Grand Master Dong Won Kang has always been fearless. He arrived in Tulsa in 1971 at age 25 with just $50 he received from his mother inKorea. He soon began teaching taekwondo at a local YMCA. It was there that a student approached him, wanting to begin a fight. He approached violently, a distinct difference from the peaceful Kang, who says he uses his taekwondo skills purely for survival and physical fitness.
“He made himself a fool,” Kang says. “The other boys who watched me wanted to learn from me. … It’s the skill, not the size — how you believe inyourself.”
Thus launched Kang’s prolific teaching career,which began at a 1,000-square-foot studio at 3204 E. 11th St. thatopened in 1971 and has evolved into a new studio at 6005 S. Mingo Road,a Broken Arrow location and facilities in Sapulpa and Springdale, Ark.Kang has taught more than 5,000 black-belt athletes, trained an Olympicbronze medalist in the 1992 Barcelona games and was the head of theU.S. taekwondo team in the 1987 World Taekwondo Championship.
In recognition of his efforts to promote taekwondo worldwide, hiscontributions to teaching and his own athletic accomplishments, Kangreceived a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International TaekwondoHall of Fame in April.
Kang’s son, Bong, runs theBroken Arrow facility and has trained in taekwondo since age 3. He saysthe reality of being the son of a Grand Master set in when he watchedhis father accept the award.
“The (Taekwondo) Hall of Fame islike the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” he says. “It’s something veryincredible. It’s a huge accomplishment.”
Kang’s talents aren’t limited to taekwondo, however. He also owns Clary Fields Golf Course and is a PGA professional.
If this weren’t enough, Kang is a general contractor, building hisnewest taekwondo studio and overseeing the construction of improvementsto Clary Fields. He also continues to teach black-belt-level students,running rigorous survival-training boot camps.
Perhaps Kang’s most lasting legacy, though, can be seen in his sons. Son Sung is a former national champion and now teaches at the Tulsa taekwondo studio.
“I just really wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps, try to giveback,” he says. “In martial arts, you can have much more influence thanany other teacher in school or a football coach. In martial arts, youhave to understand the basic principles of life.”