Grandmasters, masters share knowledge
They converged from seven different states, covered the entire rainbow of belt levels and spanned multiple generations. But for the roughly 100 attendees of the Korean Martial Arts Summer Camp held over the weekend at Northwest College’s A.L. Mickelson Field Station, the experience was about their shared love for an activity.
Started 37 years ago, the camp, which was last held in the Powell area in 1995, provided students with an opportunity to practice and learn martial arts under the watchful gaze of several masters and grandmasters. This year’s attendees hailed from both the immediate area and from as far away as Virginia, Texas and California. They ranged in age from 7 to 74 years old.
“One of the direct benefits is that these are quality instructors,” notes Ken Min, a professor emeritus at the University of California-Berkeley and team leader for the 1992 Team USA taekwando team who has served as a technical director for the camp for numerous years. “All the instructors are former world champions in each martial art. It’s a great environment in which people can be together to learn and to work with one another.”
Over the span of three days, instruction was offered in a variety of martial arts disciplines. In addition to standard taekwando, participants had the opportunity to try their hand at judo, ssirum (a Korean style of wrestling which dates back thousands of years), yongmudo (a newer style of martial art roughly two decades old) and kumdo (a Korean-style sword style similar to kendo).
“The allure of this particular camp is that students can try another martial art that they’d normally never be able to take in their lifetime,” said Chris Ivanoff, instructor at Powell’s Lone Wolf Taekwando and organizer for this year’s camp. “The training is very hard, but at the same time there’s a lot of laughter and a lot of encouragement for everyone. That’s kind of the downfall in American sports — they’re missing that element of encouragement that so many people need for self-esteem.”
“I would tell young girls who feel inferior to try this,” said DeEtta Petersen, who came from Boise, Idaho, to attend the camp. “This is a great way to get confidence and to show them that they are capable of so much. There’s just something about competing against yourself and competing to excel. It hurts me to see youth in trouble when there’s an outlet like this available.”
Petersen, a grandmother of six, is a newcomer to martial arts, having started just five months ago.
“It just draws you in,” she said. “It is intensely fulfilling. It’s crazy how much strength and fitness it encourages. I wish I’d started sooner, but at least I’m here now.”
Those remarks didn’t come as a surprise to Inkee Lee, who began his studies 45 years ago and today holds the title of grandmaster. Lee traveled from Los Angeles to serve as a kumdo instructor for the camp.
“It’s a call from the blood,” Lee said of the desire to learn. “I had to do it because my soul was telling me to do it. I think most martial artists are like that. It’s in the DNA.”
On a sunny Saturday morning, Lee had a crowd of some two dozen students gathered outside to learn the finer points of sword strikes. Despite being a discipline that traces its lineage back centuries, Lee noted modern-day relevance.
“You might ask why you need to learn sword technique when someone can grab a gun and shoot me,” Lee said. “The answer is that it builds an important attitude of perfectionism. In kumdo, I have to respond in the correct timing, with the correct skill or else I get hit or I miss my chance to get a hit. It’s about striving to be perfect. Now, my profession is information technology — banking information. There’s a commonality there, because I need to be perfect with what I do. I take the attitude from kumdo back to my profession and it helps me.”
There are other attitudes which organizers hope students attending will take back home from the camp. For 30-year camp attendee Larry Duke, an instructor from Boise who has hosted the camp seven times since its inception, the biggest attitude is enthusiasm.
“The focused attention really gets people going,” Duke notes. “If they can take that enthusiasm back to their local club, man, it just spreads like wildfire.”
“it’s a year-round activity,” notes Powell’s Ken Campbell, a three-month participant who first got involved in the activity after his sons, ages 12 and 10, had been involved for a couple of years. “It’s not one of those things where it’s here one season and gone the next. The kids who are involved are a well-mannered, good group of kids. It’s a good group setting of other kids creating positive examples.”