I always will. It still feels good and at age 70, I’m very proud of what I have accomplished as a black belt. And it really fills me with joy to see the accomplishments of so many younger instructors and owners.
The ATA is continuing to THRIVE! I am very glad of that. But now it is time to create a “magic moment” and celebrate the work of my eight friends pictured above.
So I wanted to share a few parting thoughts with these eight wonderful people. Each one of them touched my life in some special way.
I have learned two very important lessons through Taekwondo:
Always pursue your dreams!
Anything is possible for those who continue!
I had been playing music in the 60s and had already found the euphoria of creative expression. This picture captures a really joyous moment in 1970 on the campus of University of New Orleans.
When my early career in music ended in 1974, I was heartbroken. And then life took me in a different direction, right into Taekwondo, and my heart and mind exploded again with joy.
Each of these eight candidates for 9th degree has mastered creative expression, whether as a competitor or as a technician or as a teacher. Follow their example and find your own place where YOUR heart shines and uplifts those around you. Songahm Taekwondo offers infinite opportunities.
CM Brice, CM Wacholz, CM Sandoval, CM Stauffer, CM Isaacs, CM Harvey, CM Thor, CM Jaime….. I am so grateful for your presence in my life. Go out and enjoy this “magic moment.”
Please read more as separate blogs on each of these “elite eight” wonderful leaders will soon appear, prior to July 13, 2023, of course!