Jun Yoon is a man of small stature, standing at about 5 feet 4 inches and weighing about 130 pounds. He may not look like much, but Yoon has fists of fury.
Yoon is a 50-year-old Taekwondo instructor at LPC. He may not be Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris, but when it comes to Taekwondo, he is a living legend. Even if you were not into martial arts, it would be tough to pass up the opportunity to learn self-defense and self-discipline from one of the best.
His whole life has been Taekwondo.
“My father told me I had to train Taekwondo because I was always getting sick,” Yoon said. “When I got to middle school I began to compete in tournaments and I fell in love with it.”
It’s a good thing his father made him train, because all that practice made Yoon into one of the greatest Taekwondo practitioners South Korea has ever produced.
Yoon’s resumé speaks for itself. Undefeated Korean national Taekwondo champion for 23 years. Countless gold medals. Receiving a master’s degree and a PhD. You name it, Yoon has done it.
Grandmaster Yoon, as he is referred to by his pupils, was born in Seoul, South Korea. Since the age of nine, Yoon has been involved in Taekwondo, which is his country’s national sport.
At the age of 11, Yoon was already a star. He had already received his black belt in Taekwondo and soon became a two time national champion. As the years went by, he just got better and better.
In high school, the success continued. Yoon became a world champion and received a gold medal in Taekwondo at the 1976 Asian Games. Though Yoon traveled the world for various competitions, Taekwondo was not an official sport in the Olympic Games until about a decade later.
“The Olympics didn’t include Taekwondo until 1988 when it took place in my home country (Seoul, South Korea),” Yoon said. “That year I had the honor of being selected to represent my country.”
Not only did Yoon have success in the sport, he also got it done in the classroom. Thanks to the scholarships he received in high school from his Taekwondo career, Yoon was able to attend college in Korea. He acquired a M.S. Degree in Physical Education and also a PhD in Sports Management in 1987.
Yoon had traveled to the United States in the past for events, but it wasn’t until 1991 that he decided to leave the large city of Seoul and relocate to the East Bay. When Yoon arrived, he was immediately approached by Team USA to become a member of their Taekwondo squad.
“When I came to the United States, I was chosen to join their Taekwondo team,” Yoon said. “I became the head coach of the team in 2002 for the Olympics and again in 2006.”
Yoon made Livermore his new hometown. He began teaching Taekwondo at LPC in 1996. From 2002-2005, he was hired as the Taekwondo instructor for UC Berkeley. Yoon did not enjoy the atmosphere there as much and eventually returned to Las Positas.
“At Berkeley they all thought they were too smart and did not want to follow directions,” Yoon said. “Here everyone has a good personality and wants to learn.”
One of those students that have learned a lot from Yoon is LPC student and Taekwondo Club President Scott Verzi.
Verzi first met Grandmaster Yoon ten years ago at Sky Martial Arts in Dublin where Yoon was also an instructor. That first encounter that the two had created a friendship that has lasted to this day.
“I have been training with Grandmaster Yoon since I was ten years old,” Verzi said. “I am currently in his Taekwondo class at LPC and help instruct the lower level participants.”
A man with as many accolades as Yoon is likely to be seen bragging about himself. This is not the case, according to Verzi.
“Grandmaster is very humble and does not tell his students about his accomplishments,” Verzi said. “However, I tell people about him as time goes by throughout class. He is always respectful and funny, which makes the students eager to learn.”
To this day Yoon still competes. In 2011 and 2012, he took home gold medals at the U.S. National Taekwondo Championship. Verzi is not surprised that Yoon is still going strong, given his age.
“He’s getting pretty old, but he still finds time to train on his own and compete at a high rank,” Verzi said.
Yoon is not only a competitor, he is also a referee.
Yoon recently received the award for best official at the 2012 World Taekwondo Championship, just a small accomplishment in his storied career. Surprisingly, it was the first time he has won this award.
“There were about 80 referees. They select two from each country,” Yoon said. “It’s funny because I was about to miss my flight and as I was walking out I hear my name called for best referee. I have been an official many times at the event, but this was my first time winning the award.”
The World Taekwondo Championship took place from Dec. 6 to Dec. 9 in Tunja, Colombia. For Yoon, being around the best Taekwondo practitioners in the world was an honor for him.
“It was a fantastic experience. I was able to learn new things from the best and pass along my own teachings to the younger referees and competitors,” Yoon said.
Yoon is not going to enjoy this award for too long. He is looking forward to getting back into competition within the next month.
“I am not human,” Yoon joked. “I am always involved in tournaments whether it is as a referee or competitor. I will probably compete in the U.S. Open next month in Las Vegas.”
So, if you are ever in a fight on campus, hope that Master Yoon is around. He may be a small guy, but he is the baddest man on campus.