Jack L Amsell – 7th Dan – Chief Instructor
Jack Amsell became interested in oriental martial arts in the early 60’s. He was introduced to the concept of Yoga by his father, who had studied it in relation to his membership in the Masons and the Scottish Rite. He was fascinated by the metaphysical concepts of Pranayama Yoga and the health aspects of Hatha Yoga. Eventually, through friends in the Japanese community, he learned to appreciate the beauty of the Japanese culture and, of course, the Samurai.
Throughout his youth, He was shy, weak and overweight. It often made him the target of bullies and social ridicule. Because he lived in the westside area, he found acceptance by Japanese-American friends. Through them, he learned about Kendo, Japanese fencing; however, with them, Kendo was practiced without protective equipment. It was a rite of passage. A kind of macho test. Even though, Amsell often received welts and bruises, he never gave up. Eventually, he even learned to hold his own.
Amsell decide to begin formal Kendo training at the Sawtelle Dojo in West Los Angeles in 1962 under the tutaledge of Nakabara Sensei, the Shihan (Grandmaster). Studying Kendo was a major change to Amsell’s concept of studying. Before each class, the students washed and polished the wood floor. Beginning students accepted the role of servant in order to be able to participate in class. The training was very disciplined, physically and mentally demanding and formal. The training was exhausting, but quite fulfilling. In 1965, Amsell was drafted into the Army, trained as a radar technician, and was sent to Vietnam.
In Vietnam, Amsell could not find any Kendo or Shotokan Karate training classes, so in 1968, he changed martial arts styles to Taekwondo in a maintenance compound in Pleiku. The classes were really tough were taught in the evenings after work. The style was General Choi Hong Hi’s Oh-do-kwan. Amsell achieved the rank of 6th kub, Blue Belt. In 1969, he returned to the U.S. After returning home, he entered college and found a Taekwondo school in Santa Monica. That dojang closed after a short time, so Amsell was unable to continue his training.
In 1969, Amsell had a chance to return to Vietnam as a contractor, and, as a civilian, Amsell met Sydney Mills, a colleague, who also was a Taekwondo Black Belt. Amsell and Mills trained together on the roof of their apartment building until they discovered that there was a Taekwondo class being taught in a nearby medical dispensary. Those classes were excellent and very popular. Amsell advanced to the rank of 2nd kub Brown Belt. Amsell transferred to another location, an was able to find another instructor who gave him one-on-one training until Amsell returned to the U.S. as a newly promoted 1st kub, Brown Belt. More importantly, Mr. Han gave Amsell a letter of introduction to several Taekwondo instructors in the U.S.
in 1972, before finding an official dojang in the U.S., Amsell began training on his own at North Hollywood Hewlett-Packard (HP) office. That class, then known as the Hewlett-Packard Martial Arts Club, later moved to Los Angeles offices in Culver City and later Lawndale. Finally, he and his club relocated to Fullerton Office. He developed a totally new group of students and, from time to time, was even joined by instructors and practitioners of other styles. That club continued on until 1993. However, in parallel to self training at the HP club, and after investigating several Taekwondo dojang around the Los Angeles area, Amsell decide to join Master Chan-Yong Kim’s Dae-Myung Judo-TKD Academy USA in Gardena in 1972.
Master Kim’s philosophy and training methods were very close to those of which Amsell was familiar. The Gardena dojang had a very diverse population, and Master Kim had the charisma to bring everyone together. It was, in 1973, at the Gardena dojang, that Amsell received his 1st dan, Black Belt. In 1976, newly promoted Grandmaster Chan-Yong Kim moved his dojang to Artesiaand renamed it to the Oriental Moo-Do School (OMS), and Amsell served as Senior Instructor. He conducted classes for all levels of students under direction of Grandmaster Kim. Grandmaster Kim continued to promote Amsell, first to 2nd dan in 1977, and then to 3rd dan in 1982. In 1978, Amsell received a BA Degree inBusiness Administration/Behavioral Sciences majors from Cal State University/Dominguez Hills. Due to Amsell’s growth in the political aspects of TKD, he was awarded the Kukkiwon Instructor level rank of 4th dan in 1985. In 1987, Amsell left the OMS to concentrate on development of his own program at the Hewlett-Packard Moo-Do Club providing lunchtime training for HP employees.
