He was still teaching taekwondo two weeks before his death

News 22 July, 2017
  • Photo courtesy
    Chong Soo Lee to have formed approximately 400 000 students in taekwondo during his life.

    Dominique Scali

    Saturday, 22 July, 2017 08:00

    Saturday, 22 July, 2017 08:00

    Look at this article

    It imposed respect by his kicks with surgical precision, and his immense charisma, despite its small size. There was a humility disconcerting, even if it has created global champions, and helping people to get the drugs. Grand master Chong Soo Lee, the father of taekwondo in Canada, died two weeks ago at the age of 79 years, who was still teaching the sport to students there is less than a month. Portrait of a wise old man who seemed straight out of martial arts movies.

    “We couldn’t go shopping without being stopped by someone somewhere who had just shook hands with him and tell him that he has changed his life,” says his wife, Hélène Caron, a 63-year-old, who is herself a black belt, 6th dan.

    The relatives contacted by The Newspaper had all of the trouble to hold back their tears when speaking of their father, husband, or mentor. “He is irreplaceable,” says his son-in-law, master Evangelos Lygeros. It is he who, with a heavy heart, will take over the reins of the family-run school that was founded Chong Lee in Montreal there are more than four decades.

    Photo Pierre-Paul Poulin

    Master Evangelos Lygeros, which is found at the head of the school, Chong Lee, in the company of his daughters, who are also the granddaughters of the great master.

    Learned in secret

    Born in Korea in 1938, Chong Lee fled North Korea with his family when he was seven or eight years to avoid being subjected to the communist regime. “He left sitting on the bar of the bicycle pedal of his father,” says Ms. Caron.

    He experienced the japanese occupation and the horrors of war, the bullets that whistle and the soldiers that come in his house.

    “I think he has sublimated a lot of these things through the martial arts “, assumes his wife.

    The father of Chong Lee was himself a black belt in judo and wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. However, what were really interested in the boy, rather, it was the taekwondo. So he began to practice in secret, against the will of his father.

    “He had a great talent for jumping, and was extremely quick” skills, which corresponded well with the air sport and dynamic, ” says Ms. Caron.

    His uncle paid him secretly in his course. The boy had to hide or go with friends to wash his uniform, the white uniform that he wore specifically for taekwondo, ” she says.

    The love in Quebec

    Attracted by the rest of the world, Chong Lee has left Korea in 1962. It was first installed in Washington in order to study engineering, but he met with a Quebec, his first wife and mother of his children. It is, therefore, arrived in Quebec in 1964, where he set up the first taekwondo at a time when nobody knew what this martial art.

    Photo courtesy

    Chong Lee arrived in Quebec in 1964. He obtained his 9th dan in 1995.

    From decade to decade, taekwondo has gained ground in the country, to the point where Canada won a bronze medal at the first appearance of this sport at the olympic Games in Sydney 2000. And that is thanks in part to the legacy of Chong Lee, ” explains Wayne Mitchell, president of Taekwondo Canada.

    “A lot of athletes who have excelled at the international came from his club “. Person in the country has trained as many students as him, or about 400,000, according to his relatives.

    Perfectionist, master Lee could detect at a glance the details correct for his students, tell his relatives. He traveled a lot, was constantly in search of new techniques to adapt to champions from all over the world. He returned on a regular basis in Korea, where he received his 9th dan, the highest level attainable in taekwondo before the ultimate title.

    “I have rarely seen someone kick so precise,” said his daughter Sheila Lee.

    Strict and warm, and he knew how to bring her students to exceed their limits, both psychological and physical. Mrs. Lee recalls the testimony of several former students at a party.

    “Before, I didn’t realize at what point he [had] a lot of people, because I knew him only as a father. Through the taekwondo, he has helped people out of drugs, alcohol. I cried all the long [testimonials], I was estomaquée. “

    Because his teaching and his influence were not limited to sport. “The taekwondo, it was a way of life for him. He didn’t want to just train athletes, but of the citizens […] He wanted his students to be good people “, says master Lygeros.

    Photo courtesy

    Chong Soo Lee in a demonstration of taekwondo at the turn of the 1970s.

    “Presence “incredible”

    “It was not great, my father. It measured 5 feet 6 inches, but he had a presence that is incredible. Lord, that it was taking place. But he did not express. He was very humble, ” said Ms. Lee.

    “He treated everyone with the same respect, whether it be a white belt, or a champion, a president or one who washes the floor,” adds Mr Lygeros.

