Sunday, March 21, 2010

Korean Martial Art Experiences: Competition Years

One of my 2010 projects is to share more of my Korean martial arts experiences. In March 2008, I noted how traditional martial arts practice was a great way to gain insights into Asian culture. LINK. As a new Black Belt (actually mid-night Blue in Tang Soo Do/ Soo Bahk Do), I once lived to compete. Based in my hometown in Honesdale, Pa. I traveled weekends across the East Coast. Some culture shock, too. Life in a sleepy rural community was very different from the NY Metro area. Surprising I did well in competition--part physical talent, part modeling the top fighters, part getting into Finals frequently so I was competing against the best, which in turn forced me to improve and stretch out of my comfort zone.

I was recently contacted by the Official Taekwondo Hall of Fame to share a short bio on my competition years. Here is what I shared.

Don Southerton Competition Years A Tang Soo Do (Soo Bahk Do) Moo Duk Kwan practitioner, Don Southerton began competing in 1975. Over the next five years his lead leg kicking style and uncanny flexibility became well known in the NY-NJ-PA-CT tournament scene. Southerton’s competition years include numerous lightweight division and grand champions wins including the Garden State Championships (NJ), Scranton Open (PA), and Academy of Karate Scholarship Championship (CT).

Following in their instructor’s footsteps, Southerton’s students, too, were successful competitors emulated the rapid-fire lead leg kick style. By 1981, Southerton had retired from competition to focus on teaching and operating a chain of martial arts schools in NY’s Mid-Hudson Valley. From 1983 to 1991, Southerton also served as coach/ chief instructor for the cadet martial arts program at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

In 2000, after 25 year teaching and managing martial schools in PA, NY, NJ, CT, FL, and CO Southerton turned his interests to writing and academia. Today he oversees Bridging Culture Worldwide (—a consulting firm focused on Korean global business. Frequently traveling to Korea and in spite of demanding international consulting practice, Southerton has continued to train daily, while researching and studying traditional Korea martial arts. Often recalling his competition years, Don has fond memories of the comradeship and strong friendships forged.

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