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  • Writer's pictureSusie Cuseo

Mi Guk Kwan News: January 2024

In this edition:

 

Grandmaster Andrew (Andy) Ah Po (1941-2023): A Memorial to the Godfather of Tang Soo Do

By Kwan Jhang Nim Charles Ferraro (cferraro04@snet.net)

"The greatest of all gifts that we have to offer as human beings is to serve others.”

Grandmaster Andy Ah Po

 

The Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan Association and all those who knew Grandmaster Andy Ah Po were extremely saddened to hear of his passing recently on Thanksgiving Day, November 23rd.  Kwan Jhang Nim Charles Ferraro was a direct student of Kwan Jhang Nim Andy Ah Po and was his most senior student.  KJN Ferraro was the only individual that KJN Ah Po promoted to tenth Dan in his lifetime.  KJN Ah Po has been associated with the TSDMGK Association since 2002 and has been considered by many to be our Association’s Godfather.

 

Grandmaster Ah Po spent 77 years in martial arts.  Beginning in 1959, 65 of those years was spent training and teaching Tang Soo Do.  One might consider the years from 1947 to 1959 as the “lost years of KJN Ah Po”.

 

However, those early years are marked as Grandmaster Ah Po’s time and life on his native Hawaiian islands.  Grandmaster Ah Po began his marital arts training at age six when he started to study the art of Sil Lum Gung Fu.  Growing up in Hawaii he studied various martial arts such as Ju-jutsu, Aikido and Japanese Karate.  In 1959 Grandmaster Ah Po joined the U.S. Air Force.


“Look with the intent to learn. Listen with the intent to learn.”

Grandmaster Andy Ah Po

 

KJN Ah Po opened his first Tang Soo dojang in 1966 in Carmichael, California. He

taught continuously until just prior to his passing in his most recent studio in Sacramento.  Grandmaster Ah Po began his Tang Soo Do training under Grandmaster Mariano Estioko (Dan Bon #759).  Grandmaster Estioko lost his direct ties to Grandmaster Hwang Kee and the Korean Soo Bahk Do (Tang Soo Do) Association for a few years until 1965 when Sa Bom Nim Jong Hyong Lee, as an exchange agreement between the U.S. and the Korean military, was stationed in San Diego, CA.  During that time Master Jong Hyong Lee contacted both Mariano Estioko and Chuck Norris and was instrumental in reconnecting them with Kwan Jhang Nim Hwang Kee and the Korean Moo Duk Kwan.  Soon thereafter, the first Tang Soo Do testing in California was held in 1966 at Chuck Norris’ dojang in Torrance, California.  At that testing Grandmaster Estioko was promoted to 2nd Dan and Chuck Norris to 3rd Dan. Of the three candidates who tested for Cho Dan only four were promoted that day:  Andy Ah Po (Dan Bon #10,187); Gerald Taylor (Dan Bon #10,188); and Victor Martinov (Dan Bon #10,189).  Willie Norris, Chuck's younger brother who was later killed in Vietnam, also tested that day but was not promoted to Cho Dan until a few months later.

 

If you can see it and feel it; you can achieve it.”

Grandmaster Andy Ah Po

 

Grandmaster Ah Po had a rather successful competition career competing in many open tournaments in California and the Northwestern United States.  He held many heavyweight free-sparring championships as well as Grand Championships in Korean Form divisions.  One of the Form Grand Championships was the prestigious Long Beach International Championships sponsored by the legendary Ed Parker.  KJN Ah Po had several of his students go on to win national and international Tang Soo Do titles and Championships. Among them are:  SBN Anthony Ah Po (his son), SBN Annette Ah Po (his daughter), SBN Sandra Russell, SBN Curtis Mata, KJN Charles Ferraro and KJN Daryl Khalid.  Some of his other senior students included:  SBN Daniel Segarra, SBN Constantine Terigno and SBN Kevin Watson.

