Interview with President Global Taekwon-Do Federation, Mrs. Linda Park

GrandMaster Park Jung Tae (left) GrandMaster Linda Park (right)
GrandMaster Park Jung Tae (left) GrandMaster Linda Park (right)


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Interview with President Global Taekwon-Do Federation, Mrs. Linda Park

The Global Taekwon-do Federation (GTF) was formed in 1990 under the leadership of the famous late GrandMaster Park Jung Tae, 9th Degree Black Belt, who was ranked as the leading technical trainer in the world until his death on April 11, 2002.

Since the passing of Grand Master Park Jung Tae on April 11, 2002, GTF has gone through a transition period to take the Federation to the next level of development. At a meeting, the GTF Masters and Senior Instructors unanimously agreed that the Executive Vice-President of the Global Taekwon-Do Federation, Mrs. Linda Park was the only person able to become GTF President. President Linda Park has been involved with Taekwon-Do since 1969 and her knowledge of GTF matters from working side by side with her late husband, Grand Master Park has given her insight to the future greatness of this Federation.

In this personal interview, Mrs. Park shares her memory in the life history of her late husband, as well as her aspirations on the future development of GTF.

Moosin: When did you get involved in Martial Arts and how did it happen?

GM Linda Park: I was always active in sports and one day in late 1969, I was at the Toronto Exhibition in Canada and came upon a Taekwon-Do demonstration by one of the local schools. I was very impressed and thought I would like to get involved with that martial art. A few months later I joined that club and the rest is history.

Moosin: What were the most memorable moments from your training history?

GM Linda Park: I remember Grand Master Park teaching me sparring techniques. He would stand behind me and told me that I had to move to the side not backwards. He said that there was only a spit second between the attack and my defense. If I moved backwards, I could lose that moment of opportunity. I !remember distinctly one time I got kicked in the stomach because I lost focus of what I was to do. I am sure everyone who spars can relate to that powerful turning back kick.

Needless to say, I learned a valuable lesson that day. Move circular, not back. Taekwon-Do has shaped my life in remarkable ways. From meeting extraordinary people and travelling the world to participating in exciting championships my moments are numerous as I feel that I am connected to this Art through years of observation, practice and philosophical discussion. Although I no longer physically practice this beautiful Art, the essence of martial arts is part of my daily life through balancing mind, body and spirit.

GM Linda Park (center) with GTF members in Malaysia
GM Linda Park (center) with GTF members in Malaysia

Moosin: How did you meet late Grand Master Park, your husband and what influence did he have on your Taekwon-Do training?

GM Linda Park: I met Grand Master Park when he arrived from Korea as a guest Instructor at the Taekwon-Do school where I was training. His charisma and approachability was mesmerizing to me. He was the ideal Instructor because he encouraged you to excel in your training and reach your highest potential. I loved training with him as did anyone who ever had the opportunity. He emanated an inner power that drew you in. Known for his technical skill, he was respected by all and when you left a training session with him you knew that your skill had been sharpened and you wanted to maintain that level of expertise.

I have experienced many facets of Taekwon-Do through the eyes of being a practitioner, being the wife of a great technical expert, administrator and leader of an international organization and being the mother of a practitioner. Grand Master Park’s passion ignited a passion inside of me to pursue and continue Taekwon-Do even after his death. As of today, I have been supporting Taekwon-Do for 44 years (ITF 20 years and GTF 24 years). I guess there is some merit to my Taekwon-Do experience.

Moosin: What was your most significant achievement as a Martial Artist?

GM Linda Park: Becoming President of the Global Taekwon-Do Federation was very significant for me. Taekwon-Do leadership is traditionally male dominated and I was the first woman to break that mold. There were many challenges to overcome, but my determination to secure the legacy of the late Grand Master Park has driven me to protect GTF on all fronts. I try to follow the tenets of Taekwon-Do and work in unison with the GTF Masters so that we speak one voice.

A Martial Artist is not only someone who performs but also someone who lives according to martial arts philosophy and I would say that is how I live.

GRM Linda Park at Hall of Fame
GM Linda Park (right) was accepting the “The People’s Master” award from Master George Vitale (left)

Moosin: You have been inducted into the Official Taekwon-Do Hall of Fame in Seoul, Korea. What is your feeling?

GM Linda Park: It was a great honour to be inducted into the Official Hall of Fame in Seoul Korea. It was an acknowledgement of my contribution to the promotion of Taekwon-Do since becoming President of the Global Taekwon-Do Federation. As a pioneer of Taekwon-Do, Grand Master Park Jung Tae was inducted in the Taekwon-Do Hall of Fame in 2009. When I was given this great honour, it represented a continuation of building a stronger Global Taekwon-Do Federation with leadership that is recognized and accepted in the Taekwon-Do community.

Moosin: Since your husband and Gen. Choi worked so intensely together, what would you think was their greatest similarity and what was their greatest difference?

GM Linda Park: Both General Choi Hong Hi and Grand Master Park lived and breathed Taekwon-Do. They worked together to improve the technical aspects of training and each played their part in standardizing the ITF techniques. Grand Master Park was a hands on Instructor and was nicknamed “The People’s Master” because he was approachable to anyone no matter what their level was.

