WARWICK – Few martial artists practicing today are given the opportunity to train in the country from which their chosen discipline has evolved. Yet, that is exactly what thirty students from the Chosun Taekwondo Academy, the local martial arts institute headquartered at 62 Main Street in Warwick, did this past July when they journeyed to South Korea – the homeland of taekwondo. The Chosun group was led on their martial pilgrimage by head instructor and 6th degree black belt, Master Doug Cook. This was Cook’s seventh training tour of South Korea.
The fourteen-hour flight from New York to Seoul, followed by a two-hour connecting flight to Jeju Island, acted as a prelude to an intense nine days of physical, cultural, and academic training. The comprehensive itinerary included instruction by world-renowned grandmasters at the new Taekwondowon in Muju, the Kumgang Taekwondo Center and Kukkiwon in Seoul, the World Taekwondo Instructor Academy in Yangsu-ri, Golgulsa Temple in Kyongju, and the Dongyang Taekwondo Academy located on Jeju Island.
Each day presented a diverse and challenging training opportunity. Master Byeong Cheol An of the Kumgang Taekwondo Center, a face familiar to the Chosun students from previous training excursions, featured strenuous exercises in basic technique, kicking and poomsae – the choreographed, dance-like formal exercises unique to taekwondo. Another significant component of the martial pilgrimage included a day of instruction at the World Taekwondo Instructor Academy in the tiny village of Yangsu-ri, surrounded by rice paddies, where the Chosun students practiced the most current iteration of poomsae taught by Grandmaster Kyu Hyun Lee, a sanctioned standard bearer of the art. Yet for many, training at the Kukkiwon represented the highlight of the tour. There, Grandmaster Hong concentrated on all aspects of taekwondo practice.
In an effort to provide a balanced program that supported both the academic and cultural components of taekwondo, participants traveled to Kyongju, the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom located in the southeast portion of the country. There they sampled Korea’s rich cultural heritage firsthand. Sights of interest included Bulguksa Temple and Tong-Il Jeon Shrine.
Yet, in what can only be compared to a scene borrowed from a movie, a singularly memorable event of the excursion required the Chosun students to endure a steep climb through cloud-like mists to Golgulsa Temple perched high atop the mountains overlooking the Great Kyongju Plain. There, Chosun students studied Sunmudo, or Traditional Korean Zen Martial Arts, and Zen archery, followed by a silent monastic meal shared with resident Buddhist monks.
Master Doug Cook stated, “It is an honor to provide our students with traditional training of this caliber mixed with the cultural exposure a martial pilgrimage offers; for that is truly what this adventure was – a path to enlightenment through the accumulation of ancient martial wisdom. The students who accompanied me returned with a less provincial view of taekwondo along with a variety of experiences they will recall for a lifetime. This was our school’s seventh training tour of Korea and I am already planning another excursion for 2016. I urge anyone interested in the traditional martial arts to join us.”
Aside from offering authentic taekwondo instruction, the academy also features classes in hatha yoga taught by qualified, adult instructors. For more information on the programs featured at the Chosun Taekwondo Academy call (845) 986-2288, or visit their website at www.chosuntkd.com.