By Master John Webster
1. Why did you take up Martial Arts as opposed to tennis?
I started TKD in Vietnam, and in Asia Martial Arts for us is like tennis or football is for you in the western world. So it was just natural.
2. What was it about the Martial Arts that attracted you?
I started TKD when I was a kid, it was something that I felt I was good at as it gave me confidence, and I learnt how to defend myself. At the age of 13 years I started to teach.
I came to Denmark in 1975 as a refugee (we were the first Vietnamese refugees in DK), and at that time TKD was very young (Korean Karate) in Denmark. My brother and I did a TKD demonstration on the TV, to show what kids were doing in Vietnam. The day after the President of a local club came to us and asked us if we would teach at his club. I've been teaching and competing since then. So it has been most of my life and has given me the opportunity to meet interesting people and make friends. It has also helped me to develop my personality and character. Sometimes I use it as a model for assessing what I want to achieve in my "ordinary life" such as my study and my work.
TKD is my hobby and I work as an officer for the Royal Danish Coast Guards. These two things support each other very well in my case. From Martial arts I have learnt discipline, increased my ability to focus, determination, respect and humility. I use them to gain my goals in my life.
3. What did you hope you would achieve when you started?
Actually I didn't know that there were competitions and tournaments before I came to Denmark (Europe). But I remember being very proud when my friends came to my school and told me that I've passed two grades (from white belt (9.kup) to green belt (7.kup) at my first graduation. We only got the results the day after our test at that time.
I was only 15 when I participated in my first World championships in 1977 in Chicago, USA. Then after this all the competitions came like pearls on a chain. I didn't really pay attention to what I wanted to achieve - I just prepared for the competition and competed to win. It's not the same now. Now you can be very famous and make it your profession... We just were doing it for fun at that time...ha! ha!
4. Are you interested in any other martial arts? If so what?
Absolutely - all kind of sports. Especially sports that are related to TKD or I can use their methods or expertise's to improve my knowledge and training, such as biomechanic, flexibility, mental preperation etc. for example the steps, movement in badminton; the flexibility and explosive power in gymnastic; the fun and joy in Capoeira...
5. What do you find interesting about this/these arts and how do they compare to TKD?
As I said before, there are other sports that we can learn a great deal from not just those that are related to martial arts. Anyway it's still the human body and human physiology we have to deal with, so the biomechanics are the same. But it's not only the "muscles", brawn alone will not succeed without using the brain. If you are not willing to give all both mentally and physically to win or achieve, you're not going to get your goal!!!
All kinds of sports or martial arts are just different ways to learn or to know yourself and your limits. They are small models of ours life or how we test ourselves before we do things in real life and sometimes it's very close or it is ours life (for some).
6. Who was your first instructor and what or who inspired you to do excel in TKD ?
My first instructors were Master Dang Huy Duc, and his senior students, he now lives in L.A.,California. But Master Shin Boo Young, from Hamburg in Germany, is the one who has inspired me the most for his excellent and pure techniques. I have learned a lot from him.
7. What impressed you about your first instructor?
He was the first Vietnamese who won an Asia TKD championships. Then one of his senior students, could throw needles at doors so they stuck as you have thrown knife...
8. Why did you end up training with him/her and not someone else?
He was the best in my area.
9. Why do you think people choose one club over another?
There are lots of reasons:
- The best club in competition, if you want to compete.
- Because they have the best instructors...
- Because they have a good "atmosphere", "social life"...
- Because it's the nearest one...
- Because it's the only one...
10. What were your first impressions of training?
TKD or martial arts use/need all what you have got or a human has. You have to use all your body; mentally and physically; you have to do motions in slow, in fast and explosively fast... Not just doing it but doing it gracefully. What more do you need!!!
11. Which aspects of martial arts do you enjoy most and why?
When mind and body joins in a perfect motion... , When my mind says "do this ,this and this..." and my body does exactly what my mind says to my eyes' I have total satisfaction. Why??? How do you expect me to explain this..... I am sorry...
12. Do you enjoy Poomsae and Kurugi and did you always enjoy them?
Yes, they are the measurements of my training, results of my works and the marks of my exam. And of course I enjoy to know that I am doing it right or wrong.
13. What is it specifically about them that interest you?
Poomsae: It's very much about body control and understanding yourself as well as knowing your limits, so you can express yourself and show the best of you and hide the worst...
Kurugi: It's to overcome the raw savage human nature, to beat someone and to let someone beat you. But making it civilized and graceful. Then by knowing yourself and the human nature or reaction to out calculate your opponent and win him/her over.
