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Angels in Red

on MAR. / 23 / 2011 | 0 comments

by Erica Linthorst

Travels took me to the Washington Heights section in New York City, at one time a location inhabited by gangs. Instead, on this day, there were awards and non-stop demos by some of the most determined young people you’ll ever see in the martial arts.

It was the 6th Annual Junior Guardian Angels Recognition and Celebration event, sponsored by leader Dennis “Superstretch” Torres. Sometimes fighting for their lives, always fighting for their dignity and self-respect, and to make the community better and safer for everyone, these very remarkable students practice their techniques seriously and with commanding authority. Until making it to the community center where they now practice, there were times in their history when the parks and streets, rooftops and basements served as their classroom. With strong leadership and a “never give up” attitude, Torres’ disciples emit strength of character, and both great commitment and discipline.

Among the many notable honorees were Dr. Sainz (a local area high school assistant principle) who said, “All children need martial arts for the discipline, self-control, and respect.” Sensei Pete Diaz, who runs “Karate for Christ”, applauding the students said, “Hard work pays off.” The world-renowned founder of Guardian Angels, Curtis Sliwa, was also in attendance and was proud to see how this school had evolved. He urged the students to stay in school to learn the basics – Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Respect. Also present were, famed Master Maurice Elmalem (the premier breaking martial artist in the world), “Mo” MahalielBethea of “Empty Hands” notoriety, Senseis Luis Matos and Song Thai, and Grandmasters Jackson and Reno Morales
At the end of the day, “Superstretch” reminded his students – “If you train weak, then you’re weak-minded.” He told the audience “Where champions are made, fools walk away.” That’s the image of a proud leader! For more information on the program, please contact: Director Torres at the Guardian Angels Community Service Center, 718-781-8194.
Author, Master Erica Linthorst with Curtis Sliwa and Master Jackson.

The Real Deal: Grandmaster Jang, Hyo-Seon and KumYeDo

on MAR. / 23 / 2011 | 0 comments

by Erica Linthorst

Sometimes you just have to look around the corner and something or someone truly special appears. When Grandmaster Jang, Hyo-Seon of Seoul, Korea comes to Hopewell Junction, NY for a two-weekend long, grueling KumYeDo seminar, you know you’ve encountered the “real deal”! How is this possible? I know personally since I have had the honor to experience it over the past 2 years.

Among the great variety of martial arts traditions the world over, Jang has evolved a new tradition of “sword dancing” based on bi-dang-kum-moo-do, sometimes called kal-chum. Today, it has developed to such an extent that the Korean government selected this style to be preserved as a “Cultural treasure”, representative of an authentic element of Korean history, life, and mindset.
With his regal bearing and internal strength, his commanding presence completely fills the room as he teaches by example. His speed, rhythm, and precision are beyond compare as he glides swiftly and lithely seemingly above the dojang floor. The literal translation of KumYeDo is akin to “the best of the best sword training / art”. Although it is not specifically a martial arts in familiar terms, there are elements of attack – parries, strikes, and blows. Yet, as he wields either a single sword or double swords, you can see a proud, powerful dancer confronting tigers and tyrants with uncanny, deadly precision. You are left with no doubt about his strength and ki. It is simply a breath-taking experience.

Grandmaster Jang says, “The purposed of training is to develop a ‘no fear’ mentality and physical strength that is both deep and hard.”
If this has peaked your interest, there are over 90 schools in Korea with affiliates in France teaching KumYeDo that have grown since 1983. To experience this first hand, more locally, you can reach the US Eastern Regional Director, Master Kwon, Ou-Nam at
The author with Master Kwon.

I get a kick out of you!

on MAR. / 23 / 2011 | 0 comments

by Roving Reporter Erica Linthorst

Where else but at an astonishing 10th year anniversary of the 2,000-people huge Hall of Honors event promoted by Sifu Alan Goldberg in Atlantic City, would I possibly come to sit next to renowned kicking great – Gary Wasniewski!

We sat at booths next to one another, meeting and greeting the many attendees who passed along.  Yet we still had plenty of time to talk and share stories. 
Known to have one of the best kicks in the world, Grandmaster Gary traced his development in martial arts back to 1966 when he first began practicing TKD/karate in Great Britain.  He said that growing up he had to learn to fight quickly and, eventually, he produced a book on self-defense and developed the famous Ty-Ga Martial Art System from which he created the Lightning Euro Karate System.

As he continued to develop his own skills and style, he began to experience a following which has only grown large through his numerous worldwide seminars.  As a result of his rise in popularity, he has also appeared on the front cover of many martial arts publications.

It would not be long until the martial arts movie makers discovered Wasniewski and his rugged marketability.  He is currently one of the top martial arts movie actors and can be seen starring in  “Kill Factor”, “Thunderkick”, and “Thunderkick 3”.

Sitting next to this personable guy, I found him easy to chat with and determined to sweep the US market too as he prepares to take up residency in California – spreading the style, the word, and the entertainment.  Please visit him at

Brief Encounters of the TaeKwonDo Type: Jesse Jackson, Jr.

on MAR. / 23 / 2011 | 0 comments

by Erica Linthorst

Ambling along the streets of Washington, DC, I walk around a car parked in a driveway and notice its owner gingerly removing framed, authenticated Bruce Lee memorabilia from the interior. I introduce myself and tell the gentleman I admire his acquisition. He tells me he is an especially big fan of Bruce Lee and when I inquire if he himself is involved in martial arts he replies enthusiastically, “Oh yes! I’ve been practicing martial arts for over 17 years.”

When I ask with which ones he has been involved he mentions mainly TaeKwonDo and Kung Fu. I tell him of my own involvement in TKD and ask with whom he has studied. He proudly replies “Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee. He’s mostly retired now spending a good deal of his time in Korea although he does continue to teach occasionally.” It is beginning to drizzle outside and he wishes to bring his treasures into his home. With verve, he extends his hand and says, “Jesse Jackson, Jr.” (For those of you who do not know him, he is a Congressman from Illinois.) I offer him my calling card saying – somewhat hopefully – “Please send me an email so we can keep in touch regarding the TaeKwonDo world.” What a moment! What a day!

On course in Switzerland: Master Abendi Amhand

on MAR. / 23 / 2011 | 0 comments

by Erica Linthorst

In the small, old town of Vevey, Switzerland, on Lac Leman (known to many of us as Lake of Geneva), I found Master Abendi Amhand in a school gym with 37 students. With warm sunlight streaming down through the windows and France looming large across the water, students appeared oblivious to the Swiss landscape and beautiful blue skies, totally focused on their master's sparring drill instructions and the effort required to find out how to implement them. Extremely disciplined, they labored on while Master Amhand moved among the sets of partners. They attended solely to his gentle voice and earnestly persisted in trying to accomplish his goals.

Belts ranged from yellow to second-dan and from 6 to 22 years old. In traditional (WTF) fashion there were no orange, purple, or even camouflage belts. Testing occurs one to two times yearly and all black belt testing is but once a year and held for all applicants in the same location, Fribourg, in front of a panel of five WTF Swiss Federation experts.

As class continued, I noticed that Master Amhand would ask quickly-answered questions after each round of exercises. They were designed for members to learn and recall more about techniques, how to protect oneself, rules of engagement and counterattack, and so forth. Odd student out would proceed to perform push-ups and sit-ups without prompting. There were smiles and encouraging words partner-to-partner, yet continuous effort and application of skills throughout the lesson.

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