[EDITOR'S NOTE — Each week, this feature section, “Movers and Makers,” will feature the stories of the movers, launchers, entrepreneurs and makers who contribute to the vitality of the Mahoning Valley. This section is supported by our first community partner, Farmers National Bank.]
BOARDMAN — Grand Master Park, owner of Master Park Martial Arts International, is celebrating more than 50 years of instruction in various aspects of martial arts including taekwondo, hapkiyudo, karate, judo, jujitsu, dahn, krav maga, tai chi, kigong and hwarangdo.
The main focus of his programs is developing his students mentally, he said.
Grand Master Park told Mahoning Matters that he teaches martial arts as a way of life, and “not for fighting purposes.”
“I'm more focused on education and individual life improvement,” he said. “Physical training is one [aspect] — but mental discipline, spiritual discipline and also physical discipline [as they are] related together.”
Master Park Martial Arts International, 212 Boardman-Canfield Road, offers classes to a wide variety of ages, from toddlers to seniors, and has various programs including classes for family and seniors, self-defense programs and school programs including sports training.
Currently, Master Park Martial Arts International is running a summer camp and classes through August and various virtual classes.
He said more than 95 percent of his long-time students are straight-A students.
“I cannot say not enough, [Martial arts training aids in] education [by teaching] respect and [how to] calm down, how to be physically more relaxed and more flexible and building confidence. They can achieve their goal. This is whole-life training,” he said.
Grand Master Park grew up in Korea. He served in the special division of the Korean Army and has a degree and various licenses in engineering. He worked as a managing engineer for Samsung and moved to the United States in 1984 during a career transition.
His uncle, who was a master himself, influenced his start in martial arts at a young age.
According to Master Park Martial Arts International’s website, Grand Master Park has received various recognitions, such as special recognition of community dedication by the State of Ohio Senate General Assembly, letters from various U.S. governors, members of Congress, state representatives and senators, as well as letters from the Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama administrations.
Additionally, Grand Master Park has been instructing the Youngstown State University football team for 23 years, as well as local tennis, baseball and golf teams. He said he trains local police officers and does military training as well.
Just as Grand Master Park is commemorating a “golden era” with 50 plus years of instruction, karate is entering the Olympics for the first time this year and having a golden era of its own.
“Karate is really good,” he said. “Karate is the same as taekwondo, [in terms of] learning basics, how to use your hands, arms, legs and body. And not only using striking and kicking, but also defending [and] different techniques.”
“[Reaching the] grand master level, [takes] 30 to 40 years [or more of practice.]. They understand how to use their body and mind together [and are] more relaxed, and through the training [learn an] understanding [of] discipline and respect,” he explained. “Fighting is not the main goal, [rather], how to use their body properly and how to respect and in case something happens. Anybody that has a lot of training, they are really not hostile, and just more relaxed and calm and can solve the problems.”
Grand Master Park said right now, he’s fighting for more regulations in martial arts, noting there are no regulations, both statewide and nationwide, to be a martial arts instructor.
“There's no qualification, and anyone can open [a martial arts studio]. Even you, yourself can buy black belts.”
“I'm one of the top senior grand masters [globally] so I know what is going on and I'm going to change that not only locally and nationally, but internationally,” he said, noting unqualified trainers likely don’t understand the mental significance of the practice.