Archive for September 8, 2014

Tiger Rock’s Claim Of Accredited Instructors Is Meaningless

        A popular tactic of mcdojangs is to claim they have “accredited” instructors. Or that their instructors must study and take a test every year to make sure they have all the latest teaching methods and techniques in order to make sure their instructors stay skillful and up to date. This is just fluff and hype. It is utterly meaningless to claim your instructors are accredited if they are simply evaluated by their own group without outside critique. The American Taekwondo Association (ATA) and Tiger Rock Martial Arts (ITA) and various other mcdojang organizations do this. The ATA started it and everyone else copies it. Notice the Tiger Rock Martial Arts advertisement I received in the mail the other day:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wow! Accredited instructors! That must mean they have the best martial arts instructors in the entire world!!!!

In the words of Dwight Schrute:      “False!”

No, they do not. Accredited does not mean anything in this context since the only people who evaluated the instructors is Tiger Rock itself. It would be as if I affirm people, send them off to represent everything I teach and my company. Then those 5 stand with me and affirm another 6th person and 7th and 8th and so on and then claim we now have accredited instructors. It means nothing. It is an incestuous accreditation.

If one looks up accreditation on Wikipedia it explains that,

Accreditation is a process in which certification of competency, authority, or credibility is presented.

Organizations that issue credentials or certify third parties against official standards are themselves formally accredited by accreditation bodies (such as UKAS); hence they are sometimes known as “accredited certification bodies”. The accreditation process ensures that their certification practices are acceptable, typically meaning that they are competent to test and certify third parties, behave ethically and employ suitable quality assurance.

        Typically in the USA accreditation speaks of one body giving affirmation and certification to a third party individual or organization which means they follow certain standards and procedures and have the right resources, knowledge, and skills, that are proper and agreed upon. Within martial arts this could mean anything. For Taekwondo the world governing body for Taekwondo as a martial art is the Kukkiwon. The Kukkiwon is certified and accredited by the Korean government, and is also recognized by the World Taekwondo Federation, which is also recognized by the International Olympic Committee and also affirmed by the original Korean Taekwondo Association. So, various government and corporate bodies recognize the Kukkiwon as the proper ranking body for Taekwondo. In turn, Kukkiwon black belt certification and instructorship accredits individuals to teach Taekwondo. Also, the Kukkiwon itself consists of a board of members who vote on things and not any one leader who dictates what will be and what will not be. Members are voted in and out of positions. It does not exist specifically for profit either as a corporate entity. The Kukkiwon is affirmed by outside sources who are not a part of its structure which gives it realistic accreditation. The Kukkiwon is an official Korean government organization promoting culture and tourism through Taekwondo as well.

        Groups like Tiger Rock Martial Arts International on the other hand are a corporate entity that exists for profit to make as much money as possible, and is its own singular company run by its own founders. Tiger Rock used to be known as “Karate Taekwondo Plus Academies.” The International Taekwondo Alliance is their claim of affiliation. Later, the name Tiger Rock was implemented instead of TKD-plus (but apparently some gyms still use the TKD-plus sign on their buildings and are part of the ITA. According to http://www.tkd-plus.com,

ITA’s Grand Masters are Craig Kollars, Bert Kollars, and Art Monroe. Senior Masters are: James Bailey, Rick Hall, Joe Calhoun, Ron Allman, Don Anderson, Terry Newton, and Marv Conway. ITA’s Masters are: Mark Smith, Dan Cerminaro, Joel Neely, Kirke Woodall, Tim Leirer, Phearthur Moore, Richard Johnson, George LeBlanc, Chris Jackson, Carol Hall, Frank Michael, Brent Scoggins, Tom Mathews, Wayne Mathews, Dwayne Parker, Terence Parker, Victor Jordan, Charles Newton, Michael Cerminaro, Sandy Jordan, Roger Killen, Rick Pope, Elliott Slaughter, Danny Williams, Earl Scoggins and Brian Mitchelmore.

