Choi Kwang Do instructors Mary Nzamba, center, and Jordan Leiva, right, lead a demonstration team from Kennesaw, Ga., through their techniques March 22 at the 27th annual Choi Kwang Do Seminar and Contest in Largo.
LARGO – The masters and students of a fairly new and American-made martial art form gathered in Largo for an international seminar and contest March 21-22.
“Choi Kwang Do is a unique martial arts system,” explained its founder Grand Master Kwang Jo Choi, who was in attendance. “It’s based on modern scientific principals, not only for practical self-defense, which everybody can learn, but also, the more important, (to) promote our health.”
The event celebrated the 27th anniversary of the martial art and honored the birthday of its founder. Choi, 72, still teaches seminars around the world, demonstrating the agility and power his system of training has allowed him to maintain. During this year’s seminar, he taught a class to senior citizens from the Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay, some in their 90s, and a class to a gymnasium full of black-belt students of all ages.
This year, the international seminar was held in Largo to help promote the Florida movement, which has only two schools in the state. That meant the seminar was smaller than the 2,000 to 3,000 people it usually attracts and included less demonstration teams.
“But they did a great job,” Choi said. “Personally, I love to come to Florida.”
The event, held at Christ the King Lutheran Church, was open to the public and hosted by the Choi Kwang Do school that practices there, headed by Robert “Master D” Defayette.
“It was a great success for us. I had several people already call, inquiring about the classes,” Defayette said. “Everyone’s pumped and excited about it. So that energy will help grow our school.”
Defayette’s school, called CKD Master D, meets in several locations, teaching adults, children, seniors and even stroke victims. During the weekend’s contest, his team of seven black-belt students ranged in age from 8 to 57, showing off what students who are still growing the art can do, though they
didn’t make it into the finals, Defayette said.
The accessibility of Choi Kwang Do is integral to its purpose. Choi was an adept taekwondo teacher in Southeast Asia before he had to stop due to a knee injury and back pain, he said. He came to the United States for treatment and in 1978 began to develop a new martial arts technique that would aid his recuperation and promote health, rather than show off toughness, he said.
It took him nine years to develop the technique, consulting with experts in human anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, psychology and neurophysiology, Choi explained.
Twenty-seven years later, Choi Kwang Do, with international headquarters in Atlanta, Ga., is taught in 40 different countries and regularly attracts converts who have trained in other martial art forms.
“We are growing very rapidly, actually, because of our concept,” Choi said.
The organization will expand with more schools in Florida in the next couple of years.