By Pete Zamplas
Taekwon-Do is catching on among local students of various generations, who say they feel safer from being able to defend and disarm an armed assailant.
They also cite gains in fitness and agility, discipline, better awareness and focus on tasks, competitive spirit in a combat sport, and a boost in self-esteem from step-by-step achievements.
“Taekwondo has been proven to help with memory, self-control, strength, flexibility, and better focus,” said Kevin Fakhoury who launched Fakhoury Academy of TaeKwonDo (674-6267) in Hendersonville four years ago. He stated “we’re passionate about teaching self defense, as well as physical and mental preparation and awareness.”
Another area school for this South Korean martial art of self defense is Sun Soo Martial Arts. It is in Blue Ridge Market Place at 800 Fairview Rd. in Asheville (505-4309). Tony Morris is its co-owner, a grand master and eighth-degree black belt.
Vibes among students in such schools is not aspiring to be a tail-kicking Chuck Norris, Jason Statham or Jet Li action hero but rather learning self-defense and physical and mental edges. When students sought the next belt level at Fakhoury Sept. 7, they had to reflect on what they seek from Taekwon-Do.
Pain infliction is taught as a last resort. But students said it is a great fallback when cornered, and unable to get away or diffuse the confrontation.
“Eliminate the threat” by disarming, “controlling” and neutralizing the attacker — but without necessarily injuring him/her, Grand Master Robert Dunn told The Tribune. He founded the International Jun Tong Taekwon-Do Federation (IJTF) ten years ago. Kevin Fakhoury is its newly-named regional director. Fakhoury Academy is among its 42 accredited schools in 11 nations including Poland and Israel, and 13 states.
Dunn, a former Philadelphia police officer, lives in Henderson County. He urges those defending themselves to avoid excessive force, and choose from optional degrees of response. This can be a sequence of moves. “You can break a hold, before you break an arm,” he told the class. “You can beak an arm, before you maim. You can main, before you have to kill someone in self-defense.”
Kevin Fakhoury said to “press pressure points” such as to numb under armpits. “Keep the pressure on, ‘til they (“predators”) cool down.”
Kevin and his wife Alex run their academy at 1825 Asheville Hwy./25N at Meadowbrook Terrace. Ingles is across 25. The academy hosted a tourney two weeks ago, at Apple Valley Middle School.
Kevin, a Michigan native, is a fourth-degree black belt. Grand Master Dunn, who attained the max level of ninth degree black belt, is among guest instructors. He was among four master instructors/judges for testing Sept. 7.
All Fakhoury instructors The Tribune observed are patient and on-task. Hourly classes are split by age and levels.
Kevin’s daughter Lily Fakhoury is a West Henderson freshman. The third-degree black belt helps instruct.
Dunn, 71, said he has sparred in martial arts with Elvis Presley and Chuck Norris among others. Elvis was effective in self-defense moves, Dunn said. “Elvis was worried about an assassination attempt. He wanted to be able to defense himself, in an up-close situation.”
Norris was world champion five times starting in 1966, Dunn said, and swift Statham is also very proficient in martial arts.
Dunn is in International Karate and Black Belt hall of fames, and trained Peruvian troops in 1989. Dunn opened his first Taekwon-Do school in 1970.
Dunn said JTF is the first international association for Taekwon-Do’s traditional Chang-Hon patterns. Taekwon-Do was officially named in 1955 and spelled that way, by South Korean General Chi Hong Hi. Spellings vary.
Gen. Choi’s mottos include to be protectors and “gentle to the weak, and tough to the (overly) strong.” Five Taekwon-Do tenets are self-control, indomitable spirit, perseverance, integrity, and courtesy. Courtesy includes mutual concessions. Self-control is critical to safety, to know one’s limits and to not overdo sparring attacks, Dunn noted “Tae” means to kick or smash using a foot, in Korean. “Kwon” is to punch or smash using a hand. “Do” means a way of life. Kevin Fakhoury said it is “the way of the foot and fist.”
Fakhoury said his students learn to “use our legs to jump, kick in the air, spin kick, and for flying kicks…It is easier to keep an attacker off of us by using our legs than our (shorter) arms.”
Ideal is to instinctively do a quick “snapping” frontal kick or punch initially to ward off an assailant, Dunn said, ahead of a stronger follow-up. A whirlwind reverse kick will “penetrate” and hurt more.
Dunn said that in tournaments, he himself is an “attacker” and a “kicker” rather than defensive reactor.
Lily Fakhoury spars quickly, bobbing in and out to score points. She recognizes initiation of a foe’s move, and instinctively counters it. She looks to apply “self-defense throws,” mobility and other martial arts aspects into wrestling at West.
She said in studying Taekwon-Do “I can be myself,” and she enjoys students’ “community.”
Customizing instruction, Kevin said “we work on what our bodies allow each of us to do.” Advancing students “develop higher and more dramatic kicks.”
Student Nick Tavernier, 14, has grown nearly a half-foot this year. He has longer reach. He likes a 1-2 of a frontal kick low to the groin or two quick flicks to spark a low defense, then a round kick up to the head. His favorite kicks include a “tornado” 90-degree side angle spinning on the back foot and hitting with the top of the other foot, also a “crescent” kick ahead striking with the foot’s side.
He said “we need a lot of spin to do a spin hook kick. It’s like baseball batting. You get angles, and keep your eye on the ball at all times. When you’re kicking and turn your body, you’re looking right at where you’ll kick.”
Against a large foe charging to brawl, Dunn suggests an “angular attack.” Tavernier looks to “spin into (vulnerable) grooves.” He said in competition “when a move hits, it feels good. You get a point.”
Doug Hall, who runs an academy in Charlotte, was among the four judges Sept. 7. He served in the Air Force for 17 years. He calls for honing muscle memory for prompt self-defense. “Turn those reactions into reflexes,” so they are much quicker.
Headgear protects, but lets sparring partners go for the noggin. As Hall noted, “You’re trying to hurt someone because they’re trying to hurt you.”
Dunn said full-hearted daily “training is everything. How you train is how you’ll react — on the streets (in a crisis), or in a tournament.”
Proper balance and motion is critical, and becomes more second nature with repetition. “Forms” are basic moves. Students at times spar with more advanced students, as others cheer them on.
Chopping apart wood was the final testing phase Sept. 7, after forms then sparring. To chop with a flying kick, Kevin said, “jump high and kick straight.” Humberto Camacho did a difficult flying downward foot chop.
Alex Fakhoury explained a basic hand chop motion is largely from the “neck and solar plexus,” when leaning into a downward chop into a board’s center. This reporter chopped a board in half on his first try.
Lily often spars with her buddy Nick Tavernier. He is in eighth grade, in Hendersonville Middle. His brother Christopher is a classical piano prodigy, now at Florida State. Both brothers train extensively in their crafts, striving for precision and perpetual refinement.
“Nick gives me more” effort when asked, Kevin Fakhoury said.
Tavernier is considering law enforcement, for which hand-to-hand combat skill is an asset. At school “I try to be all chilled. If someone starts something, I can put their butt on the ground and put them into a bunch of pain.” Reluctant to do that, he has turned down fight challenges.
Taekwon-Do “lets me work out frustrations,” tire and sleep better, Nick said. He is up to second-degree black belt after five years, and trains to also teach the art. He is “believing in myself. It’s something I’m good at, and enjoy doing.”
For more info, call the academy at 674-6267 or check fakhourytkd.com. For more on Taekwon-Do in general, check juntong-taekwondo.com.