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Traveling the World to Find TKD

on MAR. / 23 / 2011 | 0 comments

by Erica Linthorst


At the age of 15, Master Amhand moved with his family from his home country of Morocco to Germany, where other family members resided. Although not a participant, he had always admired and loved martial arts. His cousin was practicing TKD and so that's how Mater Amhand's story begins. When asked why he became involved, he said he loved "the discipline, the techniques, and the sport of it."
 
Twelve years after arriving in Germany, he met a wonderful young Swiss woman living there too and shortly thereafter they married and moved to Switzerland. He remained actively engaged in Tae Kwon Do and as time went on, he specialized in sparring and joined the international competition circuit as well as competing nationally. 

With passion and determination, he began a TKD program. Relatively unknown in his adopted country, he says it took about ten years to gain a strong and avid following through his school—TaeKwonDo Riviera. Throughout these years, he has remained true to his purpose, stayed the course, and has built not only his own practice but has seriously promoted TKD across all of Switzerland.  A soft and determined nature guaranteed that he could promote his players to European and World champions.

What makes Master Amhand the success he has become? His strength is that he wants to, can and will teach anyone and everyone who enters through his doors, making certain to adapt his program to each person.

With great pride, he was elected to become President of the Swiss TaeKwonDo Federation, following his many years as a competitor, WTF certified instructor, head coach and professional trainer of the national Swiss team. He happily responds to the question about TKD participants throughout all of Switzerland:  "There are 3,000 players. Since last year, there are eight new dojangs that have opened. In total, the country boasts 300 competitors in both poomse and kyorugi."

 Although modest by all accounts, it becomes clear that due to his courage, patience, and ability to stay on course, Tae Kwon Do has had a remarkable growth rate in Switzerland due, in no small part, to Master Abendi Amhand.

Croatia Diary “Anto Nobilo: A Mover and Shaker”

on MAR. / 23 / 2011 | 0 comments

by Erica Linthorst


Tall in stature, hugely reputable as a lawyer, and a man among men in the Tae Kwon Do world: this is a thumbnail sketch of Senior Master Anto Nobilo, ITF eighth-dan of Zagreb, Croatia.

I first learned of Anto Nobilo when scrolling around the Internet. I came upon something called “Pro-Taekwon-Do.” One click led to another and a YouTube video of an amazing series of professional TKD sparring bouts with a final prize of $50,000! I was greatly excited by the prospect of meeting this promoter, when I traveled to Croatia. 

Once there, I made a special trip to Zagreb to meet him, questions and camera in hand. I was prepared to meet the organizer of such a new event on the scene of so many worldwide TKD and other martial arts tournaments and championships. Instead, the man I met is truly large in his vast and astounding accomplishments, achievements, and awards. 

Notably, Nobilo is a lawyer who was sent by the Croatian government to represent the country and serve as defense for one of the Croatian generals during the post-war period in the 1990s at the International Court of The Hague for eight years. This speaks to his outstanding sensitive perception and ability to communicate convincingly.

As a martial artist, he has more than 40 years of involvement in Tae Kwon Do. In addition to the many tournaments in which he has personally competed, Nobilo, parenthetically, shows his award for becoming World Champion Veteran in the over 50-year-old category. In the same display case with his many photos and trophies, he shows me two books he has written: one on sport TKD and the other on self-defense. A man of action, he springs up to illustrate some of his remarkably swift offensive and defensive moves.

Significant as well, he now sits as President of the ITF European Commission. On top of all this, he is currently a member of the Coordinating Committee of the ITF and WTF merger–the only non-Korean participant. As fans and readers, you will know about the ongoing efforts to draw the WTF and ITF closer in the hopes of developing a revised and forward-looking plan for the unified globalization of TKD. Nobilo is extremely proud to sit with such a group and continue the positive work toward this end. I can tell that his artful negotiation skills will be all-important in this endeavor.

Senior Master Anto Nobilo is a man who is both passionate about TKD and has a vision for its future. During the interview, he sits on the edge of his chair, explaining animatedly where he has come from, and his perspective and dreams.

For him, the connection begins in 1964, when Park Sun-Jae of the ITF Institute based in Rome visits Croatia to present TKD seminars. Nobilo was fascinated by “the intriguing techniques and forms” and over Park’s next few visits became an aficionado, happy to train with his youthful cohorts on their own. For the most part, they had come from kickboxing and had great admiration and affinity for the “organized and demanding traditions” of TKD.  

In the 1970s-80s, Nobilo served as coach of his national team and began to seriously analyze TKD as it is was known and practiced in Croatia and especially as seen in the tournament styles around the world. As war pressed near in that region, there was little that could be done in martial arts. In fact, Nobilo remembers that many practice areas were “redirected for use by refugees and immigrants.” For the most part, the practice of martial arts and other sports virtually ground to a halt. As the strife diminished and as the country began to get back on a peaceful footing, once again TKD could flourish.

