West Coast Hwa Rang Do Academy, Los Angeles, CA
Knowing nothing about the "controversy" surrounding Hwa Rang Do and the rest of the martial arts world, a business partner of mine invited me to take a class at the dojang he had been training at for about 6 months.
I was about 280 lbs, had played high school and college football for 7 years, out of shape and hadn't done martial arts since the 4th grade (Karate-Do).
My first class was with none other than Chief Master Taejoon Lee. I had an opportunity to speak to Master Lee prior to class in his office. He was clearly not a salesman and was a straight shooter and told me exactly what I was in for.
At the time, I had been in the business world where people carried a very similar "no excuses" philosophy which Master Lee subscribed to (and beyond). I connected with his hard-nosed "whatever it takes" take on life and success. He was also very honest too. I said someting related to me working out and getting in shape. He pointed to my stomach and commented "it looks like you need it."
Prior to knowing what I know about business, personal development and coming to terms with reality, I would have been bothered and offended by his comment. Luckily, I was more mature and accepted his comment as constructive criticism. I was ready for my class.
The class began with some meditation then a formal bow to Master Lee, our assistant instructors and Dojoonim (Supreme Grand Master Lee). Then Master Lee turned up some techno music and we began our warm up stretches & exercises. A quarter of the way through the class, I needed a break and Master Lee granted me one only because I was a beginner. (Otherwise he would have forced me to suck it up.) I was basically out on my feet. The dojang was spinning and couldn't focus. The "warm-ups" had done me in.
I managed to regain my coordination and finished the class. I then sat down with Master Lee about joining the school. While dehydrated, my head still spinning and my sinuses congested (for some reason), I briefly counseled with my friend Ray about joining and signed on the dotted line.
I knew I needed the training, accountability & discipline Master Lee would require of me. It's been one of the best decisions I've ever made.
7 months later, I had the privilage of competing in an Inner School Gotoogi (Grappling) tournament in front of my family. Even though I was disappointed with my performance, (2nd place for Beginners) and was proud to have participated in front of Master Lee and my family.
It was the first time they had seen me compete since High School Football.
Since starting in Tae Soo Do, I have gotten in shape, regained my stamina and endurance from my football days, improved my balanced and coordination and learned a great deal about my physical abilities and limitations.
I've learned that I have no limitations. As I've progressed, I first struggle to perform a new kick or technique then through training, I develop the capacity to perform.
At now 270 lbs, I regularly receive compliments about my kicks from students and parents of other students. It's impressive to them to see someone my size kick the way I do. My heart silently fills with pride...
The bottom line is that Hwa Rang Do & Tae Soo Do provide life changing instruction. It's not just about what you can do physically, it's about training your mind to overcome what you body thinks is impossible. (It's what the MMA fanatics will seldom understand.)
The criticism pelted at Hwa Rang Do is undeserved. Master Taejoon Lee is a successful business man, but who has brushed all other ventures aside, to devote his life to his passion, Hwa Rang Do. As a world reknowned and sought after martial artist, he has passed on any type of privilaged life and continues to live at his dojang and self-lessly instruct for the betterment of others.
I am grateful for his sacrifice.
I'm a green belt now and the physical challenges grow exponentially. As of now, I can't imagine what the Hwa Rang Do students have to be able to learn and perform. It seems so daunting at my level. But that's the cool part. Knowing that I can progress and overcome the physical challenges belt-by-belt and eventually become a Hwa Rang Do Student performing physical feats that most would consider impossible for someone my size to perform.
I've committed to receiving my Black Belt in Tae Soo Do and moving on to Hwa Rang Do.
The naysayers about this art have no idea what they are talking about. I challenge them to survive even one class, instructed by Master Lee. This is the only way opinions and the ease of criticism over the internet can be answered definitively.
For some free Hwa Rang Do instruction, you can register here and get 10-Days of instruction online. My friends have really enjoyed this. http://www.completemartialart.com
I think this will help answer many questions about the effectiveness and legitimacy of Hwa Rang Do.