History of the Club

photo: students punching in Kimajasay stance

The MIT Tae Kwon Do Club has trained continuously in Tae Kwon Do since 1978. It is impossible to name all of the many students and instructors who have contributed so much over so many years to help our club become what it is. This page can give visitors only an overview of the history of our club and how it got to be where it is. But to every member of the club since its inception who has contributed to the club, worked hard to maintain its standards and to help it improve, and helped the club remain strong so that it has been here for the next generation of members – thank you!

Rather than trying to recite here every achievement of the club over the last quarter-century and more, we simply list below the head instructors who have led the club and explain their major contributions to the club. The best way to learn about where the club is now and to understand the path it follows is to come and watch or try out a class with us. We always welcome new people to come and learn about who we are, and why we train! For more information, see our page on joining the club.

Master Chung Sun Kang: 1978–1984

Master Kang came to MIT already a master in Tae Kwon Do. His father, Grandmaster Suh Chong Kang, is one of the highest ranking masters in Tae Kwon Do in the world. Master Kang founded the club and set it on two invaluable paths we follow to this day. The first was to link the club with Grandmaster Kang and his family. Thus, although Master Chung Sun Kang has moved to Arizona and can visit our club only infrequently, our club still meets with his brother Master Ho Sun Kang about once a year at MIT or at his school in New York City for black belt examinations and special classes. It is worth noting that Grandmaster Kang has appeared at every black belt examination our club members have taken in New York City.

Perhaps most important, Master Kang set us on a path of seeking physical and philosophical perfection. His own superb technique and the depth of his learning in Tae Kwon Do became permanent benchmarks by which all members of the club – old and new – measure themselves. As we all train, we strive to match the standard Master Kang gave to our club when he started it in 1978. Perfection is a goal none of us can ever reach, but striving for it is this club's primary goal, and the activity through which we grow as persons and as martial artists.

Master Anthony D'Amico: 1984–1986

After Master Kang graduated from MIT and left the club, Master D'Amico took over primary leadership. Master D'Amico's training differed from that of Master Kang. Although Master D'Amico also strove for physical and mental perfection, his path to that end was through incredibly physically challenging workouts. Master D'Amico's workouts typically pushed every student to the limit of their physical ability, and then urged the students to exceed their own limits. At the same time, however, Master D'Amico also emphasized the mental aspects of Tae Kwon Do – developing oneself morally and philosophically. Thus, Master D'Amico added a new and heightened level of physical effort to our training. Years after he left our club, we continue to strive to meet Master D'Amico's standards of physical training.

Master Young Soo Ha: 1986–1997

After Master D'Amico received his doctorate and left for the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, Master Ha – a student of Master Kang's at the MIT Tae Kwon Do Club – became the Head Instructor. Master Ha's eleven years as the club's Head Instructor are significant for many reasons, though the most notable is that they gave the club a chance to grow and develop under a single instructor's superb teaching style.

Master Ha's teaching was notable because he was able to combine Master Kang's goal of achieving technical perfection with Master D'Amico's strenuous physical classes. Master Ha's physical technique was a thing of beauty to behold. Moreover, Master Ha spent part of his youth in Korea, and so he was able to inculcate the club with a sense of the Korean history and culture that helped shape Tae Kwon Do. The result was that the club grew significantly under Master Ha, and he was able to lead a large number of students to earn their black belts.

Although Master Ha left the club for California in 1997, he has remained close to the club and its members. He frequently returns to MIT to teach special classes, and he attends virtually all of the club's black belt examinations at Master Kang's school in New York. In a very real respect, Master Ha remains the leader of the MIT Tae Kwon Do Club.

Mr. Yakov Royter: 1997–1998

After Master Ha left Massachusetts, Mr. Royter, a third degree black belt, took over as Head Instructor. Although Mr. Royter was Head Instructor for only a few months until he received his doctorate and left Cambridge for Japan, he had, in fact, been a member of the club for thirteen years – four years as an undergraduate and nine years as a graduate student at MIT! Thus, he took over as Head Instructor with a great deal of experience as an instructor and in the office of Assistant Instructor.

Mr. Royter was most notable for his exquisite physical technique – he had enviable natural ability and could easily drop into a full split. The result was that Mr. Royter was able to focus the club on its physical technique. Under Mr. Royter, students learned how to develop their bodies fully. Mr. Royter also excelled in showing students how to use their abilities to their greatest advantage.

