By Jim Shilander
Joon Kim said that 20 years ago, he was trying to find a good spot for a tae kwon do studio any where south of Long Beach. Kim said he kept stopping at each exit along Interstate 5, and exploring the surrounding area, and had not found a satisfactory spot.
At the end of a long day of searching, Kim said, he happened to get off on Camino de Estrella and turned left, toward Camino de los Mares.
“I just said, ‘Wow, I love this area,’” Kim said. “I saw there was a location and I made the decision, ‘I want to open a studio right here.’”
Kim, a Grand Master in tae kwon do, is now teaching his second generation of San Clemente youth. He’s been invited to the weddings of former students and has taught whole families, since many parents decide they want to have an idea of what their children are being taught themselves.
What Kim said he prized most in his 20 years were the ways he’d helped to transform some of his students, and the way they got along with their parents.
“This is why I love teaching martial arts,” Kim said. Coming from Korea, he said, he’d been instilled with the importance of respecting his parents and performing well in school. “American kids are sometimes too spoiled.” Kim, in addition to martial arts, emphasizes the importance of showing respect to parent. “I tell them they need to listen, to say, ‘Yes, Mom,’ or ‘Yes, Dad.’ They’re more likely to obey their parents. I tell them, do something the first time your parents ask. It really works.”
Much of the time, he said, parents are the ones approaching him to have their children start with the program. “Most of the time, parents come here for some reason. Their children need to overcome shyness, they need a behavior adjustment or they have a listening problem.” Those children, he said, become the targets of an attitude award system that rewards good behavior and leadership.
Father Mark Gerardi enrolled his son in the program last year after a bad parent-teacher conference. Soon after he began the program, however, his son was caught cheating on a test. When his son told Kim, Gerardi said he took away his right to wear a belt into the classroom, and made him write a letter to his teacher to apologize for his cheating. Gerardi said his son also had to read that letter to Kim before each lesson until Kim received notice from the teacher that the behavior had improved.
“Summer came and went,” Gerardi said. “After a week of school, my son came home with a letter from his teacher saying how respectful he is. He is a different kid ever since getting into the program. It’s been fantastic for him. I’ve talked to 20 parents about getting their kids involved.”
Kim will be feted with an anniversary celebration Saturday at the San Clemente Community Center.