Grandmaster Ah Po currently wears a Midnight Blue Dan belt with a Gold rather than "Red" stripe running through the middle. The reason for this is that after forming the Tang Soo Do Martial Way Association, Inc. (formerly the Tang Soo Do Moo Do Kwan Association, Inc.) several of his senior students at the Ko Dan Ja (Master Instructor) level indicated that they were not comfortable with him wearing a belt that was identical to what they wore because they now acknowledged him as their Kwan Jang Nim and also as their Grandmaster. They, therefore, asked him to consider wearing a different belt that would be symbolic of this and that would establish this distinction.
At first, Grandmaster Ah Po was reluctant to do so and also repeatedly asked his senior students and the members of the association not to address him as Grandmaster. In fact, he never addresses or identifies himself in this way even though he is our Kwan Jang Nim and is also currently the personal instructor of at least three individuals who are recognized currently as Grandmasters and also Kwan Jang Nim of their own Tang Soo Do organizations. This, heretofore, is unprecedented in Tang Soo Do history.
After continued insistence by his most senior students, Grandmaster Ah Po finally agreed to wear a different belt, but only if they were able to associate the colors of the belt to both the very special relationship he had with the late Great Grandmaster Hwang Kee and also to traditional Tang Soo Do martial arts philosophy. For a complete understanding and explanation as to why he chose to continue to wear a midnight blue belt and why he chose to use a gold stripe, please refer to the Association Kwan Gi (flag/banner) Description section of this website.
It should be noted that the wearing of this belt by Grandmaster Ah Po in no way reflects his personal Tang Soo Do philosophy in that it does not for him represent an attitude that he is better than or has more knowledge and experience than any of the other current Tang Soo Do Grandmasters, or any of his seniors, peers or juniors. In fact, for those that have met him over the years we are sure that you have found him to be quite approachable as well as humble and also true to his nickname as the Godfather of Tang Soo Do".
For those individuals who may be inclined to question our rationale for asking Grandmaster Ah Po to wear a belt that we feel is befitting of his ranking and overall stature in the Tang Soo Do community at large, or who might see this as a deviation from Tang Soo Do history and tradition we can only respond by reminding you that the late Great Grandmaster Hwang Kee made several changes similar to this over the many years that he continued to develop the martial art of Tang Soo Do while he was still living.
Some examples include establishing an Orange Belt at the Gup level, changing the Black Belt and uniform trimming to midnight blue, and instituting a Ko Dan Ja belt with red stripe. In addition, with regard to the late Grandmaster's official title, his students originally referred to him as "Master Hwang Kee" up until the mid 1970's when he first began addressing some of them as "Master". This, of course, later gave rise to their eventually recognizing and addressing him as Grandmaster Hwang Kee.
We, in turn, wish to simply recognize Grandmaster Ah Po for what and who he is and for what he represents to us as our Kwan Jang Nim by the titles that his most senior students and the members of our association have bestowed on him and by the belt that he currently wears.
Furthermore, since his passing and in recognition of the existence of several Tang Soo Do Grandmasters presently, Grandmaster Ah Po and the members of the Tang Soo Do Martial Way Association, Inc. feel it only befitting to effect another change in the Tang Soo Do martial arts system by asking all of its current practitioners to remember and elevate the late grandmaster's stature and official title to that of "Great Grandmaster Hwang Kee" a true martial arts prodigy.