People often ask why it is so important for me to maintain a connection with Korea and Korean martial arts federations, international certifications, and training. It is a choice each master or school owner makes for themselves. I am told by others it is easy to become independent, print my own certificates and save money. I could buy videos or go to weekend seminars and declare myself an expert in the different styles or weapons, or I could make my own art. I choose to belong to the federations because they are a governing body, like a college, that lends credibility to my school, my students, and my instruction. The federations promote and bring unity to the art, make changes to the techniques for today's practical applications, change moves that may be injuring practitioners, continue our training and instructor classes by masters much more skilled than I, and provide credible testing and certification to those in martial arts . . and I believe in supporting them. I think it is important to be linked to federations where I can train to refresh my memory and make sure I am teaching the techniques properly. I have not found another place where I can ask what I am doing in any particular move and why I am doing it and have someone answer without any difficulty. The abundance of knowledge they have about the art, how it was developed and it's history is also provided in their training materials and shared with those who truly want the knowledge. I also believe it is only a matter of time before the U.S. Government finds it necessary to force martial arts schools to be accredited by approved organizations. Although no organization is perfect and there is always some corruption in anything from time to time, I am hoping that the ones that I have taken great care in choosing wisely and carefully are on the right track.
I am confident I am teaching my students a system I believe in with the most up-to-date techniques to defend themselves and that my students have the proper international certifications for any art they are ranked in so that they can go anywhere in the world and be recognized for any rank they have earned, whether it is a seminar, a tournament, or another school. Students can with their Kukkiwon card, enter the Kukkiwon facility in Korea which includes a museum and training area (the same is true for any of the different training centers of all the different arts I teach at my school), they can train at any Kukkiwon sponsored events in the U.S., and they can enter tournaments sanctioned by the Olympics. While we do not concentrate on tournaments at my school and our focus is on self defense, tournaments can be an interesting experience occasionally for those interested in seeing how they work and how well they do with that sort of thing.
All testing for higher ranks (usually 4th Dan and higher) in the International Federations our school belongs to, like the Kukkiwon, are done before a board of appointed Officials from the different organizations and I have pasted these tests for the ranks I have earned and currently hold. Any Kukkiwon certifications can be verified by going to http://www.kukkiwon.or.kr/ and entering the information of a person. Your name needs to be entered as it appears on your certificate--for example my verification will only appear if my middle initial is included with my name because it is Laura A. Clements on my certification. I have noticed that some of the very instructors/masters who cherish their own Kukkiwon Certification and brag about having it are the very ones that don't bother to register their students. I can tell you that at any major events, the first thing a high ranking Master asks me is, 'Kukkiwon certified?' or 'Certified from Korea?', In the years I have practiced Korean martial arts, I have found it does matter whether you have these credentials, where they come from, who you are affiliated with, where you get your knowledge/training and how much you really know about the true martial arts which is more then just kicking and punching.
In the eight times I have traveled to Korea for martial arts, I have gained a wealth of knowledge and met the most amazing martial artists. I have met Un Yong Kim who is the founder and former President of the Kukkiwon and is brilliant, speaking over six languages fluently, and with multiple academic degrees. In an unfortunate event, he was wrongly accused of misconduct but has since been completely exonerated and has multiple prestigious positions as professor/president/chairman of the Kukkiwon, Korean Tae Kwon Do Association, Korean Olympic Committee, several universities, and the Korean Traditional Martial Arts Committee. I have met numerous JiDoKwan (which is our style of TaeKwonDo) Masters, several in my direct lineage. I was honored by being able to become a life time member of the JiDoKwan Society. I have trained at the current Kukkiwon building (which is in a park) numerous times and have visited the site of the future World TaeKwonDo Federation Training Park facility which will open in 2013. I have met so many great instructors at the Kukkiwon and their training and special detailed instruction is unmatched. I have competed and demonstrated in martial arts events, championships, and international championships and have been able to talk and train with the Founder/President of our sword federation and the Technical Director/Vice President. I have been introduced to and trained with many other Masters, Grandmasters, Founders, presidents, professors, people with doctorates in marital arts, Deans of martial arts universities, and other martial arts of Korea, and have trained at Yong-In University and Kyung-Hee University which provides Master's Degrees, Professorships, and Doctorates in martial arts, sports, history, culture, physical fitness and sports medicine. And the history, buildings, mountains, food, and cultural experiences--so many things I would never have known if I had not gone to Korea. The whole experience makes me eager each time to come home and share everything I have learned with my students. In fact, I have even taken students to Korea and hope to do more of it in the future. I feel like the more effort I put into the martial arts, the more the art shows me how much more I have to learn and the more effort I want to put into studying, perfecting, and truly knowing the arts and how to show and teach the arts to others. I believe when I am teaching any of the styles of martial arts I hold a masters ranking in, I should be able to defend myself, perform, or demonstrate it without thinking about it. Keeping ties with Korea and it's heritage helps me be the master and instructor I strive to be.-Master Laura