In 1992, the director of the North Orange County YMCA asked Amsell to provide martial art classes for the members. Amsell was employed by YMCA as a part-time instructor until September 1992. Those classes were created to pursue in-depth studies of traditional martial arts training for adults. Later, they included children and other community services such as self-defense clinics. The club name changed to American Moo-Do Kwan (AMK)in 1992 and was redefined as an independent contractor in October 1992. While Amsell was conducting classes at the YMCA, Grandmaster Nam-Ku Yun agreed to became his new mentor. In 1993, Amsell moved from the YMCA to create his first commercial school in the Anaheim/Fullerton area. During 1992, he was promoted to the Kukkiwon Master rank of 5th dan.
In 1993, Amsell opened that first commercial school in a shopping center located in the heart of Fullerton on Orangethorpe Avenue, near the HP facility where he worked. It was a wonderful school with provisions for training in multiple martial arts. Unfortunately, its main customer base came from a low-income area of Anaheim, so that school could not generate enough revenue and so it ended up closing two years later. From there, Amsell soon found a new location in La Habra at a shopping center near his home. It also was a very well equipped school that attracted many high quality, dedicated students. That school was impacted by facing a number of economic problems when three other martial art schools opened nearby. In addition, that center went through a renovation project that escalated the rental and insurance costs. The school was forced to close due to the significant economic hardship, and so Amsell was force to return to corporate employment.
After closing the La Habra school to return to industry for engineering employment, Amsell began teaching classes in 1997, first at Hughes Space and Communications. Later, when Hughes was sold and divided between Boeing Satellites and Raytheon Systems, Amsell reorganized the employees’ activity to be the Boeing/Raytheon/DirecTV Martial Arts Club (BMAC). These were company-sponsored clubs similar to Hewlett-Packard. In 1997, Amsell was promoted to the Kukkiwon Master rank of 6th dan. In 2001, Amsell received a BA Degree inBusiness Administration/Behavioral Sciences majors from Cal State University/Dominguez Hills. Increase business in 2001 forced Boeing to return its employee martial art club to a business function, so the employee members and some former students from La Habra asked Amsell to continue teaching them somewhere else. Consequently, he began to teach classes at his home in La Palma.
As it became difficult to teach at home, Amsell made a cooperative arrangement with the La Palma Recreation Department in December 2001 to teach community classes and give a discount to former students and instructors. In 2003, Amsell was promoted to the Kukkiwon Grandmaster rank of 7th dan. In 2005, Amsell continued his formal college-level schooling and received a Project Management Certification from Calfornia Institute of Technology extension program through Boeing in El Segundo.That became the continuous home until 2022 when the community center closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than end his classes serving dedicated students, Amsell switched to virtual training over Zoom where it has been ever since.
Finally, even though not directly related to teaching, it is important to note that Amsell became actively involved in Taekwondo organized sports. To support President Chan-Yong Kim, he was elected as an officer in the California State Taekwondo Association (CSTA). During his term as Secretary/Treasurer, from 1982 to 1988, he administered the 13th U.S. National Taekwondo Championship in 1987. Developed first EPD system for CSTA. Grew CSTA to largest state association in United States Taekwondo Union (USTU). Established CSTA as a non-profit organization. He also served as CSTA Executive Director from 1992-1995. In September of 1991, he was the Coordinator of Los Angeles Dodgers Korean Family Day Demonstration for Master Kwang Bae Kim (362 demonstrators, major media coverage, national TV coverage).
In 1992, he joined together with several California instructors to form the United Taekwondo Fellowship, Inc. (UTF) and servered as Executive Director. Responsibilities included: business manager for organization, established non-profit corporation, developed corporate bylaws, organized and administered California State Games Taekwondo venue (1993-1994), established business plans and budgets for organization, re-established state-of-the-art electronic data processing (EDP) system, and worked with UTF Membership and Executive Committees to define needs. He served in that role until 1999. Following that, he served as Rank and Promotions Director until 2001.
Dissatisfied with the actions of the UTF, Amsell, along with Prof. Robert Zambetti, formed the Anasazi Martial Arts Council (AMAC) in 2002. Amsell was the Executive Director, supporting President Zambetti of the AMAC operated with the highest ethics and hosted several high quality tournaments. It created and trained high quality referees for the Pac-West Collegiate Taekwondo Conference (PacWest) intercollegiate organization from 2004-2009.
Terry L Owens – 5th Dan – Senior Instructor
Terry Owens was born in Meridian, Mississippi on October 3rd, 1960, and moved to Los Angeles, California in 1970. He is one of eight children, including his late twin, Jerry, born to parents, Robert, and Carrie Owens. After graduating from Locke High School, he matriculated to the University of Southern California where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering in 1983 and joined the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. He was hired at Hughes/Raytheon Company in 1983, and currently holds the title of Senior Principal Engineer and recently surpassed 40 years of service.
