The year 2009 marks Grandmaster Andy Ah Po's 50th anniversary as a Tang Soo Do practitioner. The following article was written by him to articulate how martial arts, particularly Tang Soo Do, had a profound affect on his entire life:
To say that martial arts, particularly my involvement in Tang Soo Do over the past 50 years, has merely had a positive affect on my life would be a tremendous understatement. The fact is that my involvement in the martial arts has had a profound affect and impact throughout my entire life.
Although, I first began training in martial arts at age six (6) my family and I were relegated to living close to poverty and in rough neighborhoods throughout my youth in Hawaii. As a result, I became involved in gangs and experienced a considerable amount of turmoil as a teenager. However, because of strong cultural and family values as well as the discipline that I was exposed to in my youth through my martial arts training, I was able to recognize that I needed to leave that environment if I was ever going to be able to make something of myself. Consequently, I joined the United States Air Force and left my beloved Hawaii in 1959.
It was while I was stationed at McClelland Air Force Base in Sacramento, California in 1959 that I met my first Tang Soo Do instructor Mr. Mariano Estioko (currently Grandmaster of the Western Pacific Tang Soo Do Association). I later became a direct student of the late Great Grandmaster Hwang Kee, founder of the Korean Tang Soo Do (Soo Bahk Do) Moo Duk Kwan Association. I was also a founding member of the U.S. Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan, Federation, Inc. and served in several official capacities during my 27 years with that organization, until I founded the Tang Soo Do Martial Way Association, Inc. in 2002.
From the very beginning of my training and exposure to Tang Soo Do, I was heavily influenced by its discipline which provided me with the purpose and structure that I needed in my life. I was also taught strong core values such as those reflected by "The Ten Articles of Faith" and have been positively affected by its overall philosophy and principles.
These principles and philosophy I feel have and continue to be reflected in my various accomplishments over the years not only in the martial arts but also as a husband, father of five children, grandfather, college graduate with advanced degrees, Executive Administrator of a major State of California Department of Social Services Program, Advocate for the rights of Native Hawaiians and other Asian/Pacific Islander Americans, Business Owner, Head of an International Tang Soo Do Martial Arts Organization, and appointee to several state and federal Boards and Commissions over the years by three California Governors and former U.S. Presidents... not bad for a rough necked kid from Hawaii whose sixth grade teacher predicted that I would either be dead or in jail by the time I turned 21.
Her prediction, of course, was not realized because of the discipline, direction and philosophy that has and continues to influence me throughout my many years of martial arts training and involvement in Tang Soo Do, in addition to the strong cultural values that were originally imparted to me by my family and culture and through my religious beliefs.