What’s it like to have a Grandmaster father– Part I

By Master Steve Seo, WKF/HHA International Director

So what is it like to have a Grandmaster father?  It’s interesting because I’m part of very exclusive club of people in the world that can say they grew up with a Grandmaster father. I can definitely say that I’m in very select company.  I’ll write about older memories from my youth and what I remember about GM Seo at the dojang and other examples of how the martial artist/GM persona overlapped with him being a loving and great dad.  That said, I wanted to give a more recent example that I think everyone will find interesting.

A few months back, Grandmaster Seo visited us in California from Korea.  As many of you know, GM Seo and my mother live in Seoul, South Korea while my family and I live in the US, California to be more precise, so when he visits it’s really a time for him to spend quality time not only with his children but also his grandchildren.  My wife and I have a 2 year old son and GM Seo loves to spend time with him and he really enjoys being the loving grandfather to my son.  I was watching GM Seo playing with my son Nicholas and I remembered that I had meant to talk to GM Seo about my recent focus on Bu Chae Sool (Fan techniques) and that I was targeting these techniques as a priority for my training. While I was practicing all of the various techniques, one technique I was focusing on in particular was a combination technique where the fan is used to block, then open to distract, then closed leading to a strike to the rib.  I decided to bring it up to GM Seo.   What happened next is something I won’t soon forget…

…So in one moment he was being a typical grandfather playing and being silly with his grandson.  The next instant, he had a fan in his hand (we have fans laying around our home of course) and he told me to punch him and in a blink of an eye did the technique I mentioned, lightening fast!  In between feeling pain in my rib and being awestruck by the speed of his execution, I remember thinking, “this is what it’s like to have a Grandmaster Father.”

A few other observations:

  1. Veronica (my wife) had seen me practice fan techniques prior to this incident and her comment was “you’re not as fast as your dad yet.”  Leave it up to my wife to give me blunt feedback but also keep me motivated.
  2. I was amazed at how GM Seo was able to switch from one “context” to another without any time or thinking needed.  He went from casual, silliness with his grandson to his Grandmaster Seo persona instantaneously and then went back to playing with his grandson in the next instant.
  3. I’ve experience these kind of moments with GM Seo before but I think the fact that he was at home, playing with my young son somehow hit home for me even more. I felt very lucky as a father, son and student all wrapped up in one.
  4. I was so happy to have my son have exposure to a loving grandfather but a tremendous martial artists.  He is very lucky!

I’ll share some other stories in the future but I thought martial artists, dads and sons would enjoy this story.

Steve Seo – WKF/HHA International Director, Son, Dad