Terry and his bride, Terri, were married in 2001 and together have raised daughters Karina and Mya. Terry and his wife joined New Antioch COGIC (NAC) in 2010 and have been members since. Terry serves as the Assistant to the Chairman for the Deacon’s Board, the Editor-in-Chief for the NAC Christian Proclaimer quarterly newsletter, and a team member for the Monthly Feeding outreach. Terry also enjoys singing bass/tenor with the Golden Voices choir and participating in Sunday School and Leadership Development training.
Terry joined the Hughes/Raytheon Martial Arts Club in 1999 and advanced to 4th degree Black Belt in 2010 under the stewardship of Master Jack Amsell of the American Moo Do Kwan (AMK) dojang. He was actively involved in assistant teaching at the Boeing/Raytheon Employee Martial Art Club throughout its entire duration. He also has been an assistant instructor at the La Palma Martial Art Program from its beginning.
Furthermore, He actively participated as a referee in the collegiate-level Pac West program. He continues to support the AMK’s vision and participates in an in-active role by providing counsel to Master Amsell and helping to edit training materials. He was graciously awarded a 5th degree Black Belt in 2021. He now serves as the Senior Instructor for the AMK to counsel and guide junior instructors and senior students.
Vicky A Tanner – 1st Dan – Assistant Instructor
Vicky joined our program in 1980 when we were the Hewlett-Packard Martial Art Club in Hawthorne. She also participated in our parent organization, the Oriental Moo-Do School, to participate in testing. Eventually, she moved up through the ranks to become a 1st gup Red/Black Belt several years later.
I moved to the HP Fullerton office in the early ’90s, so Vicky was not able to continue her active training; however, she maintained contact all along. In the meantime, she suffered some personal and physical challenges that forced her to stop her training completely. In 2015, she decided to try to return to the training in La Palma, even though she had to travel from Hawthorne. Unfortunately, she was unable to train consistently, so she stopped training.
In 2018, she decided that she really needed to train seriously, and perhaps try for her Black Belt. She needed to recover from some ongoing physical disabilities, and she felt that the training was critical to her continuing recovery. She trained consistently in our adult-oriented classes until our classes were cancelled because of the pandemic mid-year of 2020. Just as many of our students did, she continued to train over Zoom.
In addition, she was concerned about the well-being of her brother, Preston. Therefore, she worked diligently to support his efforts to overcome personal challenges which was highlighted by his stepping up to speak out publicly to save our program at the La Palma Community Center. She was instrumental in bringing him out of his physical and mental challenges. That is in line with the principles that have guided our program since the beginning.
May 2022, our class participated in the La Palma City Council meeting to try to save our program. At that meeting, with Vicky’s encouragement, Preston joined in to speak up along with the other members. We all believed that he would be too shy to speak, but he gave a heartfelt narrative and explained how the training helped him to break from his physical and mental shell. Just like Vicky, he clearly portrayed how the training changed him. He explained how he had grown exponentially both physically and mentally through the training. Everyone was totally moved by his speech.
Our American Moo-Do Kwan (AMK) program has had to face tremendous adversity and subsequent challenges since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. Even though we were unsuccessful in saving our class at the Community Center in 2022, we focused on continuing the training over Zoom. During such times of adversity many people just give up; however, not our AMK family. Vicky was a beacon of that indomitable spirit. She never missed classes. Without fail, she trained during the week, including Saturdays. She maintained a positive attitude every step along the way. She felt that her brother needed to continue his training, and she was a cheerleader for all other students. Above all, she was intent on achieving the Black Belt that had been her goal for more than forty years.
Saturday, March 4, we held a special banquet at the Shenandoah restaurant in Los Alamitos to celebrate Vicky’s promotion to Black Belt and for several others who earned new ranks and awards as well. Several of our members are older and suffer from personal challenges. Nevertheless, they soldiered on to improve their technical, mental, and spiritual growth. They are the perfect representatives of the martial art indomitable spirit, and Vicky, with her new promotion, became an inspiration to all. The event was a meaningful blending of several of our members’ families who are dedicated to supporting our honorees.
Vicky’s brother-in-law, Roger, a fellow Vietnam Vet, noted how our training, like the combat experience that he had, helped Vicky and others grow as he had. Several members of Vicky’s family commented on how much they were inspired by both Vicky’s and Preston’s achievements over these past few years and looked forward to their continued successes and growth. They were thrilled by her promotion, and they were equally impressed by Preston’s growth. So many of Vicky’s family members mentioned how much her training in a traditional form of martial art training inspired each of them to live a better life as well. That was certainly a testament to her contributions through the training and speaks to her continuation of service as a new Black Belt leader.