1960-1986 PDF Print E-mail

The Beginning

The American Moo-Do Kwan was founded by Jack Amsell. Mr. Amsell's childhood and youth were not pleasant. He learned to live in a very rough environment. He did poorly at school. He was not socially active. He was often the victim of bullies; as he lacked the self confidence to stand up in his own defense. Eventually, he associated with a very tough crowd, and he was accepted by them. His future was not very promising.

It was interesting that Mr. Amsell was accepted by Japanese-American youths. Most of them were second or third generation Americans. That meant that they still followed many traditions from their parent's homeland. This environment, plus the fact that Mr. Amsell was an outsider from typical American youth society, allowed him to develop as an occidental with oriental insights and values.

That set of circumstances lead him to pursue the oriental martial arts—like his friends, and it gave him the motivation to improve his life. Mr. Amsell studied Kendo, Shotokan Karate, and Aikido. He joined the Army. There he continued to study Kempo Karate and Okinawa-te. Nevertheless, he had yet to find a martial art that was the perfect fit. He found that in Korean Taekwondo. He began his involvement in Taekwondo while serving in the Army in Vietnam, and he continued during the time that he was a non-military electronics instructor for the Vietnamese military. He was able to successfully progress to the rank of Brown Belt before returning to the U.S. in 1972.

Mr. Amsell joined the Hewlett-Packard Company on his return home. Wanting to continue his Taekwondo practice; he began to train at his work, by himself, during his lunch time. Several people in his office decided to join in the training. The first three students were Don Maxwell, Terry Harris, and Lyle Sorensen. This was the birth of our system. In those days the class was called the Hewlett-Packard Taekwondo Club. While continuing to train himself; Mr. Amsell recognized his need to be trained by an expert. So, using his previous instructor's list of Southern California Taekwondo instructors as a basis, he began to interview several instructors. Finally, the perfect fit was found in Chan-Yong Kim.

Master Chan-Yong Kim

Master Kim, in those days he was called Champion Kim, operated a school in Gardena as part of the Dae-Myung system. Master Kim, a very charismatic instructor, taught his Taekwondo classes in the Oh-do-kwan style. That system was developed by General Choi Hong Hi and was the same as taught by the military in Vietnam.

Master Kim advocated a system that accepted all traditional oriental martial arts as worthy of study. Consequently, students in that economically depressed area of Los Angeles were treated to an eclectic diet of Taekwondo, Judo (Yudo, in Korean), and Hapkido. Back in the early ‘70's; the students were treated to a smorgasbord of styles. Also, Master Kim, his wife and three children lived in the back of the school. They supplemented the small income from the school by making Taekwondo uniforms. Yet, despite the hardships, those were happy days for the Kims and the dedicated students.

That was a time of very hard physical and psychological training. Mr. Amsell trained with some of the toughest and most dedicated practitioners in the U.S. oriental martial arts. Also, that was the time that Mr. Amsell was awarded his First Degree Black Belt. Additionally, Master Kim was beginning to become a significant influence in the Korean martial arts community.

The Oriental Moo-Do School

Master Kim felt the need to improve his family's life in America. He finally found a new location for his school in Artesia. Mr. Amsell continued training at Master Kim's dojang throughout the next few years. During that time, Master Kim changed the name of his school to the Oriental Moo-Do School, and his membership grew to several hundred students. Mr. Amsell assisted the Master in several roles. At the same time, Mr. Amsell continued to teach classes at his place of work. Also, he changed the name of the work-based martial arts club to the Hewlett-Packard Moo-Do Club. That way there was a better indication of the linkage between the two classes.

Master Kim and his son Jimmy became very active in the amateur sports program for Taekwondo. Jimmy became a very successful competitor, Master Kim was very active in officiating and Mr. Amsell undertook the task of administering the amateur sports program in California. By 1987, each person had developed his area of focus to a very high level. Jimmy Kim became the Olympic heavyweight champion in the 1988 Seoul Summer Games. Master Kim became an Olympic Referee and a member of the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) Technical Committee. Mr. Amsell became the Secretary-Treasurer of the California State Taekwondo Association (CSTA), and the Administrative Manager of the most financially successful National Taekwondo Championship in history. 

Fullerton YMCA

Coinciding with the activities at the Oriental Moo-Do School; a new martial arts class was established at the North Orange County YMCA in Fullerton. Classes began in March 1987. Jimmy Kim took on the role of instructor of the new class. Mr. Amsell also combined his HP Moo-Do Club with the YMCA regular members. Mr. Amsell partnered with Jimmy Kim to handle the workload of the YMCA and the Oriental Moo-Do School.

At the end of 1987, Jimmy Kim decided to dedicate his full efforts to the preparations for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Also, Mr. Amsell's five-year term of office for the CSTA was reaching completion. So, beginning in 1988, Mr. Amsell assumed complete responsibility for the class at the Fullerton YMCA.

American Moo-Do Kwan

Mr. Amsell felt that it was important to give the YMCA class its own identity. The students were asked to devise a name for the new school and to design an emblem. They were asked to reflect the school's philosophy in the name and emblem. American Moo-Do Kwan was selected as the name.

The meaning of the name is straight forward. We borrowed the name "Moo-Do", meaning martial art in Korean, from the Oriental Moo-Do School. This was to symbolize the philosophical heritage of our school and its deferential debt to Master Chan-Yong Kim. Also, it indicates that we study traditional oriental martial arts. "American" in the name refers to those unique and valuable qualities brought to the training by Americans. "Kwan" means system or style. Considered together, the name is a perfect representation of the school's philosophical foundation.

The School Emblem

The emblem was conceived by Mike E. Brown. Mike collected all of the recommendations of the students and the founder, and designed an emblem that is a synthesis of oriental and American graphical images.

The central shape is based upon the oriental concept of "Yin/Yang" ("Um/Yang" in Korean). Each of the two circulating, intertwined shapes represents the universal opposites in the universe such as "hot/cold", "life/death", "man/woman" or "hard/soft". Considered together, both shapes represent "Taegeuk", the Korean term for Universe. So, it easily portrays the idea that our school system features both "hard" and "soft" styles.

The "Taegeuk" symbol is broken into bands and is somewhat modified in shape. That indicates that strict oriental dogmatic philosophies have been modified by the joining of cultural influences. Of course, the colors, red, white and blue, represents that which is American.

The founding date is listed as 1972, rather than 1988. That is because our system really became an entity with the first Hewlett-Packard Taekwondo Club. And, even though we have changed greatly since that time, and we will continue to change over time, the heart of our system still lives in the founder.

Furthermore, our system does not carry the name of its founder. That is because of the philosophy of the founder. If his concept proves to be sound, then it will be carried on by his disciples. Therefore, the American Moo-Do Kwan is not the property of the founder. It is his legacy.

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