Ask Grandmaster Connelly

What a great question!

I have always had a fascination with the science and technology of combative endeavors .  My father was a varsity level team boxer in high school and college, before enlisting in the service during WW II  He taught me the fundamentals and basic boxing skills. I was contact sparring with him in our kitchen by the age of 5.  Sixty years ago, western style combat sports (boxing, wrestling, fencing) were the only games available in the Midwest and Chicago, except for a few Judo clubs taught by men who had learned the art while serving in the military in Japan and Korea.  Their skill level was not high by today’s standards, at best 1st degree black belts.   However, I am grateful to these pioneers for introducing the community to Asian martial arts and sports.  They had to endure the post-WW II and Korean war hostility and suspicion toward Asians in order to practice and teach.    

In junior high, after attending a wrestling class, I had the good fortune to see a Judo demonstration by Master Byung Dae Suh at the YMCA. It was amazing!  He effortlessly overcame men twice his size who genuinely expected to dominate him in a Judo contest.  I had heard and read that the well-trained martial artist could prevail against stronger opponents, but did not believe it until after witnessing for myself how Master Suh overcame several big, capable adversaries.   I signed up for his Judo class and started my martial art journey.

Master Suh also taught Taekwon-do, popularly known back then as “Korean Karate”.  I set aside my boxing and wrestling to study Judo and Taekwon-do.  One thing that appealed to me was the honor code that we all were expected to observe both within and outside of the dojang.   As young person in western combat sports, my role models were the  “tough guys”. It was believed that they were safe because they inspired fear in conflict with potential adversaries.  I was blessed with martial art role models who were very, very capable fighters who had made conscious decisions to be respectful of others in disagreements and to use the Art to create better versions of ourselves.  I learned how to control my temper and to reserve force for extreme, unavoidable situations.  I am certain that if I had cultivated aggression and fear, my life journey would have taken a very different direction. I hope with my teaching and role modeling to provide the same gift to my students.