I Didn’t Choose Tae Kwon-Do. It Chose Me.


Why did I learn Tae Kwon-Do? In many ways, it wasn’t up to me. 

I actually started out in Karate. I mainly studied Isshin-Ryū, which I spent a lot of time on and loved.

Isshin-Ryū teaches practical stuff; street-usable things. But, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), all through my training in Isshin-Ryū, my instructor was constantly talking about Tae Kwon-Do. He would mention the kicking techniques, and how Tae Kwon-Do students were always winning at tournaments. 

At the time, Tae Kwon-Do was just making itself known in the Buffalo area. Back then, they were calling it “Korean Karate,” because nobody knew how to say Tae Kwon-Do properly. 

So when the Isshin-Ryū school I trained at was forced to close, I decided to seek out a Tae Kwon-Do school. I wanted to see for myself what my instructor – and others by then – were talking about. 

So, I looked through the phone book–believe it or not, we used to have a physical book that had every home phone and business’s number in it. Like the internet, but really heavy.

Anyway, I was paging through when I ended up on a picture that would change my life. The picture was of a Korean guy. He had the traditional Korean bowl haircut, fists up, with a look on his face that told me instantly that this guy meant business. He looked tough

I knew immediately that was the person I wanted to learn Tae Kwon-Do from. 

I went to one of his satellite schools which was near my house. A gentleman named Ron was teaching there. Nearly a black belt at the time, Ron was not just a great teacher, he was a great fighter.

He and I hit it off pretty quickly. After training there for a few months, he told me that he had been talking about me with the school’s Master, Master C.S. Kim, or Chung Soo Kim. Master Kim was a very traditional Korean gentleman. Once we met, he seemed to like me right away.

Master C.S. Kim let me take what they called a permission test. Basically, it was a test of the skills I learned before joining the school. Based on my results, he allowed me to jump quickly to a green belt, instead of starting at a white belt. 

Over time, Master Kim and I developed a great relationship. I was a hard worker, which he recognized and appreciated. And I really enjoyed the kicking, the use of the hands, and Master Kim’s approach, which was very disciplined. His fighting wasn’t as strong as I was used to, but he taught me a lot about the methodology of training properly, and was very strict on how things were taught. 

By the time I got my black belt, Tae Kwon-Do made a lot of sense to me. So, Master Kim had me run one of his smaller satellite schools in North Buffalo. Soon after, he moved to the Philippines, and he asked me to take over his main school. It was a great opportunity, but I didn’t think I was ready, martial arts-wise, financially, or even emotionally. It just wasn’t the time for me to be running my own school. 


I quickly found the person who did take over was not my favorite. Before long, I left and sought out another school. That is when I found Grand Master Park’s school. 

Grand Master Park’s was perfect for me. It combined my Isshin-Ryū and Tae Kwon-Do training. We fought hard, like the Isshin-Ryū school, but the discipline level was off the charts, which was more like Master Kim’s school. 

This school, and Tae Kwon-Do itself, was now my home. Not to put down my Isshin-Ryū training at all. I loved that, and if for some reason I had to go back to Karate, that’s the Karate I would certainly go back to. 

But in Tae Kwon-Do, there is not a lot of redirection, or circular movements. Tae Kwon-Do is about delivering powerful kicks and punches in the most efficient way. It has served me well in tournaments and, to be honest, in real-world fight situations. 

More than anything, though, Tae Kwon-Do has given me a superior attitude towards life:

Directness. Efficiency. Power. Success. Confidence. 

In those ways, Tae Kwon-Do is both the reason for, and a reflection of, the man I have become.

Master Gorino’s Tae Kwon-Do offers a trial program for individuals and families in Buffalo, NY and the surrounding areas that allows you to get a feel for the different classes, meet our instructors, and experience our dojang. It’s a great way to see if Tae Kwon-Do is right for you. To learn more or to sign up, visit the Contact Us page or call (716) 836-KICK (5425) and a member of our team will follow up with you on next steps. We look forward to helping you achieve your goals. Pil-Sung!


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