June 29, 2013

Article prepared from my

Eulogy for

General Choi, Hong, Hi

On April 17, 2002

The following is an expanded version of the remarks I sent to Master Choi on the 30th day marking the passage of his father.

General Choi has made the final passage. His rich and productive life held many such passages, all of them culminating in the change from leader to legend. His challenges and trials, both in his youth and his maturity, functioned as a forge in his life; tempering and strengthening his body and soul, and as is so often said “put steel in his back.”  

I for one consider myself privileged to have met him, trained under him, and learned from his personal and written exhortations. To have experienced the strength of his steel and the humanity of his caring for the students of Taekwon-Do has given each of us who knew him a unique opportunity in life.   

There will truly be many such opportunities for all of us to give his writings the human touch. When he was writing the simple but profound guidelines for the moral and practical applications of the spirit of Taekwon-Do, the personal struggles and difficult decisions needed to endure the storms of life were rarely conveyed. For those of left to carry on there is an obligation to teach and preserve a degree of the human struggle General Choi waged for us all. It is said that the wisdom in our lives is proportionate to the hardships and sorrows that have befallen us. It saddens me to know that great men and women have lived more than their share of such hardships and sorrows.

In 1979, sharing a meal in a little country café in Moberly, Missouri, I asked General Choi what things he had in mind for the future of the ITF. I was expecting to hear some small talk about fuzzy plans for the future. Instead General Choi looked at me with a cold hard stare that I had not seen since Vietnam and said “I am going to crack that 38th parallel”. I almost fell off of my chair. Later I thought to myself, “Will one man do that?”  As time went on I found out, and the rest is history. General Choi never wavered, both in his writings and in his deeds, from his self-ordained life’s mission of reuniting his homeland. In the end, Taekwon-Do may well play a small part in helping to reunite his home land. Time will tell.

As the years pass the value of his writings will continue to fuel the fire of youthful idealism and be an anchor for those in the midst of their own passage. The moral foundations of Taekwon-Do, so well defined and structured by General Choi, anchored in truth and tested by time, will be a safe haven for those battered by the storms of life.

“You can always teach” is a wisdom that General Choi passed on to a determined young instructor looking for the next challenge. This wisdom, at once both inspirational and humbling, became a North Star for that instructor. In General Choi’s lifetime of devotion to the furtherance of Taekwon-Do, many young and old instructors both attentive to his words and aware of his deeds were subtly given both a boost and a direction by General Choi’s admonishments.

In the never-ending struggle between truth and its application to life, all instructors and students will struggle with age-old themes like “the greatest good for all” or “the lesser of two evils.” For each of us struggling to discern right from wrong, the lesser of two evils all too often rears its ugly head and we are beset by the age-old dilemma of making the right choice from two less then attractive options. It is in these times, when we have the need for the right choice, when we are trying to find our way in a world of less than perfect settings, that; we will appreciate the life of General Choi. The writings and life of General Choi, devoid of bitterness and resentment and filled with principles to guide difficult decisions, will be a North Star, a safe anchorage, a blaze on the trail.

General Choi’s writings will also give comfort to many young men and women, like my son, who will share a deep regret for never having personally met General Choi. They will, however, be able to read and listen to his wisdom. They will read from his many writings and listen to the tale of many moments, told and retold by those of us who were fortunate enough to have lived them.

This, then, becomes the final lesson from General Choi: We as masters and instructors should become what he would have all of us become - living libraries for development of the art of Taekwon-Do and the preservation of the spirit of Taekwon-Do. The administrative matters of the operation of the international association are in good hands and so I exhort all instructors to carry the torch of General Choi’s art and life. That, I feel, will be his greatest memorial.


Master John Tompkins VIII

Ethics Chair