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Jhoon Rhee

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Jhoon Rhee
Born(1932-01-07)January 7, 1932
Asan, Chūseinan-dō, Korea, Empire of Japan
(present-day Asan, South Chungcheong Province, South Korea)
DiedApril 30, 2018(2018-04-30) (aged 86)
Arlington, Virginia, U.S.
Other namesRhee Jhoon-goo
ResidenceUnited States
StyleTaekwondo, Jhoon-Rhee-style (founder)
Taekwondo (ITF-Style), Tang Soo Do (Chung Do Kwan), Jun Fan Gung Fu[a]
Teacher(s)Nam Tae Hi,[1] Bruce Lee[b][2][3]
Rank10th dan taekwondo (posthumously)
Notable studentsAllen R. Steen, Rodney Batiste, Marina Kim, John Chung, Bruce Lee[2][3]
Jhoon Rhee
李俊九 [4]
Revised RomanizationYi Jun-gu
McCune–ReischauerYi Chun'gu

Rhee Jhoon-goo (Korean: 이준구; Hanja: 李俊九, January 7, 1932 – April 30, 2018), commonly known as Jhoon Rhee, was a Korean-American taekwondo partitioner. He is widely recognized as the "father of American taekwondo" for introducing this martial art to the U.S. after arriving there in the 1950s.[5][6] He was a 10th dan black belt[6] and held the title of Grandmaster.

Early life and education[edit]

Rhee was born on January 7, 1932, in Asan, Korea, during the period of Japanese occupation.[7] He began training in the martial arts at age 13 in 1945 without his father's knowledge.[8] Rhee received martial art training from Nam Tae Hi and graduated from the Chung Do Kwan.[1] While an officer in the Korean Army, he went to the U.S. to attend Southwest Texas State College in 1956, and later returned to attend Texas to attend the University of Texas at Austin for an engineering degree.[9]


During the 1960s, Rhee befriended Bruce Lee—a relationship from which they both benefited as martial artists.[2] Lee taught Rhee an extraordinarily fast punch considered almost impossible to block, something Rhee named the "accupunch".[3] During his study in Texas, Rhee issued his first U.S.-awarded black belt to Pat Burleson and his first fully US-trained student was Allen Steen, both of whom teamed up to establish the influential Southwest Black Belt Association (later the American Black Belt Association), resulting in many champions. Upon graduation from college, Rhee relocated to the East Coast and opened his first studio in the U.S. 1962 in Washington, D.C., and over time expanded to 11 studios in the DC Metro area.[10]

In 1973, Rhee made his only martial arts movie, When Taekwondo Strikes; he also had a small role in Fist of Fury.[citation needed]. In 1975, he met Muhammad Ali before the latter's Thrilla in Manila fight with Joe Frazier. Rhee demonstrated the accupunch to Ali, who was unable to block it and asked to be taught it. Rhee was Ali's head coach for the boxer's fights with Richard Dunn (boxer) and Antonio Inoki.[3]

In the mid-1980s, Rhee operated a network of 11 martial arts studios across the Washington, D.C., region.[11] Rhee was well known in the D.C. area for a television commercial with a jingle by Nils Lofgren and Rhee's daughter uttering the catchphrase "Nobody bothers me," followed by his son saying "Nobody bothers me, either."[12] In 2000, Rhee was the only Korean-American ranked among the 203 most recognized immigrants to the country by the National Immigrant Forum and Immigration and Naturalization Services.[5]

Rhee was inducted into the Taekwondo Hall of Fame in 2007,[13] in which he is listed as both the pioneer of American taekwondo and taekwondo in Russia'.[14] Rhee is listed as a pioneer in the U.S. (1950s, 60s and 70s) in Chang Keun Choi's list of taekwondo pioneers.[15]


Rhee died on April 30, 2018, in Arlington, Virginia, at age 86.[10][16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bruce Lee's system before 1967 / founding Jeet Kune Do.
  2. ^ By exchange of martial arts knowledge


  1. ^ a b Kang, W. S., and Lee, K. M. (1999): The Modern History of TaeKwonDo Retrieved on 14 October 2007.
  2. ^ a b c Nilsson, Thomas (May 1996). "With Bruce Lee: Taekwondo Pioneer Jhoon Rhee Recounts His 10-Year Friendship With the "Dragon"". Black Belt Magazine. 34 (5): 39–43. Retrieved 2009-11-19.
  3. ^ a b c d "Jhoon Rhee, Father of American Tae Kwon Do". www.jhoonrhee.com. Archived from the original on 2019-05-06. Retrieved 2019-05-01.
  4. ^ 조성식 [Jo Seongsik] (2006-08-14), "5세에 송판 깨는 美 태권도 황제 이준구: "내 주먹은 바람, 내가 인정한 유일한 고수는 '싸움꾼' 이소룡"", Donga Ilbo Magazine, retrieved 2011-10-08
  5. ^ a b Grand Master Jhoon Rhee returns home to serve as Youngsan Univ.'s Chair Professor The Seoul Times, September 2004. Retrieved on 28 July 2007.
  6. ^ a b Kang, S.-W. (2008): Taekwondo grandmaster lectures at Yonsei University The Korea Times (10 January 2008). Retrieved on 26 January 2010.
  7. ^ Zia, Helen (1995). Notable Asian Americans. United States: Gale Group. p. 326. ISBN 0810396238.
  8. ^ JhoonRhee.com: Philosophy Archived 2011-07-13 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 29 January 2010.
  9. ^ "In 1956 Jhoon Rhee came to the U". www.abbahouston.com. Retrieved 2023-10-13.
  10. ^ a b "Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, 'father of American taekwondo,' dies at 86". New York Daily News. Associated Press. 30 April 2018. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  11. ^ Smith, Harrison (May 1, 2018), "Jhoon Rhee, who helped popularize taekwondo in the United States, dies at 86", The Washington Post
  12. ^ Richards, Chris (2012-02-17). "The surprising, rock source behind D.C.'s 'Nobody bothers me' TV jingle". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-04-30.
  13. ^ Taekwondo Hall of Fame 2007 Banquet Retrieved on 12 January 2008. (Although the reference's address contains "2006," the event was actually held in 2007.)
  14. ^ Taekwondo Hall of Fame Retrieved on 12 January 2008.
  15. ^ Choi, C. K. (2007): Tae Kwon Do Pioneers Archived 2008-03-12 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 15 March 2008.
  16. ^ Wright, Kimberly L. "Man credited with popularizing Taekwondo in US dies". Fox 19. Archived from the original on 1 May 2018. Retrieved 30 April 2018.

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