Thoughts from a new grandmaster
The best place to start is usually at the beginning. In 1970 as a senior in high school I was mugged after attending a high school dance. Fortunately, back then being mugged simply consisted of getting hit a few times by students from another school who then walked away laughing.
I had been raised in a family where the adult men had -fought valiantly in World War Two but no longer wished to have anything to do with violence. Consequently, my only instruction in self-defense came from watching reruns with Gene Autry fighting bad guys or Star Trek. I now realize Gene only had one move, and I was in for a big shock when I realized that evening in 1970 that I wasn’t Captain Kirk, but rather one of the expendable crewmen. My pride and ego were damaged far worse than my bruised stomach ever would be.
As soon as I could I signed up for a martial arts course in college. The University of Illinois offered one taught by former sergeant in the army and it was both fun and interesting. After finishing the semester, I got an “A” and was super confident of my abilities. Confident that is, until a friend argued that I would be sliced and diced if I ever had a real-world confrontation. When I argued that I had received top marks in the class he proceeded to knock me down hard with a rolled-up magazine. After pointing out that he knew nothing about fighting my friend next pointed out that a rolled-up magazine is not a crowbar, or a baseball bat and most thugs don’t give you fair warning. Obviously, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
I quickly realized that I now only had two choices. I could run away scared from confrontations for the rest of my life or study more. That led me to a Korean Judo Academy outside of Chicago run by Master Tae Jin Suk, and later into the University of Illinois’ Judo club. I quickly learned however that the Judo I had seen on television from 1940’s war movies had been turned into a sport after the war. While I loved the techniques and philosophy (I still do) I was not being taught the street self-defense applications and principles of defense which is why I joined the art in the first place
During my sophomore year at the university of Illinois I discovered that a Korean classmate and later close friend was a 2nd dan in Tae Kwon do. He insisted I join his class. (In 1972 it was still being promoted as Korean Karate.) I argued that I was doing Judo three days a week plus attending classes, but since it is hard to argue with a Korean, I joined his class. I spent the next three years practicing Judo three days a week and TKD the other three nights a week After graduation I had to drop out of the arts for three years while I attended veterinary college. Later, when I had some spare time during my senior year, I studied aikido until I finally graduated and moved to Miami. In 1980 I rejoined a judo club there taught by a police SWAT instructor, and later when my 5-year-old daughter wanted to learn the martial arts I rejoined a TKD club with her.
I was shocked to find that the 1970 ‘s down and dirty TKD with all its self-defense applications including sweeps, throws and head techniques had become WTF sport sparring. I was constantly forced to ask, “What do you mean that technique is not allowed??” Ultimately, I became a 3rd dan in Yudo and a 2nd in Kukki TKD, but still never really felt confident that I could take on a gang of rolled up magazine wielding thugs.
After moving to Central Florida over twenty years ago and after being discouraged by all the fake instructors I had met along the way, I happened upon a legitimate Korean Martial Arts school offering Hapkido. Both my daughter joined HaeMuKwan Hapkido, and I have not looked back since. (FYI: By the age of sixteen she was 1st dan in Tang Soo do, a 1st dan in Kukki Tae Kwon do, and a 1st dan in HaeMuKwan Hapkido)
I had started out in the martial arts as an 18-year-old thin athletic student, and now I am a not so thin, nor as flexible, 69-year-old who has just been awarded a 7th dan in Hapkido. Fifty-two years ago, I sought out the arts to learn how to defend myself yet over the years I have learned so much more. I have learned that training will help you gain self-confidence. Training will help you stay healthier and while admittedly there are the occasional rotator cuff injuries, bruises, and sprains, in general I am also more fit. At very least I am far and away more fit than I would be without the martial arts.
I have also learned that respect is not commanded it is earned and that what others say, and claim is not as important as the facts you know to be true. I didn’t enter the arts for others, but for my own protection and confidence.
I have never been a professional martial arts and don’t intend to be since I am too busy practicing my chosen profession of veterinary medicine. Since I have no skin in the “My belt is wider than your game, you can pretty well trust what I say and write. I have learned however that cruel baseless accusations will only affect you if you let them. Shakespeare must have been thinking of the martial arts when he said to thine own self be true. So was whoever said what goes around comes around.
Finally, I have learned that the martial arts are a great way to make solid loyal and true friends, which in retrospect may have been the most important thing after all.
Ronald W. Stone, D.V.M
7th dan Grandmaster, HaeMuKwan Hapkido