Jack Hwang

Jack Hwang is President of the International Martial Arts Federation and is a 9th Dan in Taekwondo. Hwang was born in South Korea with the given name of Hwang Sae Jin, an honorable family name rich in Korean culture and history. Hwang is commonly known as "Jack Hwang", his given name of faith since moving to the United States in the late 1950's to complete his bachelor's degree at Wisconsin State College.

Hwang's martial arts training is diverse, having achieved proficiency in Kendo, Judo, Karate, Hapkido, and Taekwondo,. He was also a 1st lieutenant in the South Korean army during the Korean War, a multiple times tournament champion and close friend of Bruce Lee.

Saejin "Jack" Hwang was born in the early 1930's in the city of Chin-Ju, during the Japanese occupation of South Korea. his father, Nam pal Hwang, and mother, Un Hae Park, were both raised in the southern town, but Hwang did not have that luxury. His father was a county governor, appointed by the Japanese, and the family was required to move every two years to another district to prevent Governor Hwang from developing local support or power which might threaten the ruling forces.

Repeatedly being the new kid at school brought many challenges upon young Saejin Hwang. He was tested by the boys at school and forced to fight to protect himself. He became tough, ready for it, good at it. At the age of nine his parents enrolled him a boarding school. This is where his spirit and natural ability came to the attention of one of the Japanese teachers. He was known to the boy only as Sensei, but this teacher was no ordinary school teacher. He was a ronin, or in English terms, a "masterless samurai". The teacher had been raised and trained to be a samurai warrior, but Japan had outlawed samurai and their way of life. He has not however, put aside his art. The teacher received special permission from his Japanese superiors to train the boy Hwang. The indigenous Korean people weren't allowed to learn any kind of martial arts, but an exception was made. Each day, after classes were finished, Hwang would push the chairs and desks aside, the training equipment would be brought out, and his lesson in kendo, the art of sword fighting, would begin.

Hwang trained diligently day after day, leaving kendo and his Sensei only when his family was forced to move again. Fortunately, World War II ended shortly thereafter, the Japanese left Korea, and two of his uncles returned from Japan to their homeland. One of these uncles, Sung Kyu Hwang, became the physical education teacher at Hwang's new school. Sung Kyu and his brother, Young Kyu, had become experts in karate and judo during their time in Japan, and taught these martial arts to the Korean students. Hwang trained ceaselessly through the end of high school, mostly in private sessions with his uncles. His mother's brother had also studied karate and was yet another teacher. But Hwang was determined to learn even more. When one uncle returned to Okinawa, Hwang considered moving there to train, but it was illegal for Koreans to travel to Japan, and he would have had to smuggle himself in. So, during his youthful summers, he would travel to visit different instructors around South Korea. He would arrive, ask permission to learn for the master, and then promptly be tested by the master's best students. Just as on the schoolyard, the test was a fight. if Hwang fought well enough, which usually was the case, the master would allow him to join his school for training. These opportunities to learn even more skills added to the deadly repertoire Hwang was acquiring. Along with the arts of kendo, judo and karate, Hwang also became proficient in using many weapons including nunchaku, the staff, kama, tonfu, sai and throwing stars. Nothing seemed to elude Hwang's search for excellence and mastery in the martial arts.

Very few martial arts schools were opened after Japan had left Korea. The country was impoverished, and struggling to recover from the hungry predator that had consumed its many resources and limited the people's freedom and ability to make a living. A violent civil unrest erupted due to the power vacuum, and the warring factions would begin to battle in the streets. Both the left (the communists) and the right sides, many of the members being students, prodded Hwang to join their cause, as each could use his prowess in fighting. Hwang didn't become too politically involved at the time, but the chaos and danger of life in Korea resulted in many serious fights for him. Hwang championed, but more importantly, he survived.

When the war broke out officially between North and South Korea in 1950, Hwang couldn't wait to support his country, but he was still a couple of years too young to join the military forces. Without telling his father, he went to a country government office in his father's district and convinced the clerk to the South Korean Army. The ruse succeeded, and upon informing his father of his actions, his gather was not angry but proud, proud his young son wanted to fight for his country and freedom.

Due to Hwang's fighting skills and powerful demeanor, immediately upon his entry into the Korean Army, and without any formal training, he was assigned to a guerrilla team and sent directly behind enemy lines. Their mission was to save American soldiers who had been captured by the North Koreans.

