There are no Superstars in Tae Kwon-Do

 

In Tae Kwon-Do, there are no superstars. 

Basketball has Michael Jordan, Lebron James, and Larry Bird. Hockey has Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Connor McDavid. Baseball has Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Derek Jeter. 

When you think of Tae Kwon-Do or martial arts superstars, you may think of Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, Sammo-Hung, Jackie Chan, etc. But those guys didn’t make their money or their name because of martial arts. The world knows their names because they’re movie stars

Movies and TV themselves have been influential in the world of martial arts as well. Karate Kid– and its spinoff show, Cobra Kai–Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc. have all contributed to bringing martial arts more attention. They have often been what has inspired many of our young students to enroll in the first place. 

We’re even starting to see martial arts in cinematic superheroes. Back in 2021, Marvel released a movie called “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” Some of the martial arts on display in that movie were great. Even the lead actor, Simu Liu, is a very accomplished martial artist himself.

Here’s a fun fact about Simu Liu: I was involved in putting together a movie about the life of my teacher and mentor, Grand Master Park. Simu Liu was the actor we wanted to play him. But naturally, once Marvel picked him up, there was no way that was going to happen. 

But even still, these shows did more to influence people to try Tae Kwon-Do than they did the actual art and practice of Tae Kwon-Do itself. 

So, the next logical place to look for martial arts superstars is in the flooded market that is widely known as mixed martial arts, or MMA. Names like Georges St-Pierre (GSP), Conor McGregor, Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida, and others come to mind. Those guys have certainly helped to shape the world of mixed martial arts, and have arguably earned their money and notoriety by doing so. 

Neither I nor Master Sharratt can name many MMA superstars beyond these three because we don’t follow any of the mixed martial arts federations out there. And we discourage our students from following it as well. 

Master Sharratt and I believe that if someone is a superstar, everyone else who does what they do should aspire to reach the same heights, and do as much to influence their art, as they have. 

But MMA is brutal. It’s bloody. It harkens back to the days of the gladiators, where competitors would fight to the death for the amusement of others. The only thing missing from a UFC event is people throwing bread into the stands. 

So, regardless of the talent, charisma, or even level of martial arts ability that the St-Pierres, McGregors, and Machidas of the world possess, we can’t advise our students to want to follow in the footsteps of people who seemingly only use their martial arts ability to inflict maximum harm on other people;  even fighters of equal caliber. 

In my mind, Grand Master Park is the one true superstar of Tae Kwon-Do. No one has shaped and influenced our martial art more than him. No one has inspired more people to achieve so much than he has. And, no one has had more of a direct impact on my life than he has. 

But because Grand Master Park was never paid millions of dollars to smash another man’s face into hamburger live on Pay-Per-View, or projected onto a 50-foot screen, most people will never know about him. 

Until one of you builds upon his teachings and expands the reach of Tae Kwon-Do as a martial art, he will remain our superstar. 

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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