Master Jack L. Amsell PDF Print E-mail
Image The Beginning
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. Jack Amsell 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, Jack Amsell was shy, weak and overweight. It often made him the target of bullies and social ridicule. So, as often happens, he was attracted into the protective sphere of juvenile gangs. Of course, gangs back in the 50’s and 60’s were different then today. They were more like social activities, even though there were sometimes the enivitable “rumbles”, there was a basic code of honor among gangs. Because Jack Amsell lived in the South Bay area, he found acceptance by Japanese-American tough guys, known as yogare. Through them, he learned about Kendo, Japanese fencing.

To Amsell’s yogare pals, 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 held his own. He became fascinated by the combative arts. In fact, most of his school years were spent avoiding sports. Once he began to practice these sparring contests, Amsell even volunteered to participate in the Senior Wrestling tournament at his alma mater, Venice High School. Initially, he was ridiculed for joining the event, but he ended up surprising everyone by beating star members of the football team and even finished second in his division. This experience changed Amsell.

Formal Martial Arts Training

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. After about three years of training, Amsell became interested in Shotokan Karate. Amsell had just enrolled in Hidetaka Nishiyama’s International Shotokan Karate Federation (ISKF), when was drafted into the Army. He then trained to be a radar technician and eventually was sent to Vietnam.


In Vietnam, Amsell changed martial arts systems. He could not find any Kendo or Shotokan Karate training classes, although he did try out Okinawa-te Karate for a short time. Finally, in 1967, he was introduced to Taekwondo, being taught by Mr. Kim, a Korean contracter to the Army, in a maintenance compound in Pleiku. Those classes were really tough. They were taught in the evenings after work, and they were two hours in length. Classes were taught in a warehouse on cement floors. The style was General Choi Hong Hi’s Oh-do-kwan. Amsell was in that class for two years and achieved the rank of 4th kub, Blue Belt. In 1969, Amsell’s tour was complete and he returned to the U.S.

Back in the U.S., Amsell entered college to study electronics and found a Taekwondo school that had just opened in Santa Monica. The Santa Monica dojang had three instructors who had just immigrated to the U.S., but that school closed after a short time. Consequently, Amsell was not able to continue his training, however that training included Amsell’s first taste of Taekwondo sparring. Near the end of 1969, Amsell had a chance to return to Vietnam as a contractor, and he accepted that position.

Once back in Saigon, Vietnam, 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. The classes were taught by a Sargeant Park and a Captain Kim of the ROK Army. These classes were excellent and very popular. Amsell advanced to the rank of 2nd kub Brown Belt. Amsell transferred to another location, and was able to find another instructor, Mr. Han, who gave him one-on-one training until Amsell returned to the U.S. Amsell left Vietnam 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.


Oriental Moo-Do School – Chan-Yong Kim

After investigating several Taekwondo dojang around the Los Angeles area, Amsell decide to join Master Chan-Yong Kim’s Oriental Moo-Do School in Gardena. Master Kim’s philosophy and training methods were very close to those of which Amsell was familiar. In addition, both people seemed to have a close personal connection. Also, Amsell’s new wife, being Vietnamese, felt very comfortable around the Kim family—Wonja, Jimmy, Jenny and Susan. 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.

Senior instructor for Master Chan-Yong Kim, Oriental Moo-Do School, Artesia, CA. Conducted class for all levels of students under direction of Grandmaster Kim. Left to concentrate on development of AMK. Chief instructor of Hewlett-Packard Moo-Do Club. Lunch time training for HP employees. Club name changed to American Moo-Do Kwan in 1987.

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