He never withheld his skills or knowledge that would benefit the practitioner. In the early days, it was unthinkable for a student to approach Gen. Choi. On occasion, a black belt might get the rare chance to speak directly to him and that would be only after one of the Senior ITF Masters talked to Gen. Choi first. From my perspective, Gen. Choi was distant with the general membership on a personal level and concentrated on using the Masters worldwide to promote and spread ITF Taekwon-Do.

GEN. CHOI WAS DISTANT WITH THE GENERAL MEMBERSHIP ON A PERSONAL LEVEL AND CONCENTRATED ON USING THE MASTERS WORLDWIDE TO PROMOTE AND SPREAD ITF TAEKWON-DO.

Moosin: Your husband, Grand Master Park was the top representative of ITF when promotion and techniques were concerned. What is the reason for his decision to start a new Federation?

GM Linda Park: The creation of the Global Taekwon-Do Federation came about because Grand Master Park Jung Tae left ITF and there was a void that had to be filled for all the practitioners who wanted to follow him. Grand Master Park devoted his life to Gen. Choi and ITF promotion/development. It was unimaginable that Gen. Choi would turn his back on his top technical instructor as well as most loyal supporter. Through misunderstandings it did happen. Grand Master Park lived and breathed Taekwon-Do and needed to continue developing and promoting Taekwon-Do to the world and he did this through the Global Taekwon-Do Federation (GTF).

Moosin: GTF has it’s roots in ITF. What are the similarities and differences between these two styles?

GM Linda Park: Both GTF and ITF promote a similar system of Taekwon-Do. Both have roots in ancient martial arts philosophy and techniques derived from various methods of self-defense. The main difference between the two styles is that both systems have their own distinct patterns and the techniques and methods of execution are different from each other. ITF has patterns created by Gen. Choi. GTF has patterns created by Grand Master Park Jung Tae. In this respect, it would be incorrect to say GTF has it’s roots in ITF.

Moosin: Considering the similarity of ITF and GTF, would a combined competition event be possible?

GM Linda Park: As stated previously, the Global Taekwon-Do Federation has it’s own distinct style and patterns; however, our members do practice the ITF patterns as Grand Master Park taught when he was the ITF Technical Chairman. ITF does not practice GTF patterns. Even so, it is very common to see both GTF and ITF practitioners lat the same event. Time will be a factor to determine if a combined major competition will take place in the future where both parties share in the same vision.

ITF DOES NOT PRACTICE GTF PATTERNS. EVEN SO, IT IS VERY COMMON TO SEE BOTH GTF AND ITF PRACTITIONERS LAT THE SAME EVENT.

It will be interesting to see the result of WTF (South Korea) and ITF (North Korea) organizing an event according to the Protocol of Accord recently signed between those two organizations. ITF (North Korea) is only one part of a larger group and the favoritism shown by IOC’s approval has created a further division in the Taekwon-Do community and doesn’t represent Taekwon-Do Federations
worldwide.

GM Linda Park at the GTF Championship
GM Linda Park at the 7Th GTF World Championship2009 in Malaysia

Moosin: If you had to describe Gen. Choi in 2 sentences, what would it be?

GM Linda Park: To describe General Choi Hong Hi is not easy as he was a very complex person. I would say that he was extremely clever, had great resources to achieve what he wanted and took advantage of opportunities to promote and develop ITF Taekwon-Do throughout the world.

Moosin: If you could foresee the future, what would be the first and most important thing you would want to influence.

GM Linda Park: This interview is about Taekwon-Do so I will answer this way. Protocol amongst martial artists is fading and I would encourage practitioners to study martial arts philosophy and to live accordingly. With the current trend of sport vs martial arts, the practitioner who follows Taekwon-Do the sport, will only need a trainer to win.

If we’re not careful, martial arts philosophy associated with Taekwon-Do, the Martial Art will be lost along with the instructors. I don’t want to see this happen. That is one reason GTF will always be a Traditional Martial Arts Federation.

Moosin: What is the short and long-term plans of the organization you lead?

GM Linda Park: The Global Taekwon-Do Federation is known worldwide for its high technical standards so we will continue to ensure !our instructors get the highest quality of training and give support to our members. Our long-term goal will be to maintain high technical standards while at the same time bring people together under an umbrella of peace and harmony through training.

Moosin: How would you see future co-operation between ITF and GTF organizations?

GM Linda Park: Many Masters and Grand Masters have not moved with the times and this makes it difficult to work together as they are set in the old ways and ideas. Grand Master Park Jung Tae always said that we must move with the times. If the Taekwon-Do leaders today can put aside personal ego’s and truly work for the highest good of Taekwon-Do on a universal level, then maybe we have a chance
to do something great together.

Moosin: In your opinion, what makes Taekwon-Do suitable for women?

GM Linda Park: I think Taekwon-Do is especially suited for women because of the technical ratio of 70%-30%. Using the legs 70%, having more power than the hands and also the fact that the legs have a longer reach than the arms gives women confidence that they have a good chance to avoid close encounters with a possible attacker.

As well, the techniques learned in self-defense with more emphasis on kicks gives women the power needed at the time of an attack. The one thing I learned through training is that most people don’t know how to fight or defend Interview with President Global Taekwon-Do Federation,
themselves. Even today with so much emphasis on martial arts/fighting/video games geared to battle etc, the same is true.

Zibby is an internationally recognised Master/Instructor of Taekwon-Do ITF who has taught in countries around the world including his native Poland, Australia and now Korea. His Taekwon-Do career commenced in 1981

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