In Memoriam: Grandmaster Jung Nam Lee

Petals fell recently in memory of Grandmaster Jung Nam Lee, former trainer of American and South Vietnamese Special Forces commandos, the pioneer of Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido in New Zealand and my first martial arts instructor. He was 86 years of age.

My favorite memory of Master Lee is a moment – probably in the early 1980s – when we were discussing self defense at the dojang, and he disappeared into his office and re-emerged wearing a car safety belt around his waist.

“You attack me”, he said, so I tried, and he proceeded to unlock the belt, wrap it around my punching arm like Indiana Jones with a bullwhip and throw me to the mat.

“You attack again,” he said, so I tried again, and this time he reached into some sort of hidden pocket in the belt, pulled out a 50 cent coin – Kiwis of a certain vintage will remember how hefty they were – and flung it into the wall about 5 inches from my head.

“You fall down now,” he said, and I agreed, and fell down. He then unzipped another hidden pocket in the belt, pulled out a long bootlace and proceeded to tie my thumbs and big toes up behind my neck somewhere.

“Now call police,” said Master Lee. “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”

It was like fighting Batman.

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