TAEKWONDO MOVES VIDEO Taekwondo Legend and 2012 Black Belt Hall of Fame Man of the Year Hee-Il Cho Demonstrates Self-Defense Moves for Escaping Bear HugsTaking Taekwondo Moves Abroad After serving in the ROK army — yes, he taught taekwondo — Hee-Il Cho instructed special-forces units in India. He came to the United States in 1969 and decided to make it his new home. His reason was one that’s often given by Asian masters who relocate: He wished to spread the benefits of his art to the Western world. Living in America would give him the freedom he’d need to improve the art he’d learned as a child. Once here, he kept the principles and traditions he deemed valuable but made the mechanics of the movements more scientific — which meant scrutinizing every offensive and defensive technique to determine if it functioned at maximum efficiency.
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Updating Taekwondo Moves to Fight Larger Opponents Why did he think the old ways needed updating? He noticed that techniques that might work against a recalcitrant teenager in 1950s Korea often failed when attempted on a bigger, stronger American opponent. “To defend yourself [back then], you did not have to be a skillful fighter,” he said. That formula met with success. Hee-Il Cho grew his student body across America, particularly in the states in which he lived and taught: Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, Florida, Texas, New Mexico and Hawaii. He built his organization, the Action International Martial Arts Association, in North and South America, as well as Europe. He organized tournaments, taught seminars, and produced 11 books and 70 DVDs. He now administers, either directly or indirectly, an estimated 4,000 students around the world. At age 71, Hee-Il Cho is still going strong, teaching class six days a week in his Honolulu dojang. It’s proof positive that he’s dedicated his life to taekwondo — and precisely why Black Belt named him its 2012 Man of the Year.
About the Author: Robert W. Young is the executive editor of Black Belt. This text was adapted from a sidebar he wrote for the Hee-Il Cho cover story in Black Belt's August 2012 issue. For more information about Hee-Il Cho, be sure to visit the Action International Martial Arts Association website at aimaa.com.