In 1985 a group of seven Chang Moo Kwan black belts got together in a small coffee shop in Walnut, California and formed a group called the "untouchables?" They had one simple guiding principal for which to seek the truth in Chang Moo Kwan: "No person is above the art in which they practice": No one and no group. They felt the teacher is a conduit of the art for a given place and time. Their goal was to find and preserve all which was real and truthful about Chang Moo Kwan. In seeking the truth they did not form a hypothesis and then try to prove it to be true. Open-minded, they sought the pure truth. In their wildest imagination they never thought they would meet and train with Supreme Grandmaster Nam Suk Lee. To say the very least they stumbled on a lot more than ever expected. Of the original untouchables three remain: Grandmaster Jon Wiedenman; Master George Fullerton, and Master Anthony Barnes.
Rekindling the Spark
It has been almost 13 years since the untimely passing of Grandmaster Nam Suk Lee. Grandmaster Nam Suk Lee created a martial art which would one day become Chang Moo Kwan in the 1930's during Japanese occupied Korea. When Grandmaster Jon Wiedenman and Master George Fullerton approached Grandmaster Nam Suk Lee to teach them, they asked him specifically to share the message "he" wanted generations in the future to know. This would be a generation the Supreme Grandmaster Nam Suk Lee would himself would never see. Grandmaster Jon Wiedenman and Master George Fullerton promised Supreme Grandmaster Lee to relay a clear message.
Supreme Grandmaster Nam Suk Lee then asked if the two martial artists if they were truly willing to "empty their cups". They agreed without missing a heart beat. When Grandmaster Jon Wiedenman and Master George Fullerton emptied their Styrofoam coffee cups onto the shiny Mac Donald's linoleum floor and symbolically placed them empty on the table, Supreme Grandmaster Lee smiled, nodded his head, and never looked back. This is of course, an abbreviation of a wonderfully, complex, and compassionate story which will be presented later. Supreme Grandmaster Lee and Grandmaster Wiedenman began training privately together and co-instructing the San Pedro, California YMCA adult class with Master Fullerton.
There are several truths which are certain:
First, Grandmaster Jon Wiedenman and Master George Fullerton opened the door unconditionally to Grandmaster Nam Suk Lee, allowing him to once again put on a uniform and consequently re-kindle the spark of Chang Moo Kwan which he ignited some 60 years before. Had they not, much of what is original Chang Moo Kwan technique, form, and philosophy would be lost...forever. Certainly, the essence of Supreme Grandmaster Lee's art and teaching--from his heart as he knew it, acknowledged it, and treasured it...would be vastly diluted or forgotten. Not many instructors would be willing to let go of their past so readily to embrace the future. Grandmaster Jon Wiedenman, Master Tony Barnes, and Master George Fullerton informed their respective studios "guess what, everything is subject to change with very little notice...so hang on!"
Second, Supreme Grandmaster Nam Suk Lee may have never again put a uniform on. He had told Grandmaster Wiedenman and Master Fullerton he had not trained or taught in several decades. Supreme Grandmaster Lee was 73 when they met. Grandmaster Jon Wiedenman, Master Tony Barnes and Master George Fullerton bought Supreme Grandmaster Lee a traditional white uniform, had it carefully tailored, and even had the appropriate patches sewn on it. (They used the October 1992 portrait portrayed in "Inside Tae Kwon Do" to come close to how Supreme Grandmaster Lee may have wanted it) Grandmaster Wiedenman even presented a new black belt with Supreme Grandmaster Nam Suk Lee's and Grandmaster Byong In Yoon's name in addition to Chang Moo Kwan embossed in a beautifully gold embroidery o the sides. Grandmaster master was there to become "one" with everything that made him who and what he was.
Third, Grandmaster Jon Wiedenman, Master George Fullerton, and Master Anthony Barnes are three of only living and accessible martial artists who have actually been trained directly by and directly under Supreme Grandmaster Nam Suk Lee in many, many decades; moreover, they are the only martial artists who have actually trained with him in recent history.
Supreme Grandmaster practiced form, techniques, one and three-steps along side the three masters. He spent many hours alone with Grandmaster Jon Wiedenman doing Chang Moo Kwan forms side by side; blocking and kicking as partners; connecting and transferring knowledge physically, mentally, and spiritually. Grandmaster Wiedenman had spent nearly 25 years training in traditional Chang Moo Kwan and the transference of knowledge was accelerated by both martial artist's passion and belief what was taking place made sense and restored balance serving a common goal.
Grandmaster Wiedenman and Master Fullerton both noticed a profound change in Supreme Grandmaster Nam Suk Lee: they both were convinced he was getting younger by the day! It was clear Grandmaster was, well...having fun too. He was serious, but they would always catch him smiling, especially when mistakes were made. It was clear, Supreme Grandmaster Lee had found himself again, he had come home.
Fourth, outside of a "Inside Tae Kwon Do Magazine" from the early 1990's and a few group shots from the early days of Chang Moo Kwan (1948 to 1952) there are no photos of Supreme Grandmaster Nam Suk Lee in a uniform, and none of him teaching or training. Grandmaster Jon Wiedenman has compiled hundreds of photos, tens of thousands of video caps, and hours of video tapes of Supreme Grandmaster Nam Suk Lee teaching, judging, and training. We have included some in the pages which follow; much more will be added in the months and years to come.
It is the goal of this web site to archive factually and historically as much as possible on the cultivation, history, and people who have been a part of this art. All legitimate photos and input are welcomed.
During the later 1960's and the early 1970's Supreme Grandmaster Nam Suk Lee traveled the world; visited many counties; and viewed countless schools, promotion tests, tournaments, and demonstrations. In every sense of the word Supreme Grandmaster Lee was an ambassador of Chang Moo Kwan, martial arts spirit, and good will. When Grandmaster Jon Wiedenman, Master George Fullerton, and Master Tony Barnes were asked why they were doing this, their answer was simple: "What Supreme Grandmaster Nam Suk Lee has willingly, lovingly, and selflessly shared with us in the form of trust, technique, philosophy, knowledge, and kindness...we want to share with the martial arts world."