Mr. Raul Acevedo: 1998–2000

Mr. Acevedo was the second of Master Ha's students to take over as head instructor of the club. Like Mr. Royter, Mr. Acevedo was a third degree black belt; he had been with the club since 1987. Also like Mr. Royter, Mr. Acevedo carried on Master Ha's goals of physical advancement and perfection, while simultaneously emphasizing the ideals that underlie Tae Kwon Do – courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit.

At the same time, Mr. Acevedo was willing to experiment with some of the techniques that form Tae Kwon Do. Although Mr. Acevedo did not do away with any techniques, he did add various techniques and alter when and how others were used. The result was that Mr. Acevedo helped Tae Kwon Do grow – the goal of every instructor. In 2000, after thirteen years in Cambridge, Mr. Acevedo left for California, where he now leads a Tae Kwon Do club he started there.

Mr. David Zanger: 2000–2004

After Mr. Acevedo left the club, Mr. Zanger became the third of Master Ha's students to take over as Head Instructor. A third degree black belt, he had been with the club since the mid 1980s. For several years, Mr. Zanger carried on the outstanding training that he received from Master D'Amico and Master Ha.

In 2004, Mr. Zanger decided to move on from the club. His unceasing, enthusiastic dedication to every aspect of the club and its art for nearly two decades remains a model for every student who encountered him. The unmatched physical rigor and lively spirit of his extremely energetic classes were inspired by Master D'Amico's now-legendary workouts and have now likewise become a significant legacy for the club,

Mr. Jephté Jeanniton: 2004–present

In 2004, leadership of the club formally passed to Mr. Jeanniton. Mr. Jeanniton joined the club as a beginner in the early 1990s and earned his black belt while Master Ha led the club; he is therefore the fourth of Master Ha's students to lead the club and the first to have begun his training in the club.

The Future

We hope this summary has given you some idea of where we come from. The future of our club is open, and every new member – whether beginner or black belt – helps shape that future. We welcome you to come by, try out a class, and see if you would like to help our club grow through its next quarter century!

Relationships to Other Organizations

The MIT Tae Kwon Do Club is part of the All-American Tae Kwon Do Federation (ATF), founded by our founder's father, Grandmaster Suh Chong Kang, who trained under Won Kuk Lee at the first Tae Kwon Do school, Chung Do Kwan, in Korea. Our head instructor for eleven years, Master Young Soo Ha, also began his training there. I believe the ATF comprises only those schools influenced directly by Grandmaster Kang. These include schools run by Masters Tae Sun and Ho Sun Kang in Brooklyn, New York.

Because General Hong Hi Choi was also at one time a student of Won Kuk Lee, our heritage is parallel with the International Tae Kwon Do Federation (ITF) started by General Choi. The United States Tae Kwon Do Federation (USTF) is the US branch of the ITF. We practice the same forms (that is, patterns, or in Korean, poomse or hyung) as the ITF and two additional forms created by Grandmaster Kang.

The spiritual and ethical principles underlying Tae Kwon Do as formulated by General Choi aspired to the reunification of North and South Korea. The highest form is called Tong Il Hyung, meaning "unification form." Later, attitudes towards reunification in South Korea changed. Some adjustments were made to Tae Kwon Do, including the creation of new set of forms called the taeguk forms, and the South Korean government began to promote Tae Kwon Do through the World Tae Kwon Do Federation (WTF). The WTF particularly promotes Tae Kwon do in competition; Tae Kwon Do became an an official Olympic sport in the 2000 Summer Olympics at Sidney. The US branch of the WTF is USA Taekwondo (USAT). General Choi continued to promote Tae Kwon Do through the ITF until his death in 2002.

There are many other national and international Tae Kwon Do organizations, each perhaps with their own style. It is hard to make sense of them all. Just for example, "Songahm Taekwondo" seems to consist of three organizations that together cover the world: the American Tae Kwon Do Association (ATA), the World Traditional Taekwondo Union (WTTU), and the Songahm Taekwondo Federation (STF). Also I have found references on the web to the World Taekwondo Association (WTA), United States TaeKwonDo Union (USTU), a second organization also called the United Staes Taekwondo Federation (USTF), the International Taekwon-Do Association (ITA), ….