“Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation and freedom in all just pursuits.” – Thomas Jefferson
1martialart: Can you tell us about your martial art background and the events that led to your acquaintance with the late Grand Master Park Jung Tae? . You have been one of the closest disciples of GM Park and had the opportunity of attending most of his seminars he conducted in the USA and Canada during those early years. What do you see in him that stands out from the rest of other Korean Instructors?
Chris Gantner: I was practicing Taekwon-do for over 13 years before I met GM Park Jung Tae in 1986. At that time I was only a second degree in ITF. The reason I was only a 2nd degree after 13 years of training is because my first Instructor Mr.Steve Cooper, who was with ITF, moved out of our State and I practiced several other styles of martial arts for several years.
This diversion caused me to lose time in degree but was also great experience that allowed me to better understand martial arts from a broader perspective.
At the time I met GM Park I had already returned to the ITF. I was drawn to GM Park immediately because I saw in him the heart of a true Martial Artist. The level of intensity and effectiveness of the techniques was something I had missed since my training under Mr.Cooper.
In 1987 I completed the International Instructor Training course in St. Lewis USA. It was a nine days training seminar and the beginning of my relationship with GM Park. From that time until his passing I followed him at every opportunity. I attended five more International Instructor courses over the next few years and many more 2 and 3 day courses.
As time went on GM Park recognized that I was determined to be his student and he saw the improvements in my technical abilities and knowledge. I knew he accepted me as a student when he invited me to come to Canada for personal instruction. After more than 20 seminars and occasional private instruction eventually he would use me to demonstrate during seminars and I was never more honored than when he complimented my performance.
When GM Park informed me that he was leaving the ITF I told him that I would follow him whatever his plans for the future. Then later when he told me that he was starting his own Organization even before it had a name I joined the GTF.
It would take many pages to touch on all my experiences and memories of those times but I hope these highlights shed some light on my relationship with him and more importantly gives some indication of the impact that he had on me and so many others.
For me Grand Master Park Jung Tae was the best living example of technical excellence and moral integrity. Until this day even after his death I still follow him and have attempted to continue and preserve his vision of Taekwon-do.
1martialart: There is so much talk and publicity over GM Park’s technical superiority in his TKD instruction and his explanation of execution of techniques. Even the GTF’s main theme rides on this strength. Unfortunately, there are not so many TKD exponents who have had the opportunity to be trained under him to familiarize themselves with such unique knowledge. Can you share with us more in detail just what are this ingredients of technical excellence that he had expounded? Are they not the same as the ITF-style?
CG: GM Park always said that Taekwon-do must be the very best Martial Art. Whatever is the very best way to elevate fighting to the level of being a form of Art and personal expression and achievement while still maintaining the combat effectiveness of the style is ultimately what Taekwon-do should be.
During the course of over 50 years practicing and teaching Taekwon-do he always searched for the best techniques. Through this study , research, examination and trials he eventually developed a fluid and quite natural approach to applying the theory of power. It is easy, natural and effortless when mastered but extremely intricate and difficult at the same time. It requires a high level of coordination and timing that can only be achieved through proper instruction and endless practice.
It requires the precise coordination of all of the following : action-reaction, rotation of attacking tool, sine wave, knee spring, jerking and dropping the hip and timing of the eye-hand-foot and breath. A key ingredient to making this all happen is the circular motion incorporated into the delivery of the techniques.
In Grand Master Park’s GTF Taekwon-do there is a practical execution and delivery of each technique. When mastered it is subtle and flowing and it all happens simultaneously in one fluid movement.
The end of one movement becomes the beginning of the next to create a rhythmic flow of techniques that allows the energy to be delivered to the target quite effortlessly.
This along with the very practical and effective approach to the application of techniques enabled him to achieve his intended goal – it must be the best!
1martialart: GTF also prides itself as a world TKD body that is well renowned for its technical proficiency as exemplified by the late Founder, GM Park Jung Tae. Can you elaborate more in detail as to what areas of competency GTF aspires to achieve? In what ways GTF differs in its approach in technical knowledge from the rest of other TKD international bodies?
CG: The GTF is similar in many ways to the ITF because he was the Chairman of the ITF technical committee for many years. After GM Park left the ITF he continued to teach the traditional hyungs as he always had with only a few changes in terminology.
However, he had some unique ideas about training methods and application of techniques that he wanted to advance and that was the motivating factor in the development of the GTF hyungs. Through the new Hyungs and Sabang Makgo-Chago–Jirugi exercises and many pre-arranged step sparring examples he left his own mark on the future development of TKD.
I say future because many TKD practitioners have yet to be exposed to his unique approach to the delivery of motion, execution of techniques and innovative training methods.
1martialart: GTF has just completed its 8th World Championship event in Scotland. Since the beginning of hosting its 1st GTF World Championship until today, can you share with us your observations and comments as to the status of progress and development of GTF in terms of organizing capability, fulfilling the aspirations of affiliates’ participation, and the overall improvement on the standard of performance in the respective events?
In what areas do you think that GTF needs to focus on, in order to move forward to the next higher level of operations?
CG: As with any organization the GTF must always try to improve. I think that the GTF has a very high standard for our World Championship and International seminars. However due to the state of the world economy it has been very difficult to compel the Hosting organizations to strictly follow all the set guidelines and standards.
Many of the deficiencies we have faced in recent past events were due to financial considerations. So in this area we certainly have room for improvement. We are working to explore various avenues to better fund our World events in the future and to better serve the participants of these events.
1martialart: What are your thoughts on the future of traditional TKD, given the prevailing popularity of sports TKD that is now being promoted aggressively by WTF in the Olympic Games? The current trend in the USA and the rest of the world is that most of the dojangs are now populated by kids and teens, and the working adults seem to be staying away. What could be the reason?
CG: As I mentioned earlier. The promotion of Taekwondo as a sport first and Martial Art second will result in the continued decline of Taekwondo.
If we teach Taekwondo as Martial Art first and a sport second then we can attract mature adults that will see the value of training for self-defense and personal development. Serious training will attract serious people.
1martial: Tell us about the future plans of GTF. What are the strategies that need to be adopted to the ensure the continuing presence of GTF in the world arena and incremental progress in membership affiliation across the nations.
CG: First, I will continue to take direction from our President Hon.GM Linda Park and to help her lead this Organization. It is very difficult in this day and age of instant communication and constant development of new technology to navigate where the future will bring us.
That is the reason our President Linda Park has determined to follow the guidelines of the GTF constitution and to allow through our Executive Committee the input and advice from many wise and experienced Masters and Senior instructors to guide the way for the future development of the GTF.