June 24 - July 4

Trip to Korea

Following the tradition of the VTM, members of the VTM had first hand experience in the heart of Taekwondo. Through this visit, members of the VTM have developed a deep appreciation for Korean culture and the roots of Korean martial arts. The Taekwondo students on the trip had the opportunity to experience the roots of the art as well as training with world class competitors.

In June, 2001, three select groups of martial artists from Dayton, Cincinnati and Los Angeles engaged in a tour of Korea sponsored in part by the Ving Tsun Museum. The purpose of the tour was to help Western martial arts practitioners develop a sense of the culture that gave rise to Korean martial arts. Rendezvous occurred in Korea at the Inchon International Airport, where participants were bussed to the Seoul International Airport for a short flight southwest to Jeju island (also written Cheju).

Jeju-do, or Jeju island, one of the nine provinces of Korea, is only an hour's flight south of Seoul. As a result of its isolated location and romantic tropical image, Jeju-do has become a favorite retreat with honeymooners and tourists. The island has a mild climate. It has four distinct seasons and an average yearly temperature of 15 C (60 F). In summer, temperatures range from 22 C (72F) to 26 C (80 F) per the Korea Travel Guide, Korea National Tourism Organization (www.visitkorea.or.kr)

The first day in Korea, Tuesday June 27th, it rained off and on, but the weather was warm. The first stop in the tour of Cheju Island was Yongduam Rock or "Dragon Head Rock". This unusual lava formation looks like the head of a dragon. There is a famous story about a dragon that was imprisoned in stone with only its head above water. Its tears cause the water that forms in pools around the dragon as it cries over past misbehavior.

Tae Hayden, 3rd Degree Black Belt  

A Buddhist temple was next on the agenda. The temple was of modern construction and the main building was 4 stories tall. A monk was inside chanting as the tour group explored the recesses of the temple while Korean citizens flowed in and out of the temple, bowing to pay their respects to Buddha.

For lunch the group had bulgogi (Korean barbeque beef), the famous meal of Korea. For many of the participants, eating Korean food was a first time experience. After lunch, the tour group traveled to a Cheonjeyeon Falls, the famous falls of Jeju-do.

On the drive to the hotels, the tour stopped at another famous tourist attraction, a place where the laws of gravity appear not to apply. As the road slopes gently off to the horizon, bottles and cars eerily roll up the hill, gaining momentum as they roll. Scientists have measured the elevation of the slope and it actually does slope downhill, contrary to what your eyes tell you. For dinner, the tour group went to a local Chinese restaurant.

Tour group photo on the steps of the History and Folklore Museum.

Sangumburi Crater is one of three major craters on island. It is about 2 km in circumference and covers an area of 298,000 m2. This crater is home to some 420 different species of subtropical, temperate an alpine plants, so botanists call it a "floral treasure house." It is best viewed in summer or fall. - Korea Travel Guide, Korea National Tourism Organization. For lunch, tour participants ate a local specialty - fried pork. After lunch, the "mountain" of Seongsanpo was next. Seongsanpo, which means Fortress Mountain Port, is a small village on the island's eastern tip. The name describes the unusual volcanic cone that dominates the area. This cone, known as Ilchulbong, or Sunrise peak, is one of 350 parasitic volcanoes that dot the island. A trail leads up to the western edge of the crater, and scales its steep slope. A climb up this narrow trail rewards the climber with a most spectacular view. At sunrise, the scene is unbelievably beautiful.

From the heights of the Sunrise peak, the tour moved to the depths of Manjanggul Cave. This cave is situated on the northeast slope of the island. At 13.4 km (8.4 miles), it is the longest lava tube in the world. - Korea Travel Guide, Korea National Tourism Organization . Manjanggul Cave consists of three separate "tubes" of open space underground. The tour moved through the longest stretch of the tubes, seeing some of the largest stalactites and stalagmites in the world. Video cameras and glasses fogged immediately as members of the tour came out of the cold cave into the warm light of the afternoon. After the visit to the cave everyone wanted to stop at a beach near the hotel for a few minutes. After a little playing in the sun, it was back on the bus and on to the next stop. The tour paid a visit to a children's Taekwondo class located in a private Taekwondo school (as opposed to a University or elementary school system program). The children put on a demonstration of forms and breaking. Tour participants also demonstrated breaking. Several plaques were exchanged between the US and Korean Grand Masters and Masters. Dinner along the way was at restaurant where everyone sat on the floor in traditional Korean manner.

Vincent Meng in the children's class

Tour group and children's class

Dinner after the class

On Thursday, June 28th the tour flew to Busan (former spelling of Pusan) and toured the city, including a visit to the Royal Tombs.

Meng family at the Royal Tombs.  