 

One of Kwan Jhang Nim Ah Po’s students, Robert Caputo, founder of the Australian Tang Soo Tao Association, wrote the following about Grandmaster Ah Po in his book, Tang Soo Tao - The Living Buddha in Martial Arts Virtue, “Mr. Ah Po was an excellent teacher and had all the qualities of my previous instructors and much more.  I couldn’t believe how happy I was to find a man with his characteristics and development of martial technique.  He was a man well disciplined, who stressed absolute perfection in basics and encouraged the utmost scrutiny to all students in the learning of forms.  He was equally at home in any free-fighting situation as he was in doing his forms.  He was incredibly innovative and could pull incredible fighting techniques almost out of mid-air from the most basic elementary motions.

 

Mr. Ah Po never did anything fancy.  Everything he did was basic, simple and direct and it always worked whether in tournaments or clinics held all over California.  I watched him demonstrate his dynamic power of simple basic motion on most of the major black belts who are famous on the tournament circuit today (during the 1970s and 80s).  None of the people I saw him fight with could ever stand up to him. 

 

He eventually stopped fighting tournaments because he’d either be disqualified or knock someone out.  Also, I think he just got bored.  Much of my fundamental principles of the external Korean art of Tang Soo Do I owe to this instructor’s patient, meticulous guidance.”

 

Interestingly, this last comment from Mr. Caputo elicited a tacit response from Kwan Jhang Nim Ah Po, “Note:  It is important to note that Master Caputo’s remarks concerning Grandmaster Ah Po either being disqualified or knocking his competitors out at tournaments does not explain that these situations only occurred when his competitors either failed to use ‘control’ or attempted to knock him out first.”

 

“Trust your feelings to attain a higher level of consciousness.”

Grandmaster Andy Ah Po

 

Grandmaster Ah Po was a Charter Member of the U.S. Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation, formerly the U.S. Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation, Inc.  Grandmaster Ah Po served on the TSDMDK Federation’s Board of Directors for 27 years. He served in every office: Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer during his tenure on the Board.  Additionally, he served as a Regional Examiner for the State of California and as a member of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Federation.  His proudest responsibility in the Federation was when we were given the opportunity to serve as the personal escorts to the Late Grandmaster Hwang Kee and his wife.

 

In 2002, Grandmaster Ah Po resigned from the U.S. Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation and founded the Tang Soo Do Martial Way Association, Inc.  The primary purpose of his association was to continue the original Tang Soo Do teachings and philosophy of the late Grandmaster Hwang Kee.

 

“Be open to change.  It is the only constant in life and the key to survival.”

Grandmaster Andy Ah Po


It was after he left the Moo Duk Kwan and at the personal request of GM Charles Ferraro that Grandmaster Andy Ah Po became KJN Ferraro’s instructor.  KJN Ferraro felt that during his twenty plus years in the Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation he had developed a good junior/senior relationship with KJN Ah Po.  Additionally, KJN Ferraro, who was without an instructor from 1995 to 2002, felt comfortable with KJN Ah Po because they shared the same lineage back to Grandmaster Hwang Kee.  During Kwan Jhang Nim Ferraro’s tenure in the Moo Duk Kwan KJN Ah Po often referred to him as his “little brother”.  During KJN Ah Po’s 5th Dan testing and KJN Ferraro’s 3rd Dan testing KJN Ah Po dedicated his testing performance to his “little brother”; a moment that KJN Ferraro has never forgotten.  Since 2002 KJN Ferraro has been a dedicated student of KJN Ah Po while Grandmaster Ah Po has served as the senior advisor (“Godfather” of Kwan Jhang Nim Ferraro’s Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan Association, Inc.).


“There are three types of breathing in Tang Soo Do and you must learn and practice all of them.  They are:  Weh Ga Ryu; Neh Ga Ryu and Chun Ga Ryu.”

