Seminar with First Grand Master Rhee

On Saturday October 26th, senior grades from Cambridge took part in a training seminar with First Grand Master Rhee Ki Ha. The event was hosted by ACE Taekwon-Do’s Master Derek Blackburn VII in Newmarket.


First Grand Master Rhee is the most senior proponent of Taekwon-Do in the world. As his title suggests, he was the first of only four people ever promoted to Grand Master (9th Degree) by the Founder of Taekwon-Do, General Choi Hong Hi. In terms of lineage, he is the closest we can get to the Founder himself since his sad passing in 2002.

First Grand Master Rhee was accompanied by Grand Master Cutler IX, Senior Master Ray O’Neill VIII and Master Tim Helstrip VII. All the Masters were involved in the training session, so students had the benefit of many, many years’ experience, which was both exciting and nerve-wracking, but they were very gracious and encouraging with their guidance.


The first two hours were dedicated to coloured belt students. All seminars run by FGMR are open to all, so there were several groups who had never trained with him before. They benefitted from guidance on the General’s development of sine wave and terminology for Taekwon-Do techniques. It was great to hear Korean spoken by FGMR confirming our learned pronunciations. Some great training exercises were used to teach fundamentals that our instructors will be pinching for future use at the club!

As the session moved onto more senior grade material, we explored the different releases demonstrated in Taekwon-Do’s patterns, along with practicing the Korean terms for them. A few wrists suffered slightly here and there, particularly when Master O’Neill demonstrated on us (he’s got a grip like a vice!), but we learned about some really valuable principles.


FGMR reminisced about his days training in the Korean military, which was fascinating. He described doing bunny-hops up hills wearing full packs (!) and shared his nick-name in the Army (“Son-Bal” – translate it and you’ll understand).


He said he wished he could still train people with the methods that he used with the RAF when he first came to Britain. We all said we were very glad that he doesn’t, and he conceded that if he did, no one would come back! Having said that, he explained that he was not sorry about the changes in training methods, because it brings a lot more people into Taekwon-Do, who would not be attracted by the old ways. He said he felt that this was acceptable because everyone does Taekwon-Do for different reasons and the General’s dearest wish was for a legacy of Taekwon-Do practiced from pole to pole of the globe (which has been achieved, incidentally). 

Dinner - 349 years of TKD experience around one table!

FGMR talked of his wish to continue the General’s development of the Art and the important work still to be done. It was a rare and fascinating opportunity to listen to the thoughts of someone so central to both the history and future of Taekwon-Do. FGMR was generous with his expertise and kind in his guidance. He took the time to personally present all students with a certificate of attendance and have a photograph taken with them. To see someone so important be so approachable and friendly was a lesson to us all. Thanks very much to Master Blackburn for hosting the event. We all felt hugely privileged to be there to share in it.

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