Hwang's guerrilla team spent most of their time on an island off the coast, hiding by day, only attempting rescue missions at night and usually when the weather was bad. Lives were saved by hwang's team as they sneaked into North Korean jails and camps and rescued captives. Yet, only a few from Hwang's team survived these highly dangerous missions. When they asked for more supplies and man, they were denied and instead told to report to the U.S 7th Fleet. An American warship picked the men up and carried them south where Hwang stayed among the U.S barracks for a time to transfer knowledge gained behind enemy lines. He was impatient to see more githing action and asked to be reassigned to the regular army. After six months of training, he was commissioned as a first lieutenant and joined his countrymen on the battlefield.

Finally, in 1953, war in Korea was over. Hwang traveled to the U.S in 1957 as a student and after attending a college in Wisconsin and Texas, he settled down in Oklahoma City with his new American wife.

Life in America was difficult for Hwang, especially in facing the extreme racial prejudice he was met with at the time. Asians were as discriminated against as blacks, and Oklahoma had a relatively non-existent Asian population at the time to turn to for support. He felt he lived at the bottom of society.

Hwang's father came for a long stay at this time. Before his return to Seoul, Hwang's father asked him if was going to return to Korea with his wife and young daughter to become an attorney and statesman and follow in his father's footsteps. Hwang, however, was determined to stay in the States. His father then asked him to make a promise. A promised that, if he stay in America, he would teach martial arts. Hwang's father foresaw a great opportunity for his son to teach the culture, history, and philosophy of Korea to Americans. In this way, Hwang could also use his strengths: his remarkable physical abilities, his personal experience, and his unwavering determination and courage, to be a success in this different and challenging country.

Hwang has never considered teaching martial arts for a living in the U.S. He had learned serious fighting arts for survival in Korea. The Americans didn't need to learn these things; it wasn't necessary in their modern, peaceful country. Yet, he had made that promise to his father, and it was not to be broken. He opened his first school in Oklahoma in the 1960's. Hwang selected Oklahoma City as the focus of his martial arts institute because of its central location in the North American Continent. He first taught mostly young male students. The training was extremely tough and not a place for most children or women, though that changed over time.

He traveled the tournament circuit building a reputation from his ferocity in fighting, his heart-stopping forms, and inhuman breaking ability. He won most of his competitions, losing only to disqualification when his powerful strikes hurt his opponent more than was allowed in tournament rules. He was the captain of the U.S National Tae Kwon Do Team, leading the way to a second place at the first World TKD Championships in 1973. His reputation grew as did the size and number of his schools.

Hwang grew too, on an inner level. He learned how to tech the do of martial arts, the "way of life", not to soldiers, but to ordinary people. He saw his students developing more confidence, self-discipline and self-respect. He learned along with them, and together they gained a deeper knowledge of their strengths, weaknesses, compassion, and humanity. In Korea he was taught techniques by masters, but American children taught him about people.

Hwang became famous in the martial art world. Even Bruce Lee, upon his arrival to California, called to introduce himself, asking if they could train together when Hwang visited California, as he regularly did. They met, sparred, and became friends, corresponding for many years. When Bruce asked Hwang to play a role in one of his movies, Hwang declined. He never sought fame, and discouraged that kind of attention being brought to himself. Instead, along with running his own schools, raising four daughters and much later a son and step children, he traveled endlessly teaching and supporting students, instructors, fledgling as well as established schools, and competitions around the country as well as Mexico and Europe. Literally thousands of martial arts students have trained and tested under this man, been inspired by this man.

One reason is that although he is looked upon as the master's master, Hwang has never stopped learning and growing. More than sixty years have passed since his marital art training began, yet Hwang continues to strive for a deeper understanding of his art, and consequently, himself. His spiritual growth has added even more insight, even his highest ranking students still come to him for advice and mentoring.

Hwang's father couldn't have known how correct he was in predicting his son's future. Hwang became a highly influential founder of martial arts in the U.S and a direct contributor to its phenomenal success today. He became a Who's Who in the martial art world and a member of several Hall of Fames. His picture was hung in the entry hall of the Kukkiwon, the World TKD headquarters, and he's been honored over and ovr again worldwide for his outstanding contributions to the spread of and his lifelong dedication to martial arts.
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