Notice that none of these people are Korean as there are absolutely no roots from Korean Taekwondo within this company, even though they claim so. Tiger Rock claims that their linage goes back to the “honorable Won Kuk lee and Chung Do Kwan” (one of the original 10 martial arts schools in Korea that predates Taekwondo). None of the Korean masters such as Lee Won Kuk or General Choi had anything to do with founding or caring about forming the ITA, Tiger Rock Martial Arts International, or TKD Plus Academies.  The truth is ITA/Tiger Rock was founded by ex American Taekwondo Association instructors who were disgruntled for whatever reasons and started their own offshoot from the ATA calling it the ITA. According to an article in the January 2010 edition of TaeKwonDo Times Magazine,

“…the three founders of the ITA, Craig Kollars, Bert Kollars, and Art Monroe, were junior instructors of the ATA. They created the International Taekwondo Alliance (ITA) which is just their own group specifically made for their brand’s franchise schools. None of these schools are independently run, but follow strict corporate standards created by Tiger Rock itself….by the end of 1980, those three people became independent from the ATA and formed a small independent association.” (p. 61)

        So, basically this organization was created by junior level instructors, not even master level instructors of ATA style Taekwondo. Accrediting their own instructors through their own party is simply just saying their instructors have paid a lot of money into the Tiger Rock system and are allowed a license to teach under their name. Such accreditation is really only worth the junior instructorship that ITA was founded on. It is not proper for someone who does not even have proper accreditation themselves to create their own style of martial arts and become masters of it.

        Each Tiger Rock franchise location pays an annual fee, including the “special” instructor qualification tests each year. It is simply multi-level marketing in the sense that people bring others up into the Tiger Rock system, tell them to start new school locations, each year their students pay to train and the school itself pays a percentage fee of their revenue. Instructors also have to test every year which is simply an excuse for the company of Tiger Rock Martial Arts International to make money off of its own people ever year and get as rich as possible. There really is no reason to keep taking instructor tests each year except to charge their own franchisees extra money for each of their “accredited instructors” to stay accredited each year. A school could have 5 to 10 or so instructors all paying into this system.

        This accreditation is worthless outside of Tiger Rock. Unlike Tiger Rock, true Taekwondo certification of a black belt instructor is for life. A one time test of skill given by a panel of certified 4th degree or higher black belts evaluate students for black belt degree ranks. Each degree of black belt would be its own test. There is no mandatory instructor training with the Kukkiwon, there is that option as an extra novelty certification if you get to travel to Korea, but it is not mandatory. Any dan rank 4th degree or higher can test people for black belts and any lesser dan rank can go to a 4th dan or higher for their students to be tested. The instructor who ranks his student then submits an application to the Kukkiwon, and certification is signed by the Kukkiwon’s current president directly from Korea. The Kukkiwon is true Korean Taekwondo and the direction of where the true historic linage ended up today since Taekwondo’s founding in 1955.

        True Taekwondo allows for an independent structure. Each school is independently run by its own people. There is no corporation owning all Kukkiwon schools. Of course if someone with a capitalistic mindset (which I approve of) wanted to make a Taekwondo business with a franchise of gyms with Kukkiwon certified instructors that is fine. At least their company will be truly accredited by an outside source, and the proper one at that. Accreditation is only worth the body it was given by. If a governing body accredits its own people, and their skill is lacking, and not part of the true linage of Taekwondo and is itself an offshoot, the accreditation is only worth anything to their in group, and if their instructors lack in true martial arts skills and self defense knowledge than their accreditation is very weak. It is incestuous and silly.

