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Your Neighbor – Korean native brings martial arts to Triad

When one first meets Master Woo Sup Kim, that person may feel as if he or she is in the presence of Jackie Chan. That may be largely due to the fact that Master Kim’s entire body is a weapon. In 2012, Master Kim went to the London Olympics as the Olympic Team Captain for Team USA. The Korean native has since opened several Tiger Kim’s Tae Kwon Do studios in the Triad. But one would never guess the reason Master Kim began Tae Kwon Do in the first place. It was because he was incredibly intimidated by others. “I was very weak and very shy,” Master Kim says in his Korean accent. Although Master Kim may have once been a timid five-year-old, he soon began to sprout into the natural leader he has become today. “Kids grow confidence in Tae Kwon Do,” Kim says he began to follow around Grand Master Park at six-years-old. Grand Master Park practiced with Kim to help him become a phenomenal athlete. “When I was six-years-old, I started going to a lot of competitions.”
Master Kim not only remembers his first influential mentor, but also the tremendous knots in his stomach at his first competition. “I was so nervous and scared and crying. So when my students go to competition, I know what they are thinking,” Kim says. “Your partner is nervous, too, and you have been working. If you are not prepared, then you are not there. Everyone is the same way. I think it’s good because the students are growing, too.”
As Master Kim began to grow, he became an incredible threat to other competitors in Korean competitions. He held the position of national champion several times. Master Kim then attended, Yong-In. It is a premier school for Korean athletes. Master Kim continued to soar, not just in athletics, but as a mentor to others. Master Kim was chosen to be a part of the Korean Tigers Demonstration Team. “So every summer and winter, I travel to America, in college,” Master Kim says. He traveled to thirty-seven states, teaching children about the art of Tae Kwon Do and all that comes with it– physical strength, mental strength and emotional fortitude. Master Kim also participated in major tournaments such as the 1993 World Championships at Madison Square Garden. He was also in the 1994 U.S. Open at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado.
It was in New York that Master Kim met another mentor who would help him accomplish his next goal in life. “At first, I wanted to be coach. My goal is always changing,” Kim laughs. “In New York, I met another Grand Master. Grand Master Chong taught me so many things. He has five schools right now. He has a lot of good things in Tae Kwon Do and I wanted to be like him some day.” Master Kim decided to open studios in America, too. He chose our country, as opposed to Korea, because there are more opportunities in America. In Korea, Tae Kwon Do is a way of life– much like baseball is to Americans. Master Kim knew if he opened a studio in America, there would be less studios to compete with and more children to teach. He also knew there would be some major challenges.
“Very difficult to start here,” Kim says. “I know how to teach, but language different. Coaches are very different.” As a result, Kim has brought many coaches over from Korea to teach at his studios in America. They must have the same philosophy as him. But it is also his way to give back to the Korean culture. “I want to give back to the coaches,” says Kim. “I teach focus and character developing. The students are not just kicking and punching. They need to look at their body, focus their body when with other kids. They must focus on target.” Kim reiterates there are three important factors he instills in his students. “Focus body; eye focus on target; and mind focus.” Master Kim says as a result, the students are taught life skills. “We teach them confidence, cooperation, respect, and manners. I see students come here shy. They leave walking taller and talking more and using nice words.” Master Kim says Tae Kwon Do also prevents bullying because children are taught to respect each other in a positive manner.
Master Kim’s philosophies are not just taught to our neighbors, but also instilled in Kim’s two children. Kim’s teenage son is following in his father’s athletic footsteps. He is on the USA Junior Olympic Team. Master Kim’s six-year-old daughter is already taking classes, too. Master Kim says his wife is, “…great support.” With Master Kim seeing the benefits of working with his own children, he also offers family classes so children and parents can learn together.
As Master Kim continues to support the Tae Kwon Do culture, he says his next dream is to have one of his students go to the Olympics. “I always keep dreaming.” As the Romans have inspired our architecture and the French our cuisine, Master Kim has brought over an aspect of his culture for our neighbors.
“Your Neighbor” is a feature by Jill Osborn. If you have a neighbor everybody should know, reach Jill at jill.n.osborn@gmail.com. Also follow her blog on parenting at MuchAdoAboutMothering.com