For many people like myself, Taekwon-Do is not so much a hobby, as it is a guiding principle of morality, of self-improvement, and a way of understanding the limits of one’s physical and mental capabilities. It is an artform and a lifestyle that I have dedicated myself to for over 43 years. To honour the 65th year of the naming of Taekwon-Do, like many of my fellow instructors and practitioners of this long enduring art, I would like to reflect on my ITF journey.
The globalisation of Taekwon-Do was spearheaded by the late General Choi Hong Hi, and Malaysia happened to be the 2nd country to which he brought the art outside of Korea in 1965 to be introduced to the public. As a young boy, I was inspired by my own father, a professional boxer, to take up martial arts and looked to Taekwon-Do at age 14. At the time, Grand Master Low Koon Lin was the Malaysian pioneer of the art, under the tutelage of General Choi, as well as my first instructor; this made me part of the 2nd generation of students in the lineage of General Choi’s international spread of ITF. Along with GM Low Koon Lin, I was privileged to learn under the coaching of Master Tan Eng Kiat and GM Yeow Ching Wat. Their teaching structure was extremely innovative, with each instructor teaching 3 different aspects of training – sparring, pattern and self-defence. Importantly, they did not forget to instil in their students the true meaning of Taekwon-Do which was the moral culture. With the guidance of these inspirational figures, I accelerated in my learnings and was promoted to assistant instructor 1979 and became instructor in June 1980. I had the privilege of being graded by General Choi himself, for my promotion to 5th Dan in Maroochydore, Queensland before his sad passing.
I began participating in tournaments since attaining yellow-tip. My tournament career endured until I was 6th Dan, with a highly successful rate of achievement. The competitors I have had the privilege to fight have come far and wide across the globe. Some of my notable achievements include gold medals in sparring, pattern and power breaking, silver in team sparring in ITF World Championships. As a veteran tournament participant, I also have had great success and was the first person to be awarded the Overall World Champion title in ITF’s 1st Veteran World Championships. I retired from tournaments in 2005 when I was promoted to 7th Dan. On top of partaking in tournaments, I have also coached and trained a number of students to successfully win national and international championships. Among other cherished achievements, I was awarded the prestigious ITF Outstanding Instructor Medal and ITF Order Medal in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
My post-tournament life saw myself heavily involved in the expanding and publicising of ITF to the world. With the help and support of ITF officials, I have organised and run national tournaments, with the goal of building friendships, exchanging ideas and promoting the art to the general public. I have also been involved in running seminars as a part of the ITF Technical and Education Committee, to aid the constant progress and evolution of Taekwon-Do.
Sasung Tam Fook Chee
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