I Love General Choi, But He Was Dead Wrong About This… | ITF Taekwon-Do

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I Love General Choi, But He Was Dead Wrong About This… | ITF Taekwon-Do

Gen Choi interview 2

No one can argue General Choi’s brilliance when it comes to having created Taekwon-Do and no one can argue his amazing accomplishment of spreading Taekwon-Do all over the world in such a short period of time.

There are also many, many other things one could point to that would demonstrate how extraordinary of a man he was, but when I heard him say what he said during an interview recorded for the Legacy CD-Rom set that was released in the 1990’s, I was shocked!

It was a slap in the face to anyone who is running a Taekwon-Do school.

I couldn’t believe what I had heard and I listened to it over and over again to make sure I heard it correctly.

What blew my mind was during part 5 of his ineterview at the 33 second mark of the video, when he said this:

“If I receive money from teaching at a do-jang, it is not a true do-jang.”


Now that was a hard pill for me to swallow.

As someone who has watched his father commit his life to this art and who watched him struggle and sacrifice for decades as he tried to make a living teaching and spreading Taekwon-Do…

AND as someone who has committed his own life to this art, running a school, and paying many thousands of dollars to train with General Choi and compete in numerous world championships…

AND as someone who has spent the last 18 months writing articles and working with school owners to help them run successful Taekwon-Do schools (which I have provided all for free!)…

It’s brutal hearing General Choi tell me that my do-jang isn’t a true do-jang.

The good news about all this, is that it forced me to do some serious thinking. I always knew there was nothing wrong with teaching Taekwon-Do and making a good living at it, but I’d never had to defend it.

I get that Taekwon-Do is Taekwon-Do and business is business. But when you run a Taekwon-Do school, you are now in the business of Taekwon-Do. The two can and do exist independently of each other, however (and this is where General Choi was dead wrong) they can also co-exist in a way that greatly compliments each other.

You CAN receive money for teaching at a do-jang and have it be a true do-jang!

If you go by what Gen. Choi said, if someone is a great instructor, has a large number of students with more coming in every month, provides incredible value for their students, produces great martial artists, produces students with strong character and is receiving no money… then that would be someone running a true do-jang.

But what if this same person is charging tuition for the classes he teaches so he can provide a clean and safe training environment and is able to support his entire family by making a great living?

Does that instantly invalidate what he has taught? Does that invalidate everything his students have learned? Does all the character, discipline and respect developed by the students suddenly not count for anything? Is he no longer running a “true” do-jang?

Of course not.

You can teach excellent Taekwon-Do (including the “DO”) and make lots of money at the same time.

The problem here lies in what people believe about money.

For example, take the phrase, “money is the root of all evil.” People ignorantly throw this phrase around saying, “it’s in the bible!” They do this to demean or belittle those who have earned large amounts of money, or to explain why people with money do bad things (as if only people with money do bad things). They say that money corrupts people or that those with money had to have unfairly taken it from someone who needs it – in short, money is bad and should have nothing to do with Taekwon-Do.

There are many examples you can point to that back up those perceptions (and that’s all they are, perceptions), but even in those examples the problem was not the money. For the “money is the root of all evil” crowd, they might be shocked if they actually read the complete bible verse (1 Timothy 6:10) which says, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

The problem was not the money but the people, and their love of money that motivated what they did with it. The FIFA corruption scandal is a perfect example. There’s also a book that just came out called Clinton Cash by Peter Schweizer which supposedly outlines shady dealings between the Clinton Foundation and foreign governments.

But, even in those examples, the money was not the problem. The people and their love of money was.

It’s obvious why money gets such a bad reputation. It’s big news when some rich and famous person screws up, is in the middle of some scandal or is found out to be corrupt. It’s big news because it gets big ratings.

But you rarely, if ever, hear about people with money who are doing good things with their money and making a difference.

Take Richard Branson for example. Yes he’s a billionaire, yes he owns an island and yes now owns 300 companies! You may know of him, but are you aware of all the causes he takes up? Whether it’s the flamboyance of flamingos he re-introduced to the British Virgin Islands in 1996 or his #SeePotential campaign he recently started that I saw on twitter yesterday that encourages employers to think differently about how they recruit people by looking at giving second chances to those overcoming addiction, who may be homeless or who are ex-offenders. It’s a great example of money being used as a tool for compassion, but there no news crew covering that.

Branson flamingos


Money isn’t good or bad, having it is not a good thing or a bad thing and it doesn’t make you a good person or a bad person.

Money is merely a tool, a resource, a means to an end.

An ax is just a tool and a hammer is just a tool. When you use them to chop wood or to build a house no one has a problem with them. But if you lose your mind and use them to attack someone, they are now weapons. Again, it’s the people using the tools that are the problem.

I get what General Choi was trying to say, but his broad, sweeping statement was just inaccurate.

He was trying to say that if money (the love of money) is the reason you are teaching Taekwon-Do, then it is just a business and you are just using Taekwon-Do to achieve that financial goal. In that case, he would be right that you do not have a “true” do-jang. If your main motivation is money, then what you sell is of no consequence, you’ll do anything to make a buck.

But if your goal is to teach Taekwon-Do to as many people as possible and to spread Taekwon-Do where you are, then running a Taekwon-Do school as a business is one way to accomplish that.

Unless you are independently wealthy, have some benefactor or your government subsidizes your training facilities and instructor salaries then the most common way to train as many students as possible and to grow Taekwon-Do in your area is to run a successful Taekwon-Do school.

I’ll even take it one step further. I assert that the fastest way to spread and grow Taekwon-Do in today’s society is by having large numbers of highly successful school owners. Being a Taekwon-Do instructor should be as financially rewarding as being an attorney or doctor. If you’re a 4th dan, you’ve been training for at least 10 years which is longer than any attorney spends in law school and longer than any doctor spent in med school. And the service you are providing is just as valuable, it’s actually priceless! You aren’t just teaching people to punch and kick, you are changing how they think and feel about themselves, developing confidence that they never knew they had, or were even capable of. You are changing people’s lives for the better.

In the near future, I see a world where being a Taekwon-Do instructor is no longer associated with taking an unspoken vow of poverty. Rather it is a career opportunity that parents would be proud to see their children pursue and a career that children aspire to be a part of because of how rewarding it is personally and financially.

If someone out there has a better idea of how instructors can provide a clean and safe facility for their students, afford to travel the world to train and compete and at the same time be able to provide for their family… I’m all ears!

I unfortunately will never have the opportunity to discuss this with General Choi, so for now I’ll just say we have a gentleman’s disagreement and I’ll continue to do everything I can to share and teach instructors how to run a successful, profitable and professional Taekwon-Do school!

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About the Author:

John HeadshotJohn Karstadt

Senior Instructor – Karstadt Taekwon-Do

Mr. Karstadt is the founder of 1 TKD Consulting and owns the longest running ITF Taekwon-Do school in Arizona, Karstadt Taekwon-Do in Phoenix, AZ with his father Master David Karstadt.  He has been training since 1984, earned his Black Belt at the age of 8 and is currently an internationally renown intstructor teaching the culture, discipline,  leadership and business skills of Taekwon-Do in classes and seminars to Instructors around the world.  He has been a member of eight U.S. Taekwon-Do Teams and has traveled to 14 different countries competing in Taekwon-Do.  He has won numerous medals at the World Championships and in international competition, most notably winning the 2004 World Championships in South Korea with two gold medals and the Men’s Team All Around Trophy.  Mr. Karstadt currently resides in uptown Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and three children.  Mr. Karstadt can be contacted by e-mail at 1tkdinsider@gmail.com




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