Grandmaster Andy Ah Po

 

Over the years, Grandmaster Ah Po has conducted hundreds of seminars all over the United States, including his home state of Hawaii, Germany and Australia.  He was inducted into various Hall of Fame institutions; some of which are:  World Karate Union Black Belt Hall of Fame, U.S.A. Black Belt Hall of Fame and the Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan Association’s Hall of Fame. 

 

“Energy flows to where attention goes.”

Grandmaster Andy Ah Po

 

Grandmaster Ah Po was always enchanted by a human being’s ability to channel Ki (Chi) and he recognized the mystique that surrounded those individuals who were able to demonstrate examples of Ki.  He always felt that the mystery surrounding such practice was unnecessary so he began teaching a series of clinics called “Ki Symposiums” where he offered his understanding of Ki and how to generate it.  It was always interesting to see him simply point at a plant and to the amazement of those watching as the leaves would literally start dancing.  Through his Ki Symposiums he was able to teach dozens of senior martial artists how to access, channel and demonstrate the flow and extension of Ki.  He often would explain that Ki is both destructive and constructive; often referring to the Hawaiian practice of empty hand healing called “Lomi Lomi” as an example of regenerative or constructive Chi.  He also would demonstrate the destructive example of Ki by stacking up a pile of red bricks usually three or four and then he would ask someone in the audience to pick one of those bricks and to their astonishment he would break that brick and only that brick with a single soft palm technique.

 

Yes!  KJN Ah Po was a one-of-a-kind guy.

 

Grandmaster Ah Po has always been known to take his role as a Tang Soo Do Senior very seriously and up until his death he continued to stress this philosophy.  He always believed that as a Tang Soo Do Senior his primary role was to serve his juniors and his students.

 

“I know I’ve practiced when I have done a sufficient number of repetitions which have caused me to be both physically and mentally challenged but which in time will always result in positive change.”  

Grandmaster Andy Ah Po

 

Upcoming Events


January 17 – 21, 2024 – 57th Dan Shimsa / 28th Annual Kodanja Shimsa / Clinic – West Haven Dojang – Contact KJN Charles Ferraro – 203.932.5335.

 

Empty Your Cup

By SBN Susie Cuseo (thecuseos@yahoo.com)


Have you ever heard of that phrase? It was said numerous times during Kodanja either by Kwan Jhang Nim Ferraro or Master Kopf. What does it mean? How does one go by emptying their cup? What’s the purpose of doing so?


Empty your cup is an old Chinese Zen saying that is mostly understood through this story: “Scholar Tokusan--who was full of knowledge and opinions about the dharma--came to Ryutan and asked about Zen. At one point Ryutan re-filled his guest's teacup but did not stop pouring when the cup was full. Tea spilled out and ran over the table. "Stop! The cup is full!" said Tokusan. "Exactly," said Master Ryutan. 'You are like this cup; you are full of ideas. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can't put anything in. Before I can teach you, you'll have to empty your cup.'"


Emptying said cup is not an easy task to accomplish. As adults, we have stored up tons of information in our memory banks; some of it we have no idea where it came from. Even if we think we’re open-minded, all we’ve learned has been filtered among certain understandings and then fitted in particular compartments of our knowledge.


According to Zen Buddhist practitioner and author Barbara O’Brien, this type of thinking is taught by Buddha as a function of the Third Skandha. In Sanskrit, this skandha is known as “knowledge that links together”. On a subconscious level we “learn” new things by linking it to something we correlate it to. Acquiring knowledge this way is invaluable where it helps us maneuver through our daily living.


This connection doesn’t happen all the time. As we get older, our cups fill up with all the things we’ve learned and experienced. Within all the information you may hold in your head, there may come a time when something new and different doesn’t relate to any of it. When a new idea comes along our initial response is to utilize what we’ve got in our cups to fit the new idea so it can be easily accepted. This results in a misunderstanding. For example, western scholars try to comprehend Buddhism by fitting it into their preconceived notions and learnings. This creates a lot of distorted thinking where people come away with a version of Buddhism that has become totally unrecognizable to most Buddhists. For those who can’t think outside the westernized box, they cannot decide whether Buddhism is a philosophy or a religion.


