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Singapore and Japan Enhance Ties
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A Singaporean delegation led by Singapore INO President Sabum Daniel Sng (VI degree) was received warmly in Japan during their first official visit there from 28 July through 5 August, coinciding with the 2005 ITF-Japan National Color Belts Championship for juniors and seniors, where Mr. Sng was Guest of Honor. Mr. Sng and Mr. Kenneth Kuah (II degree) were invited by ITF-Japan to attend this event, exchange ideas and training techniques, as well as to give self-defense demonstrations.

During this visit, Mr. Sng was requested by Master Chew of ITF Malaysia to personally deliver invitations to both ITF-Japan and ITF-Korea to participate in the upcoming 2005 ITF Malaysia Championships, scheduled for 19 through 21 December 2005. The invitations were duly presented to Mr. Lee Jong Mok, one of the founding members of ITF-Japan. Mr. Lee currently makes monthly trips to South Korea to conduct seminars and induction programs, assisting in the building of ITF-Korea and disseminating ITF style Taekwon-Do in Korea.

Mr. Sng conveyed the news that INO’s of several neighboring countries in Asia have already committed to participating in the Malaysian competition including Singapore, and that both he and Master Chew hopes to further enhance friendly ties in the region through the event. This was received with enthusiasm and agreement by the ITF-Japan Board Members.

Travelling with Mr. Sng were Messrs Kenneth Kuah (II dan in both Taekwon-Do and Hapkido), Kelvin Goh (II dan, Taekwon-Do), and Ms. Kendra Er (II dan Hapkido and 1st Gup Taekwon-Do). Mr. Kenneth Kuah was instrumental in the several Hapkido self-defense demonstrations and instructions Mr. Sng was asked to give, and Ms. Kendra Er was also assisting in these sessions. She also participated in the Championships in the Tuls for blue & red belts category, adding an international flare to the otherwise domestic competition. Mr. Kelvin Goh also participated in the Championships but as an umpire, working all day and overseeing both Tuls (patterns) and Matsogi (sparring) competitions for children and adults. While this was Mr. Goh’s first attempt at umpiring internationally, he has already established himself as a fair and firm umpire respected by both competitors and fellow officials.

Perhaps this trip was one of the most “Taekwon-Do and Hapkido packed” trips Mr. Sng has ever made. He and the delegation have attended 8 training sessions/classes and one competition at 7 dojangs/venues and 1 arena in the 7 days they were in Japan! The sessions varied from private Hapkido lessons in a hotel room to overseeing a large Taekwon-Do class of university students in a modern and spacious facility as well as an amazingly efficient training session in one of the smallest dojangs (approximately 30 square meters) one could aspire to have. (The walls were full of holes where punches and kicks have left their mark despite the mats pinned to the walls.)

Such senior instructors of ITF-Japan as Mr. Lee Jong Mok (V dan), Mr. Koji Takagi (IV dan and All Japan Champion in middle weight sparring, special techniques, and tuls), and Mr. Hajime Okazawa (IV dan and All Japan Champion in heavy weight sparring) as well as all their students were very appreciative of Mr. Sng’s generosity in sharing his knowledge, experience, and passion for the arts and teaching.

“Mr. Sng’s patterns remind me of General Choi’s patterns,” said Mr. Lee during a private session when he practiced his Vth dan Tuls under Mr. Sng’s guidance. “I think it is the most genuine rendition of the Tuls I have seen, as perhaps the founder intended it,” he added. (note: Master Choi Jung Hwa has yet to hold a seminar in Japan and Mr. Lee spent much time working with the late General Choi in translating the Japanese version of the Encyclopedia.)

During the Taekwon-Do class held at a university club where Mr. Lee teaches FOC, a Q&A session was held where students were invited to ask any questions of Mr. Sng. Mr. Sng’s answer to the first question took everyone’s breath away in awe and respect. “What does Taekwon-Do mean to you, Sir?” a boy asked. “Taekwon-Do is my life.” Mr. Sng replied without hesitation.

Afterwards, several students commented that Mr. Sng’s first answer alone and the fact that he lives his words made the encounter worthwhile and one they will remember for life.

After talking with Mr. Sng, Mr. Takagi and his wife, also a black belt and his partner in building and growing his dojangs and clubs, commented with excitement, “What Mr. Sng emphasizes as important ? not politics but sharing the love of the art and to enhance friendly ties through exchange of ideas and training together, creating a dojang where white belts and black belts continuously learn from each other ? is what we are endeavoring to achieve as our life’s work. We are so encouraged to meet a senior instructor who is working to achieve the same things!”

Mr. Okazawa spent the most time with Mr. Sng not just in training in Taekwon-Do, but also donning a white belt to learn Hapkido. “I will definitely come to Singapore to learn more Hapkido and it is my dream now to become a black belt in Hapkido and to promote the art in Japan, too. I have been looking for something to complement Taekwon-Do, and have tried many things, but nothing has struck a chord in me like Hapkido taught by Mr. Sng!” he said, with great enthusiasm.

Mr. Sng was impressed that Mr. Okazawa had no qualms about donning a white belt in front of his students as he was learning Hapkido. “Mr. Okazawa’s humility and indomitable spirit are attributes I truly admire in him as a real martial artist,” says Mr. Sng. “He did not quit when he lost his title in 2004. He fought again to win it back in 2005. He teaches all six tenets (including humility) by practicing them. His students are very lucky to have such an instructor,” Mr. Sng adds.

All members of the delegation found the trip worthwhile and enjoyable as well as enriching their martial arts experience. ITF-Japan hopes to invite Mr. Sng to the All Japan Championships and qualifying competition for the next World Championship scheduled for April 2006. In the mean time, instructors and students alike in Japan hope to be at the ITF Malaysia Championship as well as to visit Island Taekwon-Do Centre for training and further exchanges.

Written by: Jules Takagishi - 3rd October 2005

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