Published in the Warrandyte Diary, June 2014
Jong Park’s taekwondo journey began when he was only six years old.
The taekwondo instructor, who runs classes on Tuesdays at Anderson’s Creek Primary School, says he was forced to attend a taekwondo class after a girl beat him up at school.
“I came out of it with a blood nose and my dad wasn’t happy so he dragged me to a taekwondo class and at first I didn’t like it because I was shy and didn’t like the idea of hurting people,” the Korean-born instructor said.
“But it didn’t take long before I realised taekwondo wasn’t about hurting people or being aggressive. It‘s more about pursuing harmonised growth and improving yourself through spiritual and physical activity.”
‘Master Park’, as his students know him, started his classes in Warrandyte one year ago with only two kids. Now he is teaching around 70 locals and hopes to make Warrandyte the headquarters for his taekwondo school.
“I really like Warrandyte’s environment and atmosphere, it reminds me of when I was living in New Zealand and this place just feels right for me. I definitely see a future for myself in Warrandyte.”
Zhann Nesbitt was one of the first students who started Master Park’s classes at after school care at Anderson’s Creek Primary School one year ago.
The seven-year-old has his yellow belt and loves coming to the weekly classes.
“I am learning to defend myself in a way that is not about hurting others, it is not about fighting! Master Park also respects me and likes me, I like that,” he said.
Master Park says he uses taekwondo as a channel, teaching kids that it’s not only about training to become physically fit, but to teach them the principle of life and culture as an inherent system of fighting skills, which has been developed in the background of Korean culture.
His school, the Dream Army Youth Fitness Academy, also teaches meditation techniques, which he believes helps students gain inner peace, increase self-awareness and become grounded and calmer.
After seeing the difference the sport had on her four children who attend the classes, Kerry Todero asked Master Park to start an adult’s class in Warrandyte.
She has only been attending for a few weeks but already has her sights set on a black belt.
“It gives us a sense of empowerment and I’ve always wanted to do a martial art. I had this realisation that if I don’t do it now I never will,” she said.
“It’s fun – some of us are hopeless but it’s still good fun!”
Having grown up in Korea, Master Park moved to New Zealand with his family when he was 12 years old.
He went to the London and Beijing Olympics to assist the coach of the New Zealand team – an experience he says was “mind-blowing.”
“Taekwondo is the only martial arts that’s in Olympic games. It’s very dynamic using a lot of kicking with active motions and the principles of motion accord exactly with those of spiritual training and of life in the philosophical depth. This is why it is the most trained martial arts in the world,” Master Park said.
A work transfer brought him and his family to Australia four years ago, but it was his love for working with children that caused him to quit his corporate job of nine years and start his own taekwondo academy in Melbourne. It’s a decision he says was difficult at the time, but one he doesn’t regret.
“I wanted to go out there and work in the community. I love helping people. I wanted to pursue that dream and be living proof that you really can make it happen,” he said.
“This is why I call my academy the ‘Dream Army’ and I endeavour to empower my students to be the masters of their life.”
Visit http://www.dreamarmy.com.au for more information.