When Grandmaster Hee II Cho created his worldwide Martial Arts Assoc, the Action International Martial Arts Assoc, in 1980 his vision was to build an innovative and leading martial arts organisation that would steadily expand in size, knowledge and support for it’s members. The AIMAA is now over twenty five years old and has grown to include associations and members in the US, Canada, India, through out Europe and a large contingent here in the UK.
For years Grandmaster Cho has travelled throughout the world leading seminars on Tae Kwon Do, attended by thousands of Martial Arts students during this time. The AIMAA has now held two major World Championships, which were attended by teams from as far a field as India and South
America. I recently spoke with Grandmaster Hee II Cho’s longest serving student and AIMAA’s Technical Director Master Philip Ameris, a 7th
Degree Black Belt, about why the association has grown and become so successful throughout the world.
Thank you for talking with me sir, the AIMAA has now been in existence since 1980 and in this time you have been a senior student of its founder Grandmaster Hee il Cho. How have you seen it grow and develop in this time? Thank you for this opportunity. It has been an honour and privilege to be with Grandmaster Cho and the AIMAA since 1980. From Grandmaster Cho’s pioneering vision I have witnessed the AIMAA grow to one of the world’s most respected Martial Arts organisations. They say the best way to learn is from example and with Grandmaster Cho as our leader we could have no better example of what the true essence of a Martial Artist really means.
Over the years I have seen Grandmaster Cho and the AIMAA grow in so many ways. When I first began training with Grandmaster Cho the emphasis was really focused on fighting, of course we did the Hyungs and One Step as well as all the other Tae Kwon Do techniques but we fought and we fought hard. As the years passed Grandmaster Cho told all his instructors that Tae Kwon Do is for everyone and although fighting is a very important aspect of training we had to be open-minded and make our classes so that anyone could train. At his time Grandmaster Cho really began to incorporate into the classes the importance of health, he designed a class that would address total fitness through Tae Kwon Do training.
Scientific strength and stretching and endurance exercise were incorporated into each training session.
Being one never to stagnate Grandmaster Cho also began to emphasise the importance of martial arts philosophy. How training in martial arts is a positive metaphor for living.
Why do you feel the AIMAA has been so successful? Again, I feel the success of the AIMAA is by the example set by Grandmaster Cho. A few years ago I had the pleasure of accompanying Grandmaster Cho to an event called Masters of the Martial Arts. This event was sponsored by movie star Wesley Snipes. Mr Snipes paid tribute to some of the worlds most recognised Martial Arts Masters. It was truly a wonderful experience to be in the company of such legends as Grandmaster Bong Soo Han, GM Jhoon Rhee, GM Fumio Demura, GM Tak Kubota and kickboxing legend Benny the Jet Urquidez, as well as all those honoured at the event.
During the rehearsal for the TV broadcast one of the masters asked Grandmaster Cho why after all these years he was still training so hard?
What was left to accomplish? You have been inducted into every martial arts hall of fame and are known throughout the world as one of the world’s true martial arts legends. Why put your body through all this at your age? Grandmaster Cho answered simple and direct – for my students! This is what the AIMAA is all about. Train your body, develop your mind!
Have you noticed any major changes in Grandmaster Cho over the time you have known him? Grandmaster Cho holds all the great traditional qualities of the martial arts but he is also known as a visionary who isn’t afraid of developing new ideas. Can you expand on this?
Tradition in the Martial Arts is of utmost importance, what is tradition? An attitude of respect; Respect for your art, respect for your instructor and respect for yourself. Tradition does not mean one does not continue to grow. Tradition is a mindset of honour for character development. These things never go out of style. There are certain codes of ethics in the tradition of martial arts that should never be abandoned. Things like loyalty to your instructor, bowing and the code of conduct in the do-jang is of the utmost importance and every martial arts school should uphold these principles.
Without the code of conduct you have nothing but a fighting art, Martial Arts are more than fighting. As I stated before Grandmaster Cho feels
Martial Arts are to empower ones life and to enhance every aspect of living. Developing new ideas such as training or teaching methods is part of the evolution of life. Grandmaster Cho has been known as a traditional master who never abandons his art but through research and continual training enhanced Tae Kwon Do for students world wide.
Grandmaster Cho has incorporated many boxing skills into the AIMAA syllabus and you have been at the forefront of introducing grappling and ‘street’ self defence into the syllabus. What are the main benefits of this for the students? Again we must continue to grow. Grandmaster Cho boxed in his youth, he knew the effectiveness of a boxers hand techniques, he saw the need to incorporate them into his syllabus so that in a real street self defence situation his students would be more prepared to handle such an attack.
The Grappling that has been introduced into the AIMAA curriculum is for the same reason. If we claim to teach our students self-defence we must be able to have the knowledge how to defend against any type of street attack, whether standing or on the ground. Does this mean we no longer teach the Hyungs, One Step or our Tae Kwon Do syllabus? Absolutely not.
Never abandon your base, just add things and continue to improve. In the past I have had both a positive and negative experiences when I teach a grappling seminar. First off the techniques are extremely effective and students really enjoy learning them, but almost every time the question comes up what is the most effective, grappling or striking.
Grandmaster Cho incorporated boxing and grappling into our syllabus to make a more realistic approach to self-defence. Students should not get caught up or jump from style to style, trying to learn the next fad that has come up in the Martial Arts. People should look at grappling and boxing as part of the complete AIMAA curriculum.
You have also developed a women’s self defence syllabus RAPE DEFENCE, can you Tell us a little bit about this?
In addressing women’s needs it was important to be realistic in our approach. What RAPE DEFENCE stands for is REAL ATTACK PREVENTION
EFFECTIVELY. This course deals much more than learning a few self-defence techniques, it goes into the mind of a rapist how to deal with the violent state of the attacker and how to verbally attempt to neutralise his attack. Rape defence teaches more of an awareness and prevention common sense approach to defending the attack of a rapist. In our rape defence program we give a straight forward approach to the most effective way to prevent, defend and deal with this type of horrific attack.
What have been the highlights of your time as an AIMAA master/ Student of Grandmaster Cho? I would literally need a book, or for that matter, an encyclopaedia for all the great and wonderful experiences I have had being a student of Grandmaster Cho. I have been blessed to be able to witness first hand a true master of the Martial Arts and what he represents. Both on and off the Dojang floor Grandmaster Cho is the personification of excellence. His work ethic to improve his art, his devotion to his students will never be matched. I thank God that over twenty-five years ago he led me to train with this incredible man.
Being with Grandmaster Cho has given me the opportunity to travel around the world and see and meet some outstanding Martial Artists.
What are your hopes for the AIMAA in the next, say, ten years? I would hope that in the next ten years the AIMAA will continue to grow. Not only in numbers but more importantly in the aspect of preserving the tradition that Grandmaster Cho has set, never to abandon the principles that the AIMAA was formed upon. I look forward to all the events that we have planned over the next ten years and meeting every member world wide.
Thank you for talking with me sir.
It was my pleasure. Thank you. I would also like to give my best to all the AIMAA Scotland members and look forward to training with them in the future.
Karim Belgacem is a third degree black belt and National Instructor within AIMAA Scotland. AIMAA is led in Scotland by Master John Kirkwood, fifth degree black belt who was appointed Scottish National Director by Grandmaster Hee II Cho.