Monday, April 30, 2018

IN MEMORY OF: Jhoon Rhee (Jan 7, 1932 - Apr 30, 2018)


It is with deep sadness that I post on the passing of Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee (Hangul: 이준구 / Hanja: 李俊九)
, widely acknowledged as the Father of American Tae Kwon Do.

As reported earlier on :

With a heavy heart I want to announce the passing of my father, Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, this morning at 7:25 am. He was with his wife Theresa and daughter Meme. Information about his Memorial service will be posted later this week.

-Chun Rhee

Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee was born on January 7, 1932 in  a small village of Sanyangri, Asan, Korea. His mother was Kay Im Rhee (1906-1994) and his father was Jinhoon Rhee (1909-1965). GM Rhee had 2 older sisters and started lifting weights when he was 6 until he was 13 when he moved to Seoul to enroll in high school. During high school, GM Rhee taught himself the violin as well as the  harmonica and learned to play songs by ear. When GM Rhee was 14 on August 15, 1945, Korea gained its independence from Japanese rule.

In 1947, at the age of 15, GM Rhee started on his martial arts path by joining the Chung Do Kwan academy of Grandmaster Won Kook Lee and learning Tae Kwon Do. He earned his brown belt by his eleventh grade and after watching an American movie, dreamed of teaching Tae Kwon Do in the USA. GM Rhee opened his first dojang, Jhoon Rhee School of Tae Kwon Do on June 28, 1962 at the age of 30 located at 2035 K Street NW, Washington, DC.

Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee with Bruce Lee

GM Rhee met Bruce Lee in August 1964 when they met at the Ed Parker's International Karate Championships in Long Beach, California. Rhee was 32 and Lee was 23. They visited each other regularly and exchanged letters for almost 10 years. In May 1966 both GM Rhee and Bruce Lee convinced Joe Lewis to compete as Lewis was against tournament competition. Lewis  was voted twice as the greatest fighter in karate history. In 1969, after seeing a student take a hard kick resulting in broken cheekbones, he invented safety equipment which allowed full-contact training/competition and reduced the risk of serious injury. In the 1970's, he published his 5-volume series of Tae Kwon Do books:  Chon-Ji of Tae Kwon Do Hyung; Tan-Gun and To-San of Tae Kwon Do Hyung; Won-Hyo and Yul-Kok of Tae Kwon Do Hyung; Chung-Gun and Toi Gye of Tae Kwon Do Hyung; and Hwa-Rang and Chung-Mu of Tae Kwon Do Hyung. In the summer of 1973, with the help of Bruce Lee, GM Rhee starred in the Hong Kong film, When Taekwondo Strikes aka The Sting of the Dragon. GM Rhee played GM Lee, the underground leader of a patriot group in Korea, occupied by the Japanese at the time.  GM Rhee also wrote the synopsis for the film which the plot was based off of. GM Rhee was back in the US by July 19, 1973 after filming wrapped. Bruce Lee called to say that the movie was edited and ready for release. The next day Bruce Lee passed away. GM Rhee was one of the last people that spoke to Bruce Lee. GM Rhee met Muhammad Ali in 1975, before his championship fight with Joe Frazier dubbed "The Thrilla in Manila". Rhee worked as the head coach of Muhammad Ali for his fight against British champion Richard Dunn, whom Ali kocked out. He also was the head coach for Ali's famous boxing vs wrestling match in Japan vs champion Antonio Inoki.

Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee with Muhammad Ali

Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee with Jackie Chan

GM Rhee started his website, listed below, in April of 2000. Within 45 days, it was the world's most popular online martial arts community. In 2005, at the age of 73, Rhee underwent heart surgery which lasted 11 hours. He had been living with a heart murmur since he was born and suffered a stroke during the heart surgery.

GM Rhee was inducted into the Taekwondo Hall of Fame in 2007.

GM Jhoon Rhee passed away at 7:25 AM on April 30, 2018.

My deepest condolences to Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee's loved ones, associates and students.

For more information:



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