Sometime in May 2012, Bamboo Martial Arts (BMA), the Taekwondo club I ran, stopped holding formal classes. Since then, I’ve continued to do my own workouts, officiated tests at my original master’s school, attended seminars, and helped promote the New Jersey Taekwondo Association(NJ-USAT). I also ran a short-lived after school Taekwondo program at the middle school where I am a Health and Physical Education teacher. BMA has, however, maintained an online presence with a Twitter account, Facebook page and its own website, offering private and semi-private Taekwondo lessons. It’s also registered as an active club with USA Taekwondo (USAT), the governing body of Taekwondo in the United States, in the hope that it would grow into something bigger. Alas, it has not.
In its second incarnation - its first go around was in 1993 as The Bamboo Institute of Martial Arts (BIOMA) - BMA failed to generate enough interest and student enrollment to sustain itself and to promote Taekwondo fully. To my masters and the larger Taekwondo community, for that I apologise. Without its own location and with limited resources, resulting in nominal promotion, minimal class times, and inadequate facilities, BMA was never going to be able to surpass being a very small club.
|The first Bamboo logo/patch, ca 1993.|
The largest regret I have, equal to that of failing the art of Taekwondo, is not being able to directly pass Taekwondo on to my son as his teacher and fulfill my hope and dream of producing a kind of Bas family Taekwondo dynasty. I can, and do, as his father, still demonstrate the tenets of Taekwondo for him in my daily life. I just don’t do it as his sabumnim. My father-son Taekwondo dream is over. My son, however, is taking Taekwondo lessons but at Apex Martial Arts, a nearby character-based and champion-producing school. It’s an exceptional program and he’s loving it and I’m glad he’s there but, speaking as a father and merely as a human being, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a small dagger in my heart every time we go there. I’d be more than dishonest, too, if I said I didn’t wish he was training under me at our own school. I’d hoped that we would follow in the footsteps of Al and Mark Dacascos, Ernie Reyes, Sr and Jr., Master Tiger Kim and his twin sons, who are masters now themselves, and Masters Simon and Phillip Rhee and their father. Taekwondo isn’t just something I do and have done for almost thirty years. It’s not just something I want my son to do. It’s what I am and what I hope he becomes. As parents, we always hope our children do more and better than what we did. I may not be his teacher but I did introduce Taekwondo to him, exposing him to New Jersey State Championships, taking him to 2011 US Team Trials and the 2011 National Championships. I even gave him his first two uniformed lessons. Perhaps, when he’s a dad, though, he’ll get to succeed where I failed and realise the father-son Bas Taekwondo dynasty.
As for me, I’ll continue to train. I might even join the same dojang my son is attending but I won’t be there as a teacher. It’s been a long time since I walked onto a dojang floor completely as a student. That could be a challenge but also something to cherish. I might go back to one of my masters’ dojangs. I might continue to compete but I haven’t yet decided. I will, though, continue to promote Taekwondo and other martial arts through my writing endeavours and other means I am able to utilise.
I am grateful for all the masters I’ve studied under, regardless of what style it was in, who have taken their time to nurture my potential. I’m grateful, too, for all the students I’ve had. I thank them for allowing me to share my vision of the martial arts with them. I also acknowledge everyone who supported BMA as a school and as a concept; martial arts interpreted through the symbolism of a bamboo stalk, hard and flexible on the outside and hollow on the inside. In my martial arts career there are an abundance of people, for different reasons, who will always hold a special place in my mind and heart. There’s Grandmaster Lee, Ron, Steve, Rachel, Mike, Grandmaster Kim, Master Levy Diogene, Vinny and Vinnie, Ani, Wayne, Steve Saunders, Tony Palmieri, Leon, Master Herb Perez, to name a few. Naturally, there are my wife and my son. To all of them, I offer my heartfelt gratitude and, in many ways - as a friend, like a brother, like a son - I can truly say I love you.
I’m not done with Taekwondo or the martial arts. I don’t believe they’re done with me. I’ve been doing Taekwondo too long to even consider giving it up but as with other things in life, whether willingly or not, my ongoing love affair with Taekwondo is taking another turn. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes and what directions we take. I still want to visit The Kukkiwon and train there for a time. Who knows? Maybe I'll get there one day.
In the meantime, however, like its physical existence, BMA’s online life will be coming to a close. At the end of July 2013, BMA will shut down its Twitter, Facebook and website accounts. When it’s membership expires, BMA will also cease to be a registered Taekwondo club with USAT.
For now, as I make my final public bow - my last kungyet - let me simply say thank you. Or, more appropriately, kamsamnida.