Monday, January 02, 2012

Grandmaster Cho

At Grandmaster Cho's tae kwon do studio, approximately 300 elementary school students from East Oahu just began taking classes. They have come for the six-week President's Fitness Challenge Program, an initiative strongly supported by Michelle Obama. Children must be active one hour per day, five days out of the week for six out of eight weeks. Upon completion of the program, participants receive a Presidential Active Lifestyle Award. The fitness sessions at the studio focus on flexibility, strength, endurance, speed and coordination.

Although the fitness program is separate from formal tae kwon do and jujitsu classes taught at the studio, students are exposed to the core values of traditional martial arts as taught by the grandmaster. "Most important is that you learn to respect yourself, your parents and your teachers. You must master the art of respect for your life's journey." Key principles also include modesty, courtesy, integrity, self-control and perseverance. Students learn never to initiate violence and to work toward the creation of harmony among all people.

The grandmaster just turned 71 and has trained daily for 61 years. He is a ninth-degree black belt and has won world championships. Even today he teaches virtually every class. Despite arduous training and high expectations for his students, he has a soft, gentle side that warms the children's hearts and keeps them coming back.

According to the grandmaster, one must be true to the principles of the art to be optimally successful in physical training. Once children begin to excel in the studio, most often they also bring home top grades from school. To encourage scholarship, the grandmaster keeps a poster with math tables on the front mirror, and at the back wall he proudly posts the report cards his students bring him.

Over time the journey of tae kwon do builds confidence together with a strong mind and body. As the grandmaster's students mature into teenagers and earn their black belts, they feel themselves prepared for higher education and professional success.

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