Grandmaster Keum-Hong Lee Rememberedsubmitted by Kyosanim David Bayles
Tuesday, February 10, 2015, Chayon-Ryu celebrates Grandmaster Keum-Hong Lees birthday and shows its deep appreciation of his support for Chayon-Ryu and Grandmaster Kim Soo.
Grandmaster Kim Soo and Grandmaster Keum-Hong Lee trained together as young men in Korea. Grandmaster Kim was in junior high school and Grandmaster Lee was in senior high school at the time. Although older, Grandmaster Lee was junior in rank to Grandmaster Kim.
Within a few short months of Grandmaster Kim’s arrival in the US, he got word that Grandmaster Lee wanted to come to the United States to visit. Grandmaster Lee had no interest in establishing a school here or living here. He had never left the country and wanted to see the United States. Travel then was nothing like it is now. It was very difficult not only to leave South Korea, but to get in to the United States as well. A sponsorship or an invitation from a United States citizen was required to obtain a visa. Grandmaster Kim was not a US citizen and didn’t even have a place for him to stay. He was still sleeping in the vacant building that would become the downtown dojang. He was just able to eat using what little money he was getting from private lessons.
Through one of his connections, Frank Zakanini who had a school in Danbury CT, Grandmaster was able to get an invitation sent to Grandmaster Lee. After his arrival he and Grandmaster Kim rented and shared a small apartment in southwest Houston for his month long stay. They walked the area looking at other martial arts schools. Before he left to go back to South Korea, Grandmaster Lee offered Grandmaster Kim $4000.00 to start a school. In 1968, this was a LOT of money. It was offered as a gift, with no expectation of repayment or any strings attached. Grandmaster did not like the idea of taking the money, even if he were to eventually repay it and turned down his offer. Grandmaster Lee pressed him to take it, saying that he would need it someday. Grandmaster reluctantly accepted half.
When Grandmaster Lee returned one year later, the downtown dojang was open. Grandmaster Kim repaid the money that he had accepted. He had used a very small portion of it to remodel and open the dojang and made it back. When no one, not even Grandmaster’s family offered support or showed faith in what he wanted to do, Grandmaster Keum-Hong Lee did. Over the years, he and Grandmaster Kim remained friends. Whenever Grandmaster Kim returned to Korea, Grandmaster Lee would host him and the students that accompanied him. He would also visit Grandmaster Kim’s mother on her birthday and other occasions. For his faith, support, and friendship, Grandmaster is deeply grateful.