Sang Kee Paik

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Sang Kee Paik
Grandmaster Sang Kee Paik.jpg
Sang Kee Paik
BornAugust 21, 1929
DiedJuly 12, 2009(2009-07-12) (aged 79)
United States of America
StyleSa-Sang Kwon Bup, Ch'uan Fa, Shudokan, Taekwondo,
Rank10th "dan" founding grandmaster Sa-Sang Kwon Bup; also 9th dan Taekwondo (Kukkiwon)
Notable school(s)Paik's Oriental Martial Arts Institute, Paik's Academy of Martial Arts, Madison, Wisconsin

Sang Kee Paik (1929–2009), also known in Korean reference as Paik Sang Kee, was a South Korean martial arts grandmaster and creator of a Kwon Bup system he called Sa-Sang Kwan (Korean: school of the four natural elements: air, earth, fire, and water).[1] Paik was one of the first pupils to receive the black belt under Yoon Byung-In, and Kim Ki Whang with whom he continued his training after Yoon's disappearance during the Korean War.[1] Paik's system of Sa-Sang built upon the Ch'uan Fa (Korean: Kwon Bup) he had mastered under Yoon Byung-In, and included elements of Shudokan karate from both Yoon and Kim. Paik completed the system with his research into training effective kicking techniques.[1][2] He created four primary forms (Korean: hyung), symbolizing each of the four natural elements. He also developed a rigorous philosophy unique to the system, and intended to be carried into one's everyday life.[2]


Upon completing his PhD in animal pathology at National University of Seoul, South Korea, Paik moved to the United States in 1969 to work as a research pathologist at the University of Wisconsin's Primate Research Center in Madison, Wisconsin.[1] In 1971, he opened "Paik's U.S. Oriental Martial Arts Institute", and soon left his research position to devote all of his efforts to teaching the martial arts.[1]

In 1977, Paik purchased a former elementary school(Sunnyside Elementary) building in Madison and converted it to a unique training facility consisting of three gymnasiums and numerous live-in dormitories for serious students and staff. His intent was to create a unique "institution for higher learning in the martial arts".[2] He renamed his school "Paik's Academy of Martial Arts", and for the next 20 years taught thousands of students and conducted numerous "special weekend" sessions to train his black belt staff. These intensive sessions required early morning meditation, 8 hours of hard training per day, all meals together, and overnight camping in the gymnasium. Paik noted these sessions mirrored those he attended regularly under Grandmasters Yoon and Kim in Korea.[2]

Paik also maintained a relationship with the World Taekwondo Federation since its inception in 1973,.[2] He was selected to host the 1990 USA Taekwondo National Championships - the initial U.S. qualifying event for the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona. This was the second Olympic games to include Taekwondo as a demonstrator sport.[1][2] The tournament was held in Madison, Wisconsin at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum of the Alliant Energy Center.[2] In 1989, Paik had served as Team director of the U.S. delegate Team for the World games events leading up to the 1992 Olympics.[2]

Despite his long traditional background, Paik was passionate about creativity and continued advancement in the martial arts. By the mid-1970s, he had developed and rigorously taught full independence of leg motion in kicking techniques (i.e. kicks to multiple targets before bringing the foot back to the ground). This was not done in traditional Taekwondo or Karate at the time.[2] He also implemented a first ever Taekwondo Creative Forms Division at the 1990 USA Taekwondo National Championships[3] to allow competitors to develop and perform their own personalized forms (Korean: Hyung).[3] In a communication to lobby for this idea, Paik wrote: "With creativity, techniques become art; art becomes philosophy. While we must always respect and practice traditional form, we must also allow for the creative process to continue to advance the martial arts."[3]

Paik retired from full-time teaching in 1997 at 68 years of age, and passed the school to his son Peter Paik, 8th dan, who continues to operate the school in Madison, Wisconsin under the name of "Paik's Traditional Martial Arts Center - School of Integrity."[1]

Sang Kee Paik died peacefully surrounded by his family on July 12, 2009, after a long battle with cancer.[4] His memorial service was held in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday, July 25, 2009 and was attended by hundreds of his former students.[4] Son Peter and daughter Myung (Mia) felt the best way to eulogize their father was to allow Paik's former students to speak at the podium. Many did, and universally recounted what an extraordinary teacher Paik was, and the positive and permanent impact he had upon their lives. Also noted was Paik's penchant for taking in at-risk or troubled students, sometimes by offering free lessons, and then successfully bringing about life-changing reform through a mixture of benevolence and tough discipline.[2][4]

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  1. ^ a b c d e f g Taekwondo Hall of Fame: History of Paik's USA Taekwondo Retrieved on 7 February 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j From the notes of Paik former chief instructor Gerald F. Neviaser (1984–1997).
  3. ^ a b c From the notes of Paik former chief instructor Gerald F. Neviaser, who assisted Paik with development of Creative Form Division at 1990 USTU Nationals.
  4. ^ a b c Dr. Sang Kee Paik Family Blog Obituary Announcement Retrieved on 16 March 2010.

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