There is a forum provided for students and instructors of the American Song Moo Kwan Association which permits a greater understanding on one’s self.  In this I have chosen to share a part of my path.

My Journey by Master Raymond Smith


Sometimes the path taken can lead to new, exciting challenges, or to great despair. The choice of which one you are on may be that of personal perception.  How have you viewed your Journey? I have found a Truism: “A greater reward can be found in fidelity to the tenants of Song Moo Kwan.”

With that in mind, I will open with a personal writing that Grand Master Koskella penned some thirty years ago: “Power Without Force”.  It should be noted that the meaning of each phrase changes when viewed in the situation presented, the people making the promises, and the world – as it provides us with the laughter we need when realizing our incorrect choices.  This should not be confused with the wrong choice of a simple mistake but rather the fundamental choices made along the many paths that could be taken in life.


I promise to seek the knowledge of my mind.
I promise to seek the knowledge of my body.
I promise to respect the knowledge of my mind and my body, which is my heart.
I promise to use that respect to defend those who are unable.
I promise to walk from myself, before I fight, that pride may be stifled.
I promise to seek total knowledge through dedication to my heart.
I promise all to myself to the best of my abilities.

Looking back many years to my start in Martial Arts as my friend and fellow Marine Robert Miller introduced me to a school in Omaha, Nebraska run by Masters Heung Lee and Dale Craig. This was a place of marvel. There were many instructors, more than a few teachers, plenty of students and a full line of (then new) Nautilus equipment invented and developed by Arthur Jones at our school.

Master-Shin-Suk-Ki-with-Mark-Karsek-Raymond-SmithThis was the beginning that led to the development of a style of teaching that I thought would be uniquely my own. A system I would teach, gleaned and developed from many but primarily Mark A. Karasek, one of the teachers at Dale Craig’s school.  We both transferred to Master Shin-Suk Ki, who would later offer constant encouragement making me think of “how” I taught, that classes would be more interesting.

Sometimes it was Uncle Sam, other times; it was work that had me traveling.  Presenting myself to a new school and new instructors.  This is where decisions are made to stay in a system which has no nearby schools, or change to another system.

Master-Shin-Suk-KiSo, Mark and I submitted our resume’s and were granted the permission to start schools of our own under Grand Master Shin-Suk Ki.  Half-way across the Country, Grand Master Shin sponsored his own seminars and demonstrations. He personally attended Black Belt promotions for my school in Florida.  I shall always be grateful for Master Shin’s guidance. All schools associated with GM Shin were also linked to the International Council on Martial Arts Education (ICMAE)  ICMAE’s main appeal and its main strength was its orientation towards educating martial artists rather than participating in tournaments or hanging paper on walls.

 But he also saw to our continued training, sponsoring trips to Korea for “Teach to Learn Seminars” at the Korean Judo College and at the Kukiwon with ICMAE; Martial Arts Teacher Certification at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado with the United States Taekwondo Union to augment my college degree in Education; then, Referee Certification at the U.S. Junior Olympics; and, the chance to enter Sparring Divisions at the USTU National; Championships in Portland, Oregon.


Living in a place where people moved in and out often and traveling as work sent me around the world, the divergence and remoteness of my stations allowed me to learn from other instructors and some of the World’s renowned Great Martial Arts Masters.  I also learned that I could become fast friends with someone willing to share knowledge.

Master-Smith-training-at-the-KukiwonDavid Rebo integrated my Martial Arts with a Martial Philosophy, imparting the importance of keeping a Student Notebook and Journal. And taught me to diagram forms, fighting scenarios and about everything else martial. By the way, keeping one of these (Journals and/or Notebooks) helps you to identify yourself and your place in Martial Arts. Dave would discuss Martial Arts with just about anyone interested.  After a few years of keeping Journals and Notebooks you will have the knowledge and basis from which to teach.  As an inside tip, if you decide to keep a fighting journal complete with diagrams and fight analysis, keep it to yourself.  For the simple reason that if you share it with or show it to someone it will tempt you to write what you want them to hear or what you think they want to hear.  So to keep it truthful and useful, keep your notes about yourself more private.

Michael Delgato (one of Grand Master James Wilson’s students and fourth in the World Military Championships) helped me Michael-Delgatofine-tune Olympic Sparring and forms properly and the expert demonstration of skills. Sifu Robert Xavier (Ninth Dan Kung Fu), who taught at the Connecticut and Florida Police Academies introduced Police Self-Defense.  My subsequent friendship and sparring with Bud Boyer was eclipsed only by his imparting the Martial Philosophy of Jung Nam Lee.  Master Jung Nam Lee and ICMAE member Dr. Dae Shik Kim co-authored an excellent book about self-defense entitled “HoSinSul –Conceptual Martial Arts”.  Learning conceptual martial arts skills allows you to apply your martial arts to any athletic endeavor.

Still, in these travels, there was something missing.  I knew TaeKwonDo was much more than a sport.  As my travels had me living in England, I learned that their view mostly related to TaeKwonDo as a Sport. TaeKownDo is much more than that; it is also self-defense and Martial Art.

You can come away with a few tricks but seminars are mainly there to inspire.  They have advantages, such as those I was privileged to host and attend sponsoring Grand Master Sang H. Kim, then Grand Master Bong Soo Han which gave me the resolve to augment what I had been building for my students for some time.

I have associated with Martial Artists who espoused dedication and attention to detail but not so much with detailed philosophy or on such a grand scale.


It was Grand Master Kirk Koskella who introduced me to, and arranged a seminar with Grand Master Bong Soo Han.  My association with Grand Master Koskella began some years ago.  I found his practice of emphasizing attitude and character with the goal of perfecting one’s self as a way of realizing the Truths of Martial Arts.

As I had practiced Aikido for a number of years with Sensei (s) Alan Lee and Gwen Jones of the Shin “Gi Tai Aikido Society, I understood the softness and balance that bridges the gap between Taekwondo and Hapkido.  I had finally found my “Way” and never looked back.

Sometimes I wonder about those that drop out along the way and it makes me think about the characteristics of those that stay the path.  Have you ever wondered what it is that leads others to stay the course?  I have often been told that one in one-thousand will stay beyond the goal of Black Belt.  For those it is the continuing desire to share; to learn coupled with goal setting, distraction control and the reality of what you, as an individual, can expect.  What can be attained.  The realization of the future is up to each of us who choose to remain.

Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.  There is always a way.   You set goals, review failure and successes; finally meeting expectations. This process of continual testing in each aspect of your life will help a martial spirit finally blend both body and mind. Then all you need do is enjoy the journey that unfolds each day… as a humble teacher.

Master-R-Raymond-SmithMaster R Raymond Smith