Large portions of the human population believe that reality should conform to their own ideas rather than vice versa. Practicing mindfulness is a way to deter that behavior or begin to recognize it with an open mind and heart. The story of the overflowing teacup is a lesson in humility when we expand our minds to new ideas and become more willing to alter our preconceived beliefs. A small dose of humility is needed every day to empty our cup and start again, allowing you to fill up that same cup with new experiences, new ideas and new inputs from others and yourself.


Taruna Goel, learning and performance specialist/blogger, states that when your cup is full:

  • You are limited by your thoughts, beliefs and biases.

  • You develop functional fixedness.

  • You have no creative energy.

  • Your world keeps getting smaller.


She continues to say that you can empty your cup by unlearning. The act of

unlearning is to put out of one’s knowledge or memory or to undo the effect of or discard the habit of. Unlearning to learn is as important as the process of learning and sometimes proves to be more difficult to do since we have to release some of our knowledge that we believe is important and necessary. To be truly balanced in our thinking we need to both learn and unlearn equally knowing that what we already believe to be true may deter us from learning something new. In today’s society, knowing how to unlearn will result in much success.


Emptying your cup can also start by saying thank you to whoever provides you with a piece of advice you may consider unworthy to you. You become more open to listening to information that others may provide. If someone states that your ideas are wrong, you can ask if they could elaborate on why they think that way. You may opt to take them up on their offering or totally ignore them, but you opened up a forum for sharing information and discussion. Bottom line: open yourself to new thoughts, ideas and opinions. You may agree with them, you may not; at least you can comprehend the reasoning behind them. Chinese-American martial artist and actor, Bruce Lee is quoted to say, “You have a long journey ahead of you, and you must travel light. From now on drop all your burden of preconceived conclusions behind, and “open” yourself to everything and everyone ahead. Remember, my friend, the usefulness of a cup is in its emptiness.”


The story of the Zen teacher and the learned man is a perfect representation of the dangers of closed-mindedness to the surrounding world and believing that we have more knowledge than we actually do. If your cup always contains this type of thinking, prejudices and false impressions, how can we accept the reality of what’s around us for what it actually is? For those who want to better themselves find emptying their cup as a difficult task. As their cups are usually filled to the top, knowing more things, learning new concepts and wanting to do everything becomes very hard to do. There comes a point where their cups are too full and nothing more can be added. There is no growth when there is so much reluctance to letting some of those preconceived notions go.


Jeevika Rher, Director of Coach Guru, relates this: “Unlearning is this emptying of your cup. It is the acquiring of new skills while replacing the old…it is no longer known as learning ability. It is learning agility.” She continues to state, “Unlearning is all about moving away or letting go. It is the acquiring of something new. It could be better than before. It is only possible when you are ready to transform your fixed mindset to one geared for growth.”


In Tang Soo Do, we move from rank to rank as we get promoted learning new

forms and one steps. There comes a point in your martial arts career where you have to put aside a lot of what you’ve learned to adopt a new type of thinking of how to utilize what has been learned. For example, we are taught to breathe with each strike we make to put power behind them. However, when we learn the Haidong Gumdo sword forms, we are instructed to minimize our breathing and change our stances. Our Naihanji hyungs forces us to use more hips or to keep our hips back before pushing it forward. Learning new things is hampered when we can’t put aside our previous methods and have an open mind. The perfect time to do some of that unlearning is when we start our class with Muk Nyum. That meditative time before engaging in our exercises helps us start our class with the best mental state to accept new material that we may learn.


Trevor Pateman's paper titled 'Lifelong Unlearning' says it all: "In our cognitive lives our memories - what we know - is often an obstacle to engaging with the world around us. It is commonplace that what we see is often influenced by what we think there is to see, and if that is true, then that might be taken as an argument for thinking less and with less conviction. We should carry our knowledge lightly, and always be ready to let go of it."