        Mcdojangs, most notably Tiger Rock Martial Arts International, will claim they have direct linage to an original kwan (or school) of Taekwondo such as their claim they are from the Chung Do Kwan founded by Lee Wan Kuk in the early days before 1955. This is easy to do for anyone who wants to pretend they are part of true Taekwondo history. Anyone who had an instructor, who had an instructor, who had an instructor somewhere at sometime, who learned or became a master under whoever, can link back to whatever historical linage they want to claim. The problem is off shoot branches fall off the direct root of the tree. It is like following a train track where truth is the train track. Some people walk off the track and build another new track in another direction off of the main line. While the main train track had went one direction toward a goal, and accepted standard, or style and the newly built tracks go off in another direction away from this “track of truth.” This is such with groups like ATA and Tiger Rock. Tiger Rock founders may at some point have studied under a guy who trained with an early kwan, or trained under a guy who had an instructor from and early kwan at some point in time, but that does not mean anything. Also, the truth is that Tiger Rock can only link back to the Chung Do Kwan through the linage claims of the American Taekwondo Association’s founder H.U. Lee (who definitely went off the track of truth and made his own offshoot) since they originally trained under the ATA as junior instructors before making up their own Taekwondo group.

        On Tiger Rock’s website explaining their history it mentions that a delegation of Tiger Rock masters were honored to attend Won Kuk Lee’s last formal seminar in 2002, but this does not prove support by Won Kuk Lee or that he somehow was part of their formation. They simply attended a seminar. Anyone can do that from any organization from anywhere! Just pay the seminar fee!

        Other organizations or martial arts styles that can actually link historically to the Chung Do Kwan are groups like the International Taekwon-do Federation founded by General Choi Hong Hi (Choi was a direct second generation student of Won Kuk Lee and temporary Chung Do Kwan school master), and Tang Soo Do which is the actual name of the martial art the original Chung Do Kwan school taught created by Won Kuk Lee. However, the ITF became the very first Taekwondo offshoot organization that went in another direction away from the direction of where the Korean Taekwondo/Taesoodo Association was headed. The ITF is itself another style of martial arts with the name of “Taekwon-do,” which is spelled with a hyphen to differentiate it from Kukki-Taekwondo. The ITF was the organization that the founder of the American Taekwondo Association, HU Lee was a part of before creating his own style in the ATA. Tiger Rock comes from this.

        Before Taekwondo, Koreans simply were most often training in Japanese Karate, but they called it Tang Soo Do. The Chung Do Kwan was called “Tang Soo Do Chung Do Kwan.” Later, Won Kuk Lee, which Tiger Rock reveres, had a 4th successor named Uhm Woon Kyu, who was given the position as leader of the Chung Do Kwan. Uhm Woon Kyu helped develop Taekwondo as an Olympic Sport, and played a huge role in forming the World Taekwondo Federation, Korean Taekwondo Association, and the Kukkiwon. Uhm was even president of the Kukkiwon after Dr. Un Yung Kim, but has since resigned in 2010. Chung Do Kwan thus is part of the true linage that points to the Kukkiwon which is the accepted organization for Taekwondo recognized by the Korean government. It does not point to a connection or support towards any other organizations for Taekwondo such as ATA or ITA. Tiger Rock is not historically aligned with the direction Chung Do Kwan headed along with all of the other kwans. All kwans now fully support the Kukkiwon and the WTF. If one was linked to a certain kwan and held it with reverence and honor it would seem they also too would align themselves with Kukkiwon standards and practices. But these groups do not.

        According to Uhm Woon Kyu, and vice president of the Chung Do Kwan Hae Man Park (retired), “Kukkiwon Taekwondo is Chung Do Kwan Taekwondo.” It, a long with the 8 other kwans, developed the system of Taekwondo together. Chung Do Kwan is simply now a social friendship club (as all kwans are now) that 100% endorses the Kukkiwon so that the Kukkiwon can retain power and and development over Taekwondo.  This is nowhere in line with groups like Tiger Rock.

