By Niomi Pearson – Ladysmith Chronicle
Grand Master Kim Teh can still recall the insurmountable feeling of competing in the first World Taekwondo Championships in Korea in 1973. At only 26 years old, Teh had already earned his third degree black belt and was at the pique of his physical competitiveness. He would lead his team to a sixth place finish that day.
“We were proud that we had attained a standard that we could compete with on the world stadium,” he said. “It was quite a privilege to be chosen. At that time I was living in Singapore, so I was chosen as team captain, and I competed among 20 nations. It was a nice feeling.”
Teh said he had just returned from a trip to Korea in June to receive his eighth dan (degree) black belt certification when he received a call from Taekwondo Hall of Fame founder Gerard Robbins, giving him the news that he had been inducted into the Hall of Fame in for his participation in the tournament.
The Taekwondo Hall of Fame was created in 1999, and is an international organization of comprised technical advisors that is responsible for identifying, recognizing and honoring persons and groups who have significantly contributed to the development, growth, and advancement of Taekwondo as a martial art and global sport.
Teh was flown out for the official Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Kukkiwon, also known as taekwondo headquarters, on August 25.
“It was huge because I didn’t expect it in the first place and I got to see people I have not seen for 38 years, and people I competed with,” he said.
Though he no longer competes, Teh has dedicated himself full time to passing on his mastery of taekwondo at his dojang, Outreach Martial Arts in Ladysmith for the last 22 years. He is also responsible for developing taekwondo into programs at Vancouver Island University, where he teaches once a week.
Teh said he first became interested in taekwondo as a form of self-defense against the bullies at school, but quickly learned of its other benefits.
“I became addicted to the exercise and conditioning,” he said. “It became a passion for me.”
In addition to building character, physical fitness and respect for others, taekwondo operates on the five tenants of courtesy, integrity, self-control, perseverance, and indomitable spirit.
“It is a very good program for kids that are growing up and looking for some kind of conditioning regimen,” Teh said. “It is a good supplement to other sports like hockey, and baseball.”
Teh will be eligible to return to Korea for the ninth and final dan black belt in nine years. To earn that belt he will have to sit through a theory test, an interview and write a thesis on how he has contributed to the sport.
“Nine years is a long time,” he said. “I’ll take one day at a time to see how I can promote taekwondo.”
Teh said he would like to work on incorporating Taekwondo into the elementary and high school systems.