After a driving tour of the city, the group proceeded to Gyeongju and went to the hotel. The next morning, the tour resumed in the city of Gyeongju by visiting two important Buddhist temples, the Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple located far up a mountain. Before the statue of Buddha in the Grotto are two stout guards engraved in a blocking stance. These two statues are often used to lend proof to the existence of Taekwondo as an ancient, indigenous skill of Korea.

After visiting Gyeongju, the tour began a long drive to the capital of Seoul. Along the way, the tour made a second martial arts stop - a visit to the National Taekkyon Dojang located in Cheongju city. Taekkyon is one of the original martial arts practices on the Korean peninsula. This martial art is rapidly growing in popularity through out the country. Taekkyon is one of the oldest forms of martial art on the Korean Peninsula. Before the 6th century, Taekkyon was practiced by the ruling classes and from the 9th to 12th century and became very popular, even amongst the common people. According to the Koryusa, a Korean history book written in the 15th century, Taekkyon was widely encouraged and practiced by everyone from the king himself to farmers. This trend continued until the early Chosun Dynasty when Taekkyon declined in popularity. Taekkyon is a martial art that consists of kicks, strikes, throws, and takedowns. Training is broken down into solo practice and partner practice. Solo practice includes basic movements such as stances, footwork, kicks, strikes, blocks and forms. Partner practices include a step-sparring format, arranged sparring/drilling, and free sparring.

Kaekkyon demonstration

Sign inside the Kaekkyon Dojang
Proficient in hundreds of kicks

The first day in Seoul included a tour of the city and ancient capitals. In the evening, the tour made the third martial arts stop of the trip at a local university for a lecture on Taekwondo history, philosophy and development. After the lecture everyone spent time training with Korean students at the university who were conditioning for the Korean Nationals being held two weeks after our visit. The conditioning included warm-ups, kicking practice against stationary targets, kicking practice against moving targets, and sparring. Training at the National level is very intense, but the Korean students courteously kept the sparring very light against their foreign guests. After the training, the tour moved on to dinner.

Participants training at the university

Group photo  

The second day in Seoul included a visit to more historical locations and shopping in the famous Itaewon shopping district. The afternoon included a visit to a Confucian college and a lecture on the development of Confucian thought and practices in Korea. The students of the Confucian college study in the tradition of the ancient Confucian scholars including living in the same buildings. The sign made for the main lecture hall was made and donated about 800 years ago by Xu Shi, a Confucian scholar of China often credited with founding the Neo-Confucian revival. His writings were used extensively in Korea and he was in contact with many Korean Confucian scholars. Xu Shi is the ancestor of Master Meng's Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Sifu (teacher/father), Grand Master Garrett Gee.

Sign inside the main hall. The bottom sign was made by Xu Shi

Tour members training outside the main hall.

Master Meng outside the main hall.

Tour group photo

That evening, the tour made the fourth martial art stop to visit a second group of Taekwondo students preparing for the Korean Nationals. This second group was already training and the room was moist with sweat. For 30 minutes, the tour participants watched as the team in training practiced partner kicking drills. One partner would wear two chest protectors while the other partner drilled one kick up and down the floor, throwing 10 to 20 kicks on each pass. The tour participants joined in for the last 20 minutes of class, participating in the cool down exercises. There was no sparring against this group as their training was specifically focused on sparring competition. At the college age of 18-22, these students have been training Taekwondo for an average of 10 to 12 years. It would not be safe or fair to have the tour participants spar because the Taekwondo competitors would have to hold back on technique and risk getting injured through an accident. It was a unique treat for the US students to see the competitors training at the highest levels of competition. It is quite possible that some of the Korean students that were there that night might one day represent Korea in the Olympics.

Group photo  

On the third day in Seoul, the last full day of the tour, the morning included a visit to the Olympic park and in the afternoon the group made the fifth martial art stop at the Kukkiwon, the world headquarters of Taekwondo. The Kukkiwon complex houses a competition arena, offices, retail and Taekwondo Museum. In the museum are displays on the history of Taekwondo, Taekwondo competitors and artifacts from the history of Taekwondo. That night, the tour went to a restaurant that specialized in Peking Duck. The cooks were sent to the city of Peking to learn how to cook this delicacy.

Tae Hayden and Jeremy Roadruck at the Olympic park.

Reenactment of royal ceremony at the Korean Capital

In front of the Kukiwon
(l/r) Jeremy Roadruck, Mavis Reed, Master Benny Meng, Tae Hayden.

Inside the Kukiwon  

On Wednesday, July 4th, the tour group bid a fond farewell to Korea with a hope of returning once again in the future. Like the Hong Kong / China Trip during the 1999 World Ving Tsun Conference, everything was 1st Class - hotels, food, site seeing, and martial arts exchange. Many precious experiences as well as friendships were developed.

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