        I could personally create my own martial art style with its own ideas and forms. I could then call it Taekwondo and create my own master instructor certifications for people to pay for. I could run my own exclusive tournaments and make money. I could go attend seminars held by old Korean masters from an early Kwan and act like they were my personal teachers and masters. I could then link my linage back to an early kwan easily by the same method groups like ATA and ITA/Tiger Rock used. But this would be dishonest and embellished. I actually would not be a part of the direction Taekwondo history headed with the proper Korean Taekwondo organization of the Kukkiwon. I would be teaching a totally different style of my own making. It really is that simple.

        The point is every original kwan formed together as one style of martial art called Taekwondo with one goal and every historic kwan (all 10 of them) agrees with, fully supports, and is 100% incorporated into the Kukkiwon and accepts the World Taekwondo Federation. Off shoots like Tiger Rock have nothing to do with the Kukkiwon except for the fact some of their instructors visited Korea, or attend a seminar taught by some Kukkiwon grandmasters. If these original ITA (Tiger Rock) founders received Kukkiwon rank somehow it still does not matter since they do not supply rank to their students or even teach the Kukki-Taekwondo system. They also do not participate in WTF tournaments. Also, the Kukkiwon supports independence and does not exclude people from other organizations from testing for their black belt certification. This is exactly the opposite of groups like Tiger Rock who in no way will recognize or care you have a Kukkiwon black belt. If you do join Tiger Rock you have to start all over again as a white belt and pay into their testing fees and certification fees and classes and pay for membership and more fees. No one is even allowed to participate in any ITA tournaments unless they are a Tiger Rock student and paid into whatever rank they wanted to compete at. They are a closed off and exclusive organization. This is most likely so they can claim “World Champions” etc. by not allowing threatening outsiders into tournaments who might beat their people in a match. The American Taekwondo Association is notorious for this as well.

        It has to be mentioned that not every offshoot organization of Taekwondo is necessarily wrong. There are various groups who still teach the Kukkiwon system, but are still their own affiliation with other instructors and schools. Mostly Kukkiwon rank is also given, but sometimes it is not given and only their affiliation rank for their offshoot organization is given. The difference is they are still teaching Taekwondo just without Kukkiwon certifications or affiliation. I personally believe it is not the best idea to be in an offshoot and ignore the Kukkiwon, but they are still true to the art in form. And some groups do have legitimate martial arts skills and teach valid self defense and do not use annoying marketing tactics to create a giant empire. They simply just exist to associate various schools together to teach and learn martial arts. I still personally think they should maintain ties to the Kukkiwon at least for ranking purposes anyway though.

        Unlike Tiger Rock or the ATA, the forms from the Kukkiwon/WTF are free for anyone to practice, perform, and teach. Tiger Rock and the ATA patents their forms to make it illegal for anyone to teach them without being “accredited” by their own group. So if one person earns a black belt in Tiger Rock or ATA and then one day moves or quits training there, they cannot teach the forms to anyone else if they decide to start a gym or affiliate with another group. This shows they want total control and not freedom in their martial arts style. This is another reason why the Kukkiwon is the truth for Taekwondo and allows independence and freedom for Taekwondo martial artists.

        Parents wanting their kids, themselves or anyone else who wants to sign up for Taekwondo lessons please be advised, and do not be fooled by the marketing gimmick of “accreditation.” It is meaningless, and if a corporation’s martial arts skills are lacking, their accreditation is lacking. You cannot truly claim accreditation if one body accredits itself! Affirming itself is a joke. True accreditation is going to be outside judges and panels who affirm something. A third party affirmation. Choose a Kukkiwon related gym for real Taekwondo that does not dictate commands to gym owners and allows them to be independent and truly certified and affirmed by peers. Even the International Taekwon-do Federation is independently run like the Kukkiwon for the most part.

        Mcdojangs simply use marketing gimmicks and silly tactics and embellished histories to get you to pay them a lot of money so they can stay rich.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program.

*Since the original submission of this article he has no earned his 4th dan black belt and master certification in Korea from the Kukkiwon and has so far trained for over 21 years.  

Advertisements