So are you willing to empty your cup, be ready to receive and grow?

 

Sa Bom Spotlight: Master Tina Perry

By SBN Susie Cuseo (thecuseos@yahoo.com)


Our SBN Profile in this issue is on Master Tina Perry. For over 20 years she has believed that training in Tang Soo Do is beneficial to the spirit and mind as well as the body where practicing weekly makes a person better by the challenges martial arts provides. SBN Perry was 37 years old when she started learning Tang Soo Do. After a couple of years she had a family of black belts: a husband, two daughters and a son. Her two daughters are currently 4th Dans, her son reached the Cho Dan rank while her husband acquired his 3rd Dan status. Currently a 5th Dan, Master Perry states, “I enjoy training. I look forward to training. It’s very therapeutic. In addition, I compete against myself. Continuous training helps me become better than I was previously.”


SBN Perry grew up in Hereford, Texas and went to school at North Texas State studying accounting. After working for a while as an accountant she discovered that that field wasn’t right for her. Out of the blue she decided to become a teacher to hearing-disabled children. She transferred to Texas Tech University in Lubbock majoring in education. During her time studying and student teaching, she realized that children of ages 3, 4 and 5 years old would benefit from her expertise. She’s spent 21 years being an in-home parent trainer of said children and 13 years instructing in school. She’s had a rewarding 34 years aiding those who can’t hear and those who interact with them. Since graduating from high school she has moved around the state of Texas from Dallas, Fort Worth, Lubbock, parts of the very south Texas and since 1993 Houston where she currently resides in a small town called Huffman. This is such a small town just outside of Houston that there’s no local grocery store. She and her husband were able to purchase land at a great price and built their own home.


In 2001 at four years old her oldest daughter, Bailey, was interested in trying out

martial arts. They researched and found a karate program in the Humble area. They discovered The Karate School run by Masters Tripp and Jennifer Davis who offered a program that included after school pick up which was perfect for their family since Bailey was going to start kindergarten. A great recommendation was also provided from a friend who worked with Master Perry. After a ton of support and encouragement a year later, SBN Perry began her martial arts career along with her other daughter, Maggie. Through the Mi Guk Kwan in Region VI all studios and students train together. Studio owners in this region participated in many conjoined events and scheduled training sessions for all students to attend. SBN Hoke Nunan offered classes for advance ranks at his studio located in Austin. Her daughter, Maggie, attended college in Austin and continued to train with Master Nunan. With her partner in crime, SBN Meredith Hayes, Master Perry travels three and a half hours to SBN Nunan’s studio to train once a month at a Kodanja class then sleeps on an air mattress at her daughter’s house.


When asked what aspects of her development as a martial artist and her training

she finds most important, she replies, “Physical development and becoming better at the complicated.” She finds the challenge provided by Tang Soo Do as the drive to be a more improved martial artist. As she gets older, she has discovered that those minor accomplishments in training hard and practicing pays off when tackling a once difficult form.


Master Perry still teaches her young students in school and all the lower ranks at The Karate School. She mostly enjoys instructing the white belts knowing that those little blank slates are so impressionable, eager to learn and have fun. She helps Master Jamie Christian at his studio on Tuesdays, Thursdays and sometimes on Saturdays. SBN Perry continues with her own training on Saturdays where she finds that it relieves her frustrations from work, expands her mind and challenges her body. When competing in forms and weapons she knows that she’s got to work harder; most especially after having knee surgery. With her minimal time off she enjoys a good book and spending time with her family.


SBN Perry is an example of what instilling hard work into something she cares about deeply will lead to: a life with a strong body, mind and spirit. Compete against yourself. Challenge yourself to accomplish what’s ahead. Work at it until what you believed was complicated ends up being elementary. American writer, Richard Bach is quoted to say, “You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.” So set goals, work hard and achieve what you put your mind to.


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