Master Liam Dandy

Master Dandy, promoted to 7th degree black by the founder of Taekwon-Do, General Choi, has spent most of his life training, instructing and promoting ``the art of the hand and foot''. Instructor at Dublin North East Taekwon-Do School on Collins Avenue, his promotion before Christmas brings the number of Taekwon-Do masters in Ireland to three. All of the masters are members of the International Taekwon-Do Federation and its representative Irish body, the Republic of Ireland Taekwon-Do Association (RITA).

Asked how he feels about now being among the elite rank of 7th degree black belt, along with Master Robert Howard, RITA president, and Master Anthony Phelan, he says Taekwon-Do has taught him to admit when he is wrong. "I am not always right," he says.

He is adamant that, as a master, he is still learning and the promotion will mean more responsibility, and leading by example. "If I claimed I knew it all and even if I did know it all, it would become very boring for me.

"One of the original Irish practitioners of the art, he remembers the time when Taekwon-Do was born in Ireland in the late sixties as one when there was little awareness of any of the martial arts until two visiting Koreans introduced their art to a karate school in Mountjoy Square, Dublin. Then Taekwon-Do became established through the efforts of Grandmaster Rhee, who visited from England every month. ``That was when the whole thing kickstarted. He trained us very hard. He had trained the American forces. He was also a chief instructor in Singapore on the RAF bases. He was very military at the time and that was the way he trained us.

'' Although the training was very hard, Master Dandy found himself progressing through the ranks. ``I never thought I would every see myself becoming a master or anything like it. I was just drawn along by the current and found myself more and more interested...I just kept going''. He remembers the importance of learning control, stopping with your attacking tool _ bare fist or bare foot _ a hairsbreadth from the target. "Grandmaster Rhee instilled the art of control in us...I have heard someone say it is more important to control your own actions than exercise control over somebody else's.

'' Later he was instrumental in the development of the RITA's Wexford school after being sent there as the official instructor by Grandmaster Rhee in 1973, and he was also an instructor in Enniscorthy and Waterford, all of which are now thriving schools.

His last physical test for a degree was at 6th degree level, after which he had to wait for seven years to be eligible for 7th degree. Then what he did for Taekwon-Do had to be assessed, he had to attend certain international courses and his previous gradings and how active he was within the art were taken into account. If the RITA has any doubts, then the 7th degree is not awarded.

But all the degrees, from first to ninth, are important. Master Dandy points out that there could not be a masters degree without a first degree. Some of the degrees have a two-year waiting period, others a three-year one. He says this is to ensure that practitioners' mental development, embodied inthe tenets of the art (courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit) runs parallel to their physical development. "The martial art is not about winners. Some people think that you have to be a great fighter to be a martial artist. You don't".

"The mentality is very important. Sometimes it's only after years of practice in the martial arts that you realise the mental aspect of it," Master Dandy added.

Part of his secret is that he trains most days, except weekends. "Even at home I'm stretching and doing essential exercises for Taekwon-Do. If, at some time, you decide not to train, then you go backwards instead of forward."

Master Dandy 2006"It's important, no matter what age you are, to keep in shape, especially when you are teaching. How can you teach when you are not in touch?," he asks

Master Dandy, a father of four and also a grandfather, acknowledges the role that his wife, Rita, has played in supporting him and going through "thick and thin". "When I was a national coach and going away to Malaysia and Germany, she always made sure that I was at the airport in time. There was no such thing as 'do not go'.

" He has no favourite technique although he used to enjoy punching two inches of parana pine from a standing position ``and jumping over ten people and breaking a target''.

"The movements are there to be mastered. You should never give up. There is always something to be learnt."

By Eibhir Mulquee

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In Memoriam

Gen Choi Hong Hi
Founder of Taekwon-Do
1918 - 2002

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