Whether watching his hilarious antics on The Joe Schmo Show, Free Radio, or as Sensei Ira on The Office, Lance Krall always delivers. He can also deliver a kick to your head. Wait, what?
Although Krall is widely known for his inventive and unique brand of comedy and acting, he is also a second-degree black belt (2nd dan) in Taekwondo. After years away from the art, while forging a career in Hollywood, Krall has returned to his first love. Krall took some time to speak with me about his years as a competitor, student, and his return to his roots.
Krall started studying Taekwondo at the age of 9, but it wasn't until he moved from New Mexico to Georgia that his journey truly began. Arriving at his new class in his cherished black uniform, "I just thought that looked really cool." and a newly attained yellow belt from his previous school, everything would change once he met his new teacher. "I went up there with my black uniform, and my yellow belt, and I walk into this class and the head instructor is this old Korean master, named Grand Master Yoo Jin Kim. He instantly told me, I have to go back to white belt, and that I wasn't allowed to wear that black uniform back in class again, and I was devastated because I was so proud of my yellow belt and my black uniform."
Though initially disappointed, Krall didn't quit."We stuck with him. I went back to white belt and I took lessons from him for about 14 years, and I earned my second-degree black belt with him."
The Student and the Master
It's a testimonial to his teacher's traditional methods, and Krall's dedication to his art, that he began facing black belts in competition when he was a blue belt. Krall was even invited to train at the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1988 when Taekwondo was to be a demonstration sport at the Seoul Olympics.
Despite his achievements, Krall wasn't beyond reproach from his teacher. "At one point, I got my black belt revoked and got demoted back to brown belt because I left class early." Krall explains, "I realized halfway through class, that at the end of class, we were all going to bow to the flags (Korean and American) and I had forgotten the flags at home." With a solution that would seem at home in one of Krall's later comedy projects, he describes what happened next. "In the middle of meditation, when everybody's eyes were closed, I got up and I snuck out of class. Earning the ire of his teacher, Krall accepted his punishment, "I didn't think about the long-term repercussions of that action. He kicked me back down to brown belt for a year."
Although a demotion may have caused other students to quit, Krall kept training until a moment in a tournament changed everything in an instant. In a freak accident, while executing a kick in competition, Krall injured his knee. Lying on the mat in pain, Krall accepted what could not be changed. "When you have no choice as to what the outcome is, you just have to go, OK, well, I guess that's it. I was laying on the ground thinking: well, I guess I'm done fighting in tournaments now."
Although teaching was a satisfying alternative to competition for a while, eventually, Krall shifted gears and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in show business.
After years of being a successful performer, Krall has relocated back to Atlanta with his family and is focusing more on developing new projects for television with his company Picture It Productions. Recently, he has gone back to teaching Taekwondo. More importantly, Krall has returned to help teach classes with his legendary teacher, 90-year-old, and now 10th degree (10th dan), Great Master Yoo Jin Kim. According to Krall, the rank is the only change. "My master is just as strict as he's always been. He hasn't mellowed out at all."
How does it feel to come back to martial arts after being away for so long? "It feels so great to be back in there, to be training again. My body feels better. I feel a sense of accomplishment. I couldn't believe how much recall I had of all the forms that I had not done in 20 years."
Through his years of studying Taekwondo, Krall learned skills that are applicable on and off the mat, and will now be imparting those lessons to others. "It gave me just such a foundation of discipline and seeing something through." Krall adds, "It really served me for the rest of my life, in all aspects of my life."
- Remembering David Carradine, Star of the Kung Fu TV Series ... ›
- The Martial Arts of Marvel's Daredevil TV Series, Part 1 - Black Belt ... ›
- 12 Most Influential Martial Arts TV Series in America - Black Belt ... ›