Wednesday, February 24, 2016

An Interview with Grandmaster Y.H.Park 1988 U.S. Olympic Coach By Nicholas Isaacs

An Interview with Grandmaster Y.H.Park 1988 U.S. Olympic Coach
By Nicholas Isaacs  
I have the privilege of being taught TaeKwonDo by Grandmaster Y.H.Park at his school Y.H.Park Taekwondo Academy located at 3701 Hempstead Turnpike, in Levittown. Since it is an Olympic year, I thought it would be interesting to interview him since he was the 1988 U.S. Olympic Coach for TaeKwonDo. I know there are a lot of students who are athletes here at Island Trees and his information would be helpful and interesting to them and to others who have an interest that they pursue.
Born in Chung-Up, South Korea,Yeon Hwan Park became a 9th Degree Black Belt. He was the Collegiate National Champion, Marine Corp Champion, and 7 time winner of the Korean National Championships. He retired undefeated in 1975. He was sent by Korea to train soldiers in Lesotho in Southern Africa. Then he opened a small TaeKwonDo School in East Meadow. He was selected in 1988 to coach the 1988 Olympic Team as TaeKwonDo debuted as an Olympic sport. He was also the Pan American Gold Medalists Coach.
Y.H. Park has written over 12 martial arts books and appeared in many magazines. His biography, “TaeKwonDo, My Life and Philosophy” was published in 2009. He is the former Vice-President of the United States TaeKwonDo Union, was elected the President of the U.S. TaeKwonDo Leaders Union in 2008, and inducted into the Grandmaster’s Society Hall of Fame in 2010. His school hosts the NY Taekwondo Open Championships every October. He is also a Professor at LI University at C.W. Post.

Q: What was it like growing up in Korea?
A: At that time, Korea was a poor country, but people worked hard to build it to what it is today. As a result, I worked hard everyday to build a better future for myself.

Q: Why at an early age did you become involved in TaeKwonDo?
A: I was influenced to start TaeKwonDo by my older brother. I saw him training and I was inspired.

Q: You were Korea’s National TaeKwonDo Champion 7 times. Describe your typical day of training.
A: I did my own personal training such as jogging and interval training, then I trained with my TaeKwonDo team in the afternoon. It was a full day of intense training. Then I always finished with my school studies.

Q:What was your advantage over your opponents? What was your favorite kick?
A: My roundhouse kick, back kick, and punch were the techniques that made me successful over my opponents and naturally were my favorite kicks.
Q: You were sent to Lesotho in Southern Africa to train soldiers. What was life like there for you? What did you like about it? What didn’t you like about it?
A: I liked training soldiers who would become the bodyguards of the Prime Minister. I also liked training civilians there which I did after 5 pm everyday. I liked it there because they called me “Bruce Park” after Bruce Lee. I was treated like a rock star. I didn’t like the solitude there.

Q: Why did you decide to come to the United States?
A: Because the U.S. presented a great opportunity and afforded me to pursue my dream of spreading TaeKwonDo and becoming a success.

Q: Since the summer Olympics are coming up this year, can you tell us what was involved in training the Olympic TaeKwonDo team which debuted in 1988?
A: It was a proud moment for me to represent the U.S.. It involved a lot of meetings and training. We really focused on having the best character people on the team. People with good respect and manners.

Q: What did it feel like to be in front of so many people of the world viewing Taekwondo as an Olympic sport for the first time?
A: It was an exhilarating moment for me and one I will never forget. I felt great.

Q: Where else in the world have you traveled?
A: TaeKwonDo has allowed me to see the world and I am thankful for that. I have traveled to over 30 countries such as all of Asia, Africa, North and South America, and Europe.

Q: How do you think TaeKwonDo has evolved since its Olympic debut in 1988?
A: I believe there is room for improvement for spectators to enjoy more. That is what I am trying to develop for the future.

Q: What differences if any is there between learning TaeKwonDo for competition versus using it for self-defense?
A: TaeKwonDo for competition is for sport and involves strategic thinking and execution for generating “points.” Self-defense is the art of TaeKwonDo and more direct with using different set of techniques.

Q: What would you say to someone who is considering taking up TaeKwonDo?
A: I would explain the amazing benefits that TKD can offer such as self-defense, health-defense, self-esteem, self-confidence, and harmony within oneself and others. I would explain TKD is about mind, body, spirit and helping society.