Grandmaster Sun Duk Choi

Legendary Grandmaster Sun Duk Choi, one of the world’s leading Martial Artists of all time, passed away quietly on March 17, 2010.  His life and legacy will always be remembered by thousands of students worldwide.  He was an exceptional human being with a rare gift of heart and compassion for teaching his students Martial Arts until the end of his life. He inspired many people throughout his life with his strength, determination, and courage and taught his students that if you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything, not only in the martial arts, but in life just like he did. He exemplified the American Dream to all of his students.

Sun Duk Choi was born in Gyeongsangbugdo, South Korea in 1934.  He was one of only a few who have been awarded the rank of ninth degree black belt in Taekwondo.  Grandmaster Choi started out his life in humble beginnings in South Korea.  During his era there was poverty and war, therefore he began the study of martial arts as a youth to defend himself against gang members. He later joined the military when he was only fifteen years old fighting alongside the American soldiers during the Korean War and meeting them that would change his life forever.

During the Korean War, Grandmaster Choi became close friends with several American soldiers. These friendships were the beginning of his life-long dream of teaching martial arts to American students. One soldier in particular was Captain Lowell. During the Korean War the Captain and the young martial artist fought several battles alongside each other, including a fierce battle on the Kim II Sung Mountain, nick-named the Stallion Mountain. During their time together, Grandmaster Choi learned about the strength of the American people and their great potential to appreciate martial arts.

Throughout the ensuing years, the dream of Grandmaster Choi to come to the United States never wavered. He was confident that he would fulfill his dream. His first experience as an instructor was at the Churchon Police Academy in 1954. 
He later continued his relationship with American servicemen as an instructor at the United States Army’s Seventh Division Headquarters in 1960. During this time, he also pursued a successful competitive career winning first place in the light weight division in 1967, and the 1968 Grand Championship title of the Korean National Tournament.

In 1971, Grandmaster Choi finally realized the goal that he had pursued for almost twenty years; he immigrated to the United States. During that year he taught Tae Kwon Do at the California Police Academy; moved to New Mexico where he opened the Albuquerque Taekwondo-Do Association; and began training the Albuquerque Police Homicide Team. Three years later, Grandmaster Choi was on the move again, this time founding the Arizona Taekwondo-Do Association and the International Taekwondo-Do Institute. In 1980, he toured the world as part of the a Tae Kwon Do exhibition with General Choi and the “Super Masters” This group was the “Dream Team” of Martial Artists throughout the world. In this prominent group of Grandmasters, Choi was the last one to pass thus ending the era of the “Super Masters”.

Sun Duk Choi devoted his entire life to martial arts. He studied martial arts for sixty five years and taught for nearly fifty five years to over a million students worldwide. Choi was one of the pioneers of Modern Taekwondo. He loved teaching Martial Arts and has helped change the lives of several generations throughout the years. What distinguished the Grandmaster was his approach to martial arts and his relationship with his students. He held a close bond with each and every one of his students.

Grandmaster Choi was full of energy and passion for life. He maintained a rigorous schedule of personal exercise and training up until his death. He started each day with a host of exercises and routines that he personally developed. After a light breakfast, he was off to his schools to begin a 13 hour day of training his students.  He looked forward each day to train his students and never got weary or tired. 

Grandmaster Choi was like a father to all of his students. He taught them more that the art of Tae Kwon Do. He reminded each of his students what is truly important. He provided them with the foundations of principles and values that still apply to all aspects of their lives.  After his death, many students shared heartfelt stories of how the Grandmaster impacted their lives and made them become a better person for their children and spouses.

The most important aspect of Grandmaster Choi’s training had nothing to do with the physical aspects of the sport; nor does it concern the philosophical or historical aspects of Tae Kwon Do. What it does concern is the man himself.  His students were always amazed when a former student visits, and though many years have past, the Grandmaster remembers not only the student, but many aspects of his or her life.

Choi dedicated his entire life to teaching Martial Arts to students worldwide and his life inspired and changed the lives of many thousands of people over the years. He was truly a very special Grandmaster – A type of individual that god gives to us to help change the lives of thousands of people. In addition, to helping his students achieve a better life; Sun Duk Choi gave to several charitable organizations, in particular Youth Organizations that helped troubled or disadvantaged children.   He regularly donated time and profits from his tournaments to these organizations.  Grandmaster Choi loved children and took exceptional care to teach them the first rule of taekwondo is to respect their parents. Several parents over the years turned to Grandmaster Choi for guidance on how to deal with their child that has become involved with drugs or the wrong crowd.  His unique approach in dealing with these disobedient children routinely turned them around and brought them back to the right path. Parents have seen their children grow up with the guidance of Grandmaster Choi to become accomplished adults and they solely credit him for their childrens success.

Grandmaster Sun Duk Choi exemplified to his students with hard work and self-discipline, anything is possible and that personal dreams are within reach.  He certainly overcame all odds as a child living in poverty and war to become one of the most successful and prominent Martial Artists of all time.  Choi was an exceptional human being and gave a part of his heart to each one of his students. Grandmaster Choi wanted to leave a mark on the world of teaching students what it really means to be a Martial Artist.  He certainly left his mark a thousand times over. He will always be remembered with love, dignity, and respect.

He is survived by his wife, two sons, two daughters, and three grandchildren.  His student of 28 years Master Bob Grasso will continue to carry on his legacy.
JUN. 08. 2010. TaeKwonDoTimes.