The Grandmaster and his guests

Grandmaster Kang Shinchul is a big name in taekwondo world. He has fans around the globe and 15.000 followers on Facebook (which makes me rather proud to be mentioned by name in the second hit when you google ‘Grandmaster Kang Shinchul’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNX9UGUbFG8). No wonder there’s guests visiting his dojang more often than not. As I have been part of his Namchang Team for quite a while now, I don’t consider myself as a guest anymore. But the most recent visitors, two worldly wise masters from Ghana, revived the memory of my first arrival at what I can now call my second home.

To speak with one of the Ghanaian master’s words: “It’s is incredibly harmonious at Namchang Dojang.” It’s true, a tough martial art is practiced round-the-clock and yet  a very peaceful atmosphere surrounds the dojang. For a great deal this is the work of the grandmaster’s wife who would even serve a cup of tea if you’d wake her up in the middle of the night. She’s the taekwondo mama for all the athletes and a unmatchable host for all the guests.

Apart from that, it’s the grandmaster’s philosophy that does the trick. He is one of the few masters who, to a certain extent, stick to old martial arts values instead of turning their dojang into a factory. Some places that carry the sign ‘Taekwondo Dojang’ provide pick-up service for the school kids, bringing them in for one hour of ‘training’ and taking them home afterwards. It’s a constant coming and going and the kids merely spend time there as if it’s a daycare institution. Grandmaster Kang refuses to do this and only harvests sincere students as a results.

The more time I spend in the dojang, the more I appreciate this attitude of GM Kang and the family feeling it creates. The other way around, the grandmaster shows approval of my integration in his dojang, by letting me assist him in teaching the two 7th Dan (!) Ghanaian masters. What a sensation of trust!

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In this 6th weekly (the last but one before I return to the Netherlands for two weeks), I tried to describe the natural presence of harmony in my beloved dojang. But I think somehow it’s indescribable, you need to experience it. Did I say there’s guests visiting continuously? Let this be a hint to all taekwondo practitioners out there to put a visit to Namchang Dojang on your to-do-list. Quoting another guest this week: “To me, Namchang Dojang is where taekwondo starts and where taekwondo ends.”

5 thoughts on “The Grandmaster and his guests

  1. My wing chun school is similar in approach. Sifu easily could have turned it into an assembly line, but he believes in focusing on each student in a way where he can help them learn their strengths and therefore make wing chun more “their own.”

      1. My school is in Albany NY. My Sifu is Russ Cichon, who is a student under Yip Ching (the younger son of the late Yip Man, who taught Bruce Lee).

      2. Impressive! I saw the film “The Grandmaster” by Wong Kar Wai about Yip Man, a beautiful story. He spent 7 years on making it. Good luck with your training there!

        Funny sidenote: my dojang recently got a visit as well from master Jhoon Rhee, who was accountable for teaching Bruce some of his best kicking techniques.

      3. I haven’t seen that movie but, as far as I am concerned, the most definitive Yip Man movie is the first one with Donnie Yen.

        I have great respect for Master Rhee.

        Keep in touch. I will be reading your blog and commenting. Feel free to do the same!

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