Nobilo recalls that it was about ten years ago that he began to synthesize and focus his ideas about TKD. He felt that TKD in Croatia was not coming back as strongly as he had hoped because the public had lost interest. He gave the following reasons:

Tournaments tended to be very large (too many participants) and too long
(lasting 10-12 hours). He believed that there was no way the public would
remain interested.

Since television covers so many professional sports (but not TKD) it
was therefore becoming more difficult to maintain a fan base.

And so he developed a plan that ultimately became Pro-Taekwon-Do and started to shop it around. Nobilo was certain that “with one of the largest amateur bases in the world, TKD can develop into a professional sport.”

Because he was so determined to make this happen, it was in 2007 that he and a group of his supporters were able to organize Croatia Round Zero, inviting eight of the best TKD and kickboxing world heavy weight fighters to compete. There was TV coverage and a $30,000 prize purse, some sponsorship and airfare and accommodations for the fighters.  Seeing the positive effects from the event, planning began immediately for follow-up tournaments and elimination rounds (2008) to be held in Argentina, North Carolina, St. Petersburg, Maribor (Slovenia, EU), and Blagoevgrad (Bulgaria, EU).

In December 2008, those winners along with Andrey Krylov (‘07 champ) and Raymond Daniels (of the USA on special invitation) met in Zagreb, Croatia, at the “World Final One” all vying for the $50,000 reward money.

The true nature of Nobilo becomes evident when he relates that in these tough economic times he singly supported this professional TKD tournament with $300,000 of his own money. He modestly allows that he will do so again to guarantee success and make his vision come true. Nobilo says he is looking for greater support from the USA and hopes that when this falls into place, then the world at large will witness a truly energetic, exciting, and technique-filled event of major proportion.

On the eve of writing this article, the author was told that April 10, 2009 Senior Master Anto Nobilo will be inducted into the Tae Kwon Do Hall of Fame in New Jersey to honor all his efforts to popularize and expand the best of TKD throughout the world. It was a major honor to have met this mover and shaker and I look ahead eagerly to the growth of his vision.

For the best information on Pro-Taekwon-Do, please go to www.pro-taekwon-do.com or contact Senior Master Anto Nobilo directly at anto.nobilo@zg.htnet.hr

The Smiling Soul of Shaolin: Profile of Sifu Wu Shangwei

on MAR. / 23 / 2011 | 0 comments

By Erica Linthorst

I had the great fortune to meet Wei, as he calls himself, at the Hall of Honors event sponsored by Master Alan Goldberg this past January. My initial response: he appeared incredibly young to be the director of the Broadway production of The Soul of Shaolin. This smiling, peaceful young man was nothing like the robed, bald man of middle age, with beads in hand, I had expected to see. Instead, he was a jeans-wearing, tee-shirted very young-looking guy with hair! A mere 27 years old with a shy demeanor, I soon learned that his energy was remarkably forceful.

When he agreed to an interview, I was excited to speak with him (through a translator) and see him in action. His demo at Song’s TaeKwonDo dojang in Fairfield , Connecticut, illustrated a degree of concentrated power seldom seen in most martial arts. From such a lithe man—the grace, speed, and precision was both awesome and spectacular.  

Wei grew up in a province of mainland China and started practicing Kung Fu at the age of seven. As a very determined little boy, he knew he wanted to study at the Shaolin Temple and when he turned 12 years old, bid farewell to his parents who accepted his decision. There are many schools surrounding the temple at Mt. Song itself and he attended one of these for several years.

The routines were grueling. He would get up each day at five a.m. and practice Kung Fu. For about two to three hours in the middle part of the day, there would be some cultural and academic study. Then, he would return to training for five or six more hours. He did this day after day for many years until finally, one day, the Shaolin monks appeared at his school.

It is their custom to visit the surrounding schools periodically, and it was upon one of these calls that Wei was selected to join the monastery. “This is the honor and opportunity of a lifetime,” says Wei. He became and lived as a monk. As more time passed, he was deemed worthy and was chosen to be director of this world famous performing troupe. Not merely a performing troupe, the Soul of Shaolin cast members are doing good works. They support the orphanage run by the monastery with 100% of the sales of booklets, DVDs, and assorted other items they can manage to sell during their travels and appearances. Sifu is known as a 34th generation warring monk. So, due to the heavy requirements of his directing and traveling schedule, he returned to secular life to fulfill this mandate. It is in this phase of his life that I have met him.

With a smile on his face, Sifu Wei shows passion for his art, enormous gifts in planning and choreography, and complete dedication not only to the art of Kung Fu, but also to bringing it to the awareness of the broader, international community. As we drove along, he sang a charming melody, prompting me to say that if the Kung Fu way of life did not work out for him for some reason, he could always try to make it as a singer. He laughed and smiled with enjoyment, then asked me when I would be coming to China to study!

For additional information, he can be contacted at wushangwei18@hotmail.com.

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