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FWIW, Thought it may be of some interest.

The Real Value in Martial Arts Education

by Joseph F. Connolly, II
B.A., LL.B., J.D., F.S.M.A.
Director of Curriculum Development, KMAIA International

Open any martial arts magazine and you will find a plethora of seminars being conducted by well-known Grandmasters. If you cannot afford these seminars or dont want to travel, you can purchase audio cassettes, videocassettes, charts, computer software, and any number of books. How much of a state-of-the-art education would you have in the traditional Korean martial arts if you were to purchase and pursue all of this material? Not much!

Lets do a few reality checks. The ancient Korean martial arts were developed from systems practiced in China and adapted to meet the needs of the Koreans and the Korean culture. By various means, these Korean-adapted arts made their way to the islands of Japan and the Kingdom of Okinawa. After signing the Naval Treaty of 1905 where in the United States back-stabbed the Korean people, Japan conquered the Korean Peninsula. During its occupation of Korean, the Empire of Japan prohibited all things Korean, including the Korean martial arts. During this period, Judo, Jujutsu, and Karate-do were taught to Koreans by Japanese instructors, and Koreans became quite proficient in these arts, being certified by the Japanese as instructors,even reaching senior dan rank based upon merit, knowledge, and skill.

After liberation, and against a background of allied war crime trials of hundreds of Japanese occupation officials, the Koreans began to restore their country and culture. This included restoring the Korean martial arts. Beginning with what the Koreans had been forced to study for over three decades, the emerging leadership in the Korean martial arts began to reverse engineer the Japanese training and to restore the Korean in these arts of Korean origin.

Over fifty years later, the traditional Korean martial arts bear little resemblance to that which the Koreans were forced to study under the Japanese. Unfortunately, few Americans, including those practicing what they believe to be the Korean arts, have actually even seen these arts as they exist today, and even fewer have been properly trained in them.

[Note: Another point needs to be made here. In Japan after 1945, the Kodokan (headquarters for Judo) began to teach only sport judo. They no longer teach Kanos style of self-defense Judo. Similarly, the development of Jujitsu as a fighting style ended. All classical Jujitsu is now based upon pre-WWII forms. Contemporary jujitsu, a World Game sport, is a collection of techniques, essentially a catch-as-catch-can form of fighting, not a martial art. Karate-do, which was unknown to the 1945 Occupying Power in Japan, and is also an Olympic games sport, is a classical art. Karate as a primary form of self-defense, of course, was never in conformity to the American legal concept of minimum force required.]

During and after our Korean War, thousands of Americans began to study martial arts while stationed in Korea. The tour of duty being one year and the over-whelming majority of Americans serving only one tour of duty, if they signed-up the day they arrived in-country and trained for 1-1/2 hours twice a week, and never missed class, they completed 156 hours of training while in the Republic of Korea. Most have never been back to the ROK to train.

How many of these 1-year students trained in Korea, returned to the United States, got out of the military, opened their own Korean martial art school, formed their own korean martial art association, promoted themselves to Grandmaster, and now tell anyone who will listen: Ive been practicing this stuff for over thirty years. We Americans dont need any Korean coming over here and trying to tell us how to do this stuff. These individuals have not provided Americans with thirty years of training, they have taught their one year of knowledge for each of the past thirty years!

While there are honorable Koreans teaching the Korean arts in this country, they are unfortunately painted with the same brush as the airline grandmasters and the retirement planners. The airline grandmasters are those Koreans who got into an aircraft in Seoul as a 3rd Dan and landed in the United States a 10th Dan. While many of these frauds have built martial arts empires in this country, they are over-shadowed these days by the Grandmasters who built legitimate martial arts careers in Korea, but then retired to the United States bringing plenty of blank promotion certificates as their retirement plan. Even the airline grandmasters have been known to purchase rank from these retirees, an act which is in itself a form of self-indictment.

Depending upon how recently the individual Grandmaster retired, he may be able to provide excellent instruction in the art, but what assurance do you have that your certificate will ever be registered with the organization in Korea for which purpose you are paying your hard-earned money?

At the end of the day, the value of martial arts education is the training that you receive and the knowledge and skills you actually develop. The traditional Korean martial arts are a constantly flowing, ever-changing, stream. That stream originates in Korea, not in Boston, Brooklyn, Biloxi or Butte, Montana. Individuals who stopped swimming in the stream 10, 20, or 30 years ago, simply CANNOT teach you what the conditions are in that stream today. Alternately, how many magazine articles have you seen written by someone who made the group pilgrimage to Korea and then trained in Korea under the same instructor they train under in this country?

Every year the Korea Martial Arts Instructors Association brings the highest level instructors in the traditional Korean martial arts from Korea to the United States. Many of these are among the top leadership in the art themselves. Every year the KMAIA brings Americans to Korea to study and train. This group enters doors locked to those other Grandmasters and trains under the best Korean instructors in the world. The national traditional Korean martial arts organizations in the United States cooperate with the KMAIA to make this training available. Feel better about yourself and more confident of your knowledge. Take the training. The education is in the experience.

This article as been accepted for publication in a future issue of Traditional Martial Arts Journal.


Master Black Belt
Nov 13, 2003
Reaction score
Lindenhurst, Illinois
What did you expect?

Its the same self-promotional stuff that any other organization from any other country would present. The theme is "we have the "real" deal and everyone else is somehow less. The WHRDA, the WKSWA, the WHF, the KHF all have intimated it at one time or another. Checkout the articles by any of the big personalities---- in any of the arts---- and what you get is the message that they have the real skinny and everyone else is simply not up to their level or worse.

Americans are good students. We have even learned the divisive and depricating skills of the Koreans who are past-masters of deriding and dividing. I would not be surprised to see an increase in this kind of thing and won't hold my breath waiting for it to slow down.

Best Wishes,