In 1997, Grand Master Sung Keun Yoo opened a small, second floor martial arts studio on North Broadway in Tarrytown. After ten years, with his business growing, Yoo was looking to move to a ground floor location on Main Street. He planned to move to a small space when the landlord showed him a much bigger location at 10 Main Street. “The landlord contacted me and showed me the place,” said Yoo. “It was a little too big and the rent was too high, but it was a challenge so I accepted his offer.”
It’s no surprise that Yoo accepted the challenge and has succeeded in the Main Street location for the past 12 years. Many years earlier he accepted an invitation from Grand Master Yeon Hwan Park, a ninth-degree black belt, undefeated Korean national Tae Kwon Do champion and former coach of the U.S. Olympic and Pan-American Tae Kwon Do team, to leave Korea and come teach at his Levittown, New York, studio.
Now, after twenty-two years as Yoo’s Martial Arts, Grand Master Yoo changed the name of his studio to Hong Ik Martial Arts. “For ten years beginning in 1997, I studied to improve myself,” noted Yoo. “From 2007 to 2107, I had the opportunity to train students who became Masters themselves. And since 2017, we opened new studios in Westchester – New Rochelle and Bronxville – and in New Jersey – Fairlawn and Mahwah – to share our knowledge with even more students. In Korean, Hong Ik means ‘to spread benefits widely.’ It is the Korean national ideology to spread benefits widely for all humanity.”
What makes Master Yoo and Hong Ik’s teaching style unique can be seen in the meaning of the logo you see when entering the studio. “The logo is the sign of three different energies harmonizing,” Yoo pointed out. “The red is the energy of heaven, blue is the energy of earth, and yellow is the energy of humans. The Sunbird is a living symbol of these three united energies.” He went on to explain that energy from the heaven provides spiritual energy, energy from the earth provides physical energy, and human energy is what allows us to cultivate the energy provided by heaven and earth and ultimately use it to help others. “That system of teaching is what we emphasize. Through the teaching and physical training, we constantly have students feel the energy connection, not just with themselves and Mother Nature but also their peers.”
We all know the physical benefits martial arts training provides, but Yoo emphasized that the spiritual and leadership benefits are equally important. “Most kids have no idea what martial arts are when they start; they’re just having fun,” he continued. “But many parents bring kids here because they may have been bullied, or they’re having difficulty focusing, or emotional conflicts with siblings or parents. With each belt they earn, they’ve learned a new principal. White is for respect, yellow for humility, orange for perseverance, green for self-control, blue for honesty, purple for concentration, red for belief, brown for Do, and Tae Kwon Do and black for conquer. But conquer in the spirit of becoming more humble.”
But it’s more than just kids who can benefit from Yoo’s martial arts training. Hong Ik has students from 4– to 68–years–old. They have teen classes, adult classes, and family classes. Yoo even teaches a class for adults called Tai Chi-Qigong which combines meditation, stretching, non-impact martial arts, and Ki-Gong or internal energy.
As one Ki-Gong student said, “Practicing Qigong has made me a better person physically and spiritually. Integrating it into my daily routine has improved my flexibility and core strength. It is a beneficial tool for relaxing and dealing with stress.”
If you’re looking for ways to improve your body, mind and spirit, visit Grand Master Yoo and Hong Ik Martial Arts.