This isn’t particularly music-related, but it was a very important part of my life for many years. I knew Tae Kwon Do master Young Soo Do for more than 20 years. I first met him in 1985, and I studied under his marvelous regime on and off until 2001. I continued to stay in touch and followed his career until he was murdered and he died within one month of my own father’s death — if there is some kind of weird synchronicity there, I wouldn’t doubt it, as Young Soo Do was one of my many fathers.
I don’t claim to be any kind of karate expert, but I did earn a black belt by the end of the year 2000, and Master Young was the master who awarded me my black belt, after more than twenty years of study on my part. He held a very special place in my life and in my heart. I was so shocked to learn that he’d been gunned down in cold blood behind his studio. The studio, which is no longer there, had been in the same location in North Miami since the early 1970s. So whoever shot him brought down not only a mighty man, but also brought to an end a North Miami tradition of almost fourty years.
Master Young ran his classes with military precision, going through a routine of exercises which was seperated out into a different discipline for every day of the week. Monday was general run through. Tuesdays and Thursdays were fighting combinations. Wednesday was Kick-Day (believe me you would be worked with within an inch of your durability!) And Friday was always self-defense techniques. These are routines I can still recall and go through any day I choose to do it as they were drilled into me over the course of the twenty-plus years I practiced with Do. He always led the class with a smile and a sense of humour, with his extremely broken, yet understandable English. I can still hear him say “You gotta hit’em hard, beat ’em up.” And I can still see him throwing that amazingly high kick — way above his head, his legs open to a complete 180 degrees.
Master Young was extremely personable, aside from a streak of irascibility that would pop up during exhibition season — he was extremely concerned that everything go of without a hitch for his exhibitions and black-belt tests. During standard testing periods, a select group of students were invited to his home for after-test parties on the evenings after all tests, which were usually on Saturdays.
I spent many a Saturday evening at the beaufiful canal-side home of Master Young and his wife and children, enjoying a sumptuously laid-out array of home-made Korean food specialties, prepared by Master Do’s lovely wife. After gorging on this food to rival any Oriental restaurant in town, we were treated to several hours of karaoke, run through the large screen tv, often sung through the microphone by Master Young himself. Once on such an occasion, the night was ended with Master Young giving me personal medical treatment after a hand injury I’d received by smashing three boards the wrong way during testing. Everyone at the party watched with awe as he punctured my swollen hand again and again with a special tool to relieve swelling. I honestly don’t know how well it worked, but I still play piano pretty good so I guess he did something right.
I recently saw that Young’s murder has been featured in March of 2010 on America’s Most Wanted. I certainly hope that they find the sombitch that killed him.
Here is a video of Young Soo Do at an exhibition