“We have a quick pace, a lot of action and demonstrations, and there is no redundancy. … No one has time to get bored. We want to educate and entertain.”
George Chung spoke those words in 1984 when a Black Belt writer asked him about the cable-television series he and Cynthia Rothrock had hosted for four years, but one could imagine that he spoke them yesterday about JungoTV, the streaming-video network he co-founded.
JungoTV — specifically, the Black Belt Magazine Channel it hosts — is all about education and entertainment. The education takes the form of instructional footage from the best of the best, both past and current champions, and masters. The entertainment manifests as coverage of the most prestigious tournaments, along with a catalog of martial arts movies starring the likes of Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Sho Kosugi, Sammo Hung and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Education and entertainment, indeed!
But that’s not to say that inside Chung’s chest there isn’t the heart of a true martial artist. He was a five-time world champion renowned for his forms, and at one point, he was rated No. 1 in the nation — in part because of the way he innovated with music and acrobatic moves like walkovers and cartwheels. “Music is a trend, not a fad,” he told Karate Illustrated in 1980. “[But] I consider the true traditional value of the form. Form helps you develop good basics, for which there is no substitute.”
Chung, who was Black Belt’s 1983 Male Competitor of the Year, never let up on his mission to spread the martial arts through whatever means were at hand. Case in point: Regarding the aforementioned 1980s cable series, he said, “A lot of people procrastinate about taking martial arts. We felt if we could show people that they can do it, they would get involved. We show men, women, children and elderly people doing martial arts.”
To further propagate the arts, in 1988 he followed in the footsteps of countless other tournament champions, but Chung, always the overachiever, went above and beyond: He co-wrote, edited, co-directed and starred in a film titled Hawkeye (also released as Karate Cops).That same year, when the martial arts academy he and Rothrock ran in Los Gatos, California, caught fire — resulting in total destruction of the dojo — Chung relied on his warrior spirit to endure. “If I lose, I take a champion’s attitude,” he said. “I don’t grieve. Instead, I come back even stronger.”
He came back stronger when he, along with Rothrock, wrote Advanced Dynamic Kicks for Ohara Publications, now Black Belt Publishing. He came back stronger when he developed a program for the San Francisco 49ers, luring them in with promises of enhanced flexibility and then teaching martial arts practices and drills that delivered tangible benefits that applied to football. For his contributions to the team’s performance, Chung received a Super Bowl ring.
In 1984 a hypothetical was pitched to Chung for the purposes of a Black Belt article. His answer was revealing but not at all unexpected for a true martial artist. “If I had only one day left with my students, I would teach them something physical and I would relate to them something philosophical,” he said. “I would first teach them a short form because if they were never going to see me again, I would like to pass on something to them so that they’ll remember the time they trained with me.“
It would also be my way of leaving something for them to pass along to their students. And then in later years, they can teach that form and maybe they can teach another form of their own. This way, the arts can really grow.“
Second, I would inject them with three basic philosophies of martial arts that I feel are very important. One is training for their own positive being, for their own physical and mental health. Two is not to abuse the martial arts in any way. And third, I would like to see them grow, as well. I would tell them [that] when they pass martial arts on, hopefully they’ll teach in a fashion similar to the way I did but that they’ll also have the creativity and open-mindedness to add and inject their own personality into their own style.”
In case you need one last example of Chung’s impact on the arts, travel two years forward in time from when those words were spoken. He and Rothrock appeared in a video that was used in a U.S. Senate hearing to determine the future legality of martial arts weaponry. If you still wield weapons in your dojo, and even if you don’t, you know that his side — our side — won. The staff of Black Belt is honored to have George Chung as its 2022 Man of the Year.— J. Torres