    “He was always smiling, always happy to teach,” recalls his former student Robert Soucy. Two weeks before his death, he still gave a seminar. He eventually died on July 5, died of cancer of the colon.

    “I thought we would be together all the time,” sighs Mr. Lygeros, that is, by the force of things, became the Grand master of the club.

    “I’ll do my best to continue her legacy and transmit my passion to the maximum of the new generation. “

    The funeral ceremony will be held today in Montreal.

    What is taekwondo ?

    Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that is characterized by its great use of legs. It often gives rise to kicking spectacular. Even if it is a combat sport, it is false to believe that it is a sport that is aggressive, ” explains master Evangelos Lygeros. “It teaches precisely not to fight. “The person who is able to fight in the framework of the courses or competitions will not have to prove anything to the outside, and will instead try to avoid situations of violence and to use dialogue. “Learn to control yourself, it is much more difficult than giving a punch to someone,” says his daughter, Sheila Lee.

    A few anecdotes

    Handshake worthy of Yoda

    His pupil Olivier April-Lalonde, 29 years old, and black belt 6th dan, remembers a competition in which he participated in 2009. “I had to face an opponent against whom I had already lost by a big margin […] I met the Grand master before the warm-up. He came to shake hands with me as usual, except that he kept my hand in hers. He said : ‘You are with us now. You are strong.’ It’s like Yoda who gives the strength. It has been really meaningful for me. You feel it, all the strength he has in him. “Mr. April-Lalonde has not won this fight, but has delivered” a great fight “, he remembers. This was the beginning of his ascent to the international competitions, who came fifth at the pan american Games of 2012 and has competed in the world Championships in 2013.

    Despite the ice storm

    Robert Soucy, who knew master Lee for more than 40 years, remembers having braved an ice storm to a course when it was cégépien. Once there, he realized that he was the only student. Master Lee then gave him a private lesson. “I was only a yellow belt. It really was not obliged to do that. He has given up his training with the same intensity as if we were 25 students. It was very important to me, this respect. “

    Honest, even in victory

    Evangelos Lygeros remembers a fight he led on when he was 18 or 20 years. “Even if I happen to win, master Lee told me : “Your technique, this was not good at all. You would have had to use this technique more often.’ Yes, it made me a little sore to the ego, but I tell you that I’ve been working on it for the following six months. “It is only when he has really mastered the technique in question at another tournament that his master said to him :” Now, you know how to do a counter-back-kick. “” His way of being direct, I loved it. It was not false compliments. “

    Modes cross

    “I stopped taekwondo for 27 years. When I got back, I found the same man “, says Robert Soucy. It has gone through the period of Bruce Lee, the time of the full-contact, the mode of the kick-boxing, without ever betraying the source of his teaching, shows-t-it. While some give the course a t-shirt with the sound of pop music, he has always wanted to preserve the hi and the uniform, in the largest respect of the tradition. However, it insisted also on the motivation and the understanding of things, ” he recalls. “I know that some masters koreans were that it was too “canadianisé”. But it was a total success. “

    Stop smoking and make his bed

    “He could say to a student : “stop smoking or stop drinking soft drinks,” says his daughter Sheila Lee. And people listened to him. When we were told, nothing was happening. But when he told them, they would stop. “The power of persuasion also came with a deductible and a rigor that is rarely seen. “It was not white-glove” sums up Mr Lygeros. For example, he did not agree that a student fighting in the school. “To frame a child’s aggressive or dissipated, at times it is necessary to be really direct. The things that annoy when one is young, but like growing up. The love, time and again, it is to say no. And that, that demand a lot of energy, a force of opposition, ” says Mr Lygeros. “A master has a lot of influence on its students, it is incredible. “For example, master Lygeros often remind small the importance of saying “please” and “thank you”, or even making their bed in the morning. “Parents come to us and say to us : “now, he makes his bed.” “

    The belts

    Belts color

    1. White

    2. White yellow bar

    3. Yellow

    4. Yellow green bar

    5. Green

    6. Green blue bar

    7. Blue

    8. Blue red bar

    9. Red

    10. Red black bar

    Black belts

    ►1st dan

    In general, obtained after 5 to 7 years of practice

    ►2nd dan

    ►3rd dan

    ►4th dan

    ►5th dan

    ►6th dan

    ►7th dan

    ►8th dan

    ►9th dan

    Grand master

    Lee got hers in 1995 at the age of 57 years. It is necessary to have dedicated his life to taekwondo to deserve it.

    ►10th dan

    Extremely rare. Sometimes given as an honorary title.