Originally published in Magic City Magazine
Courtesy. Humility. Integrity. Perseverance. Self-control. Indomitable spirit. Words to live by in the self defense world, said Master Suk Byung Park, founder of Parks Martial Arts Academy. Master Park, who holds a black belt in both Tae Kwon Do and Juod, has been teaching martial arts in Billings for more than 30 years.
Sorting through a box of photos at his studio at 1920 Central Avenue, Master Parks proudly showed a photograph of the 1974 International Judo Championship team in front of the U.S. capitol building—his first time in the states.
“This is the best country in the world, and I’ve traveled the world,” Master Park said. Before ever visiting the states, Master Park traveled from South America to Europe for martial arts competitions, working to achieve his dream of placing in the World Championships.
In 1973, Master Park fulfilled this dream, placing fifth in the World Championships in Switzerland, moving onto England where he placed second overall.
One dream fulfilled, Master Park joined the International Judo Championship team. During a five-week period they traveled from Boston to Chicago to Cincinnati to Phoenix. “Then it is my feeling that I want to come to the United States to live,” he said.
Deciding he wanted to relocate to the U.S. permanently, Master Park wrote letters to everyone he knew—childhood friends to teachers and schoolmates—that moved from Korea to the states. His letters went unanswered until Montana State University Billings Professor Noreen Lee responded and offered to assist Master Park in his quest. Professor Lee knew Master Park from Korea, where she studied under his tutelage to obtain her black belt.
In 1978 Master Park came to Billings, where he met his future wife Youn. The two married and his wife gave birth to a son and daughter. The couple began their business of teaching martial arts on Moore Lane in 1980. Today, they have two martial arts studios and enroll more than 200 students.
Master Park’s journey to this point began in Korea, where as a child a neighbor bullied him.
As a child: In fourth grade, a neighbor friend, he would beat me. I go to my parents and they say, ‘Why you crying all the time? Why do you no have self defense?’ Every day I go to the training hall, thinking about revenge on my enemy. I wanted to get into boxing. I wanted to fight. My family said no. They were worried about me getting injured. So I started martial arts. My instructor said all the time, ‘The mental part is more important than the physical.’ I wanted revenge on my enemy, but the physical—the punching and kicking—was not the solution. For almost six months I learned courtesy, humility, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit. Then I challenged my friend. I learned martial arts and he was scared of me. Those times of bullying were no more—powerful me.
Lifetime goals: (I spent) almost 10 years training for the Munich Olympic games. It was my first Olympic championship in Switzerland in 1972. In the final match my arm was broken. At that time I was very disappointment—even considered suicide. There was too much disappointment. My mind was at a very weak point, but I changed it. That is why I tried again.
Most rewarding? With discipline, you learn the martial arts and improve. It is more effort to work hard and have no negativity. You talk back to your parents. Then you cannot be disciplined. There is a power in habit—graciousness and gratitude. What did you do to help? What did you do to give back? Being thankful brings peace inside.
Martial Arts pledge: “I shall respect the instructor and all senior ranks. I shall conduct myself in a respectful manner. I shall respect the teachings of taekwondo and never misuse it. I shall always respect the rights of others. I shall strive for brotherhood and peace in this world.” It is all how much passion you have for the martial arts. I honor the teachings with young generations. If you are a person of integrity, you will get a good present back. Living with integrity brings great rewards.
At peace: I am a very peaceful person. I am at all times thankful. I am thankful there is a God, thankful for others. I choose life—a beautiful life—as opposed to a worse life. Human life is a rollercoaster, up and down. I considered suicide—yet I woke up and decided I am starting again. That is the indomitable spirit. No looking behind. Humans do not have eyes in the back of our heads. We should always be looking forward. No looking or thinking behind. That is the power of the habit.