Supreme Grand Master Ro was born July 3, 1919 in Kaesung City, Korea. Growing up the youngest of 4 and frail in health as a child, Grand Master Ro was forced to enter elementary school a year later than the other children his age. Due to his poor health at such an early age, the information young Ro heard from his neighborhood regarding the 1,200 year old ancient arts of Tae Kyon and Subak stirred an interest in the Martial Arts within him as a young child. The defensive techniques that were taught at the local temples during Ro´s youth attracted his attention at a very young age.
His strong attraction to the Martial Arts lead him to search out Funakoshi Gichin, Shotokan founder, during his college years. Grand Master Ro traveled to Japan in March of 1936 to attend college and in May of 1936 Ro began training in the Karate style of Martial Arts under Funakoshi, earning his Black Belt in Shotokan.
Returning home to Kaesung City, Korea during his summer vacations from college, Grand Master Ro would teach his friends and neighbors the techniques he had learned. In February of 1944, Supreme Grand Master Ro finished his university work and returned back home to Korea to live. Upon his return to Korea from Japan, many of the friends and neighbors he had been teaching during those summer vacations asked Grand Master Ro to continue to teach them what he had learned during his training. Based upon these requests, Supreme Grand Master Ro opened the Kaesung dojang in the Kwan Duk Jung archery school on March 11, 1944. Grand Master Ro had also served as Taekwondo instructor for Seoul University, Dan Gook University, Seoul Oriental Acupuncture College and several other universities.
While continuing to train and teach others what he had learned from his instructors, Supreme Grand Master Ro continued to develop additional hand and foot techniques of his own. It is the combination of these techniques developed by Grand Master Ro along with the techniques that he had learned during his early years in Martial Arts training that we today call Taekwondo. The leg techniques are still considered more important because they are more effective, more powerful and can reach further than the hands. It is these beautiful and powerful foot techniques that set Taekwondo apart and make it more spectacular than any of the other Martial Arts.
Supreme Grand Master Ro´s dedication and contributions to the development of Taekwondo has continued throughout his life. On May 25, 1953, Supreme Grand Master Ro along with 7 other people and 1 delegate from each kwan met together at a conference which concluded with the establishment of the Korean Kong Soo Do Association. Grand Master Ro served as the Executive Director of the Association. The Association also placed Supreme Grand Master Ro in the chairmanship of the rank promotion committee and as the Master Instructor for the Association. Unfortunately, due to the Korean War and other various reasons, Supreme Grand Master Ro is the only one of these original visionaries still active in Taekwondo today.
From 1966 to 1967, Supreme Grand Master Ro served as the President of the Korean Taekwondo Association, which was organized in November of 1962 and received official sanction from the Korean government in 1963. Supreme Grand Master Ro served as the chairman of the rank promotion committee from 1962 to 1969. Supreme Grand Master Ro continues to be active in Taekwondo today and is currently the advisor of the World Taekwondo Federation, which was organized in May of 1973.
Takewondo – Song Moo Kwan literally means: Tae – kicking, jumping, stepping or flying of the feet; Kwon – punching, striking of hand or fist; Do – art, technique or way of: Song – pine tree (which symbolizes youth or health everlasting); Moo – Martial Art; and Kwan – gymnasium, house of study. Supremem Grand Master Ro chose Song because of his birthplace “Song Do” City. Song Do was the capital of Koryu, where he first learned about Tae Kyon from his neighbors.
On March 11th, 1944, Dang Soo Do – Song Moo Kwan was founded by Byung Jick Ro in Kae Sung, Korea. Six months later in September of 1944, Dang Soo Do – Chung Do Kwan was founded by Won Kook Lee in Seoul, Korea. Both closed their doors within 3 – 4 months after opening because they were not able to continue with the situation in Korea. It was the end of World War II and Korea was under Japanese occupation during this time. Japan took most Korean males under 60 years old wherever they needed them. Specifically the young male adults were drafted for war, therefore most of the men were uneasy and fearful and tried to hide themselves. Learning sports was not their priority in life during this time.
After the Japanese occupation ended in the spring of 1946, Taekwondo started to spread on a full scale to the general public in Korea. Since that time, the name has changed from Dang Soo Do, Kong Soo Do, Soo Bak, Kwun Bup to Tae Soo Do and finally to today´s Taekwondo. What remains uncontested is that Supreme Grand Master Byung Jick Ro is the highest ranking Taekwondo Black Belt in the World.