14. What successes/promotions have you achieved?
In everyday life I am happy to achieve or collect from small to big things. Smaller "boxes" that I can put in my big box of "experience", Those experiences helping me to achieve what I have today in my professional life and my 801 prizes in poomsae and kurugi. But the best thing of all are my students, from club Rødovre and from the National team of Israel, they can use my box of "experience" to attain what they have achieved today and in the future.
15. How important is achieving to you?
It is important, but not the most important in my life. The most important thing to me is the result of what I am doing. The results tell me more about which direction I am "moving" to achieve my goals.
16. Which is more important, self satisfaction at having achieved something or admiration of others?
It is more important for me to achieve something that I am proud of (you can achieve something and are not be too proud to have it) and then pass it on to my students so they can achieve more than me, then I am satisfied with myself.
17. How important is realism to martial practice?
Very important. In both ways:
- 1. To have the respect for the techniques that you learn and know the danger of them. It's like given a gun to someone when you teach them martial techniques, great care must be taken.
- 2. To know and to trust that what you have learned is effective this helps build up your self-confidence.
18. How important is it to understand the purpose behind moves /techniques? How do you find out about those purposes?
To learn something you have to understand it to use it and to see how it works. The moves/techniques you practice have to be explain and practiced in 4 stages:
- 1. Explain why the movements have to done like this (biomechanics) and to what purpose.
- 2. Practice the movements (training, training and training).
- 3. Practice the movements in different "set-up" situations and as close to reality as possible (training, training and..)
- 4. Practice the movements in a "kurugi-like" situation and they should become a reflex.
19. Has your training changed in content or emphasis since you started? If so, what and why has it changed?
My training is changing all the time in content and emphasis. It all depends on my schedule of tournaments, works and goals. It means you have to make a plan all the time and change/adjust it to suit your goals.
20. What does it take to be a successful martial artist?
To know yourself and your limits. Then be determined and humble.
21. What to you think are the physical and mental requirements?
Each person is different, but they will grow the physical and mental requirements they need through their ways of practice.
22. What do most people lack?
Determination and willingness, and then when all goes well, you have to know how to be humble.
23. Which is more important? the will to succeed or physical ability?
Absolutly the will!!!!
24. Martial arts is renowned for increasing flexibility and strength can it also improve mental powers?
Yes, It gives self-confidence and that improves mental powers.
25. Does success in practice come from within yourself? Is it a case of you have got it or not? Or can instructor teach you to be successful?
It is in both ways. It's like a communication between you and your instructor. And of course both have to understand each other and their responsibilities.
26. How important has your Instructor been to your success?
If you mean success in competitions (winning medals) then not so much, because since I came to Denmark I didn't have an instructor in the usual way. I've always practiced with my brother and we were important for ours success. Meaning, the instructors and the students have to know and trust each other, then all the success is a naturally thing.
27. What else do you attribute your current success?
The joys and fun that come with it. The good side gained is I am keeping me in shape/form.
28. How important are targets and goals to you?
It helps in my planning and with my schedule, allowing me the time that I need to have a good life and still attain.
29. What ambitions to you have?
To have good health and life. To only have to do what I want.
30. You have traveled to many countries which one did you enjoy most?
Every country that I have visited has its character, charm and mentality. It's impossible for me to compare.
31. Do you find that students approach TKD differently in other countries?
Yes, every country has their own "system", but the good thing is never mind where you are a "Dolyo-chagi" is a "Dolyo-chagi".
32. Do the Koreans Dominate Poomsae as they do Kurugi?
Not at all. I think that is why we still haven't had a World Championships in Poomsae and we have already had 4 European Championships in Poomsae.
33. Would you like to see Poomsae in the Olympics and do you think this will ever happen?
Of course but I think until it happens, we need adjust the way that are poomsae competitions are run. Adding things such as musical Poomsae, Self-defense and breaks.
34. Finally where to you see yourself and art/sport being in the future?
I will keep doing it as long as it's fun and my body allows me to do it. Regardless of it being art or sport.
35. Have you got anything else you would like to add?
I hope that TKD and Martial Arts never gets to the limit that makes the Martial Artist want to take drugs/doping or other "un-art" methods to gain their goals.
Kytu D. Dang is a 6th dan in Taekwondo and is the current European poomsae champion and is the best poomsae exponent in the World. He is also the National Coach of Israel. His areas of expertise are in both Kurugi and poomsae and he believes in the development of the art as a whole.