Grand Master James S. Benko
Grand Master Benko is one of the highest ranked non-orientals in the world
recognized throughout the world. He has dedicated his life to
the martial arts and sharing with others what he has learned.
He holds the ranks of 9th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do,
9th degree black belt in Hapkido, 9th degree black belt in
Shim Soo Do (Korean Swordsmanship),
9th degree black belt in Han Kuk Mu Ki Do
(Traditional Korean Weapons), and black belt ranks in
several other martial arts styles.
Grand Master studying the Korean mu do (martial arts)
of Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido, and Yu Sool in 1959 from
Ki Jun Lee. Grand Master Lee was one of the first Korean
master instructors to come to America, in 1957, and introduce these
arts in the United States.
While in the military Grand Master Benko became a member of the
American Special Forces, Green Berets.
(Image of the special forces Insignia is to the left,
image of the special forces Patch is to the right.)
He spent three tours of combat duty in Viet Nam. While serving in
Viet Nam, he worked with the famous Korean "White Horse" and
"Tiger" divisions, who were known for their bravery
and aggressiveness in combat.
While serving in Viet Nam, Grand Master Benko taught Tae Kwon Do,
Hapkido, and other Korean mu do (martial arts) to American and
Vietnamese military personnel, police, and other Green Berets.
(Image of the Flag of South Viet Nam is to the
left, image of the 5th Special Forces Flash, worn behind the Insignia
on the Beret, is to the right.)
As a Green Beret, he often worked closely with the Vietnamese
troops and people, training them in the use of weapons (see photo to left),
village defense, and hand-to-hand combat.
It was in Viet Nam that he met two Korean martial arts masters who would
change the course of his life, Grand Master Yang Hyee and
Grand Master Won Soo Kim. All three became life-long friends who
dedicated their lives to studying and teaching the martial arts.
Won Soo Kim was the first assistant instructor of the founder of
hapkido, Choi Yong Sul. Grand Master Kim continued to teach
Grand Master Benko, hapkido as well as Korean weapons including
the Korean "gum" (sword).
In Viet Nam he also studied the Vietnamese martial art of
"Vo Vi Nam". Vo Vi Nam is a South Vietnamese martial arts style
which uses circular hand motions and joint
manipulation techniques similar to Chinese chin na, reflecting
the strong Chinese influence on the art. Vo Vi Nam also has
powerful kicking techniques similar to those of Tae Kwon Do.
Vietnamese Vo Vi Nam training includes weapons such as the "con"
After having received advanced training in Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido,
Korean Weapons, and other Korean Martial Arts from such prominent
Korean Masters as Yang Hyee, Won Soo Kim, Coe Jae Duk, and Yong Kim,
Grand Master Benko returned to the United States and continued teaching.
It was not long after his return to the United States that he received
a shock. There was no unified body to coordinate, unite, or offer leadership to
Korean martial arts practitioners. After several years the situation regarding
Tae Kwon Do organization and leadership in the United States showed little
Grand Master Benko had been repeatedly called upon by
Korean martial arts students and instructors across the country to
provide the organization, unity, and leadership for Tae Kwon Do.
On July 9, 1974, Grand Master Benko and his late-wife
Edna (Dieu Thi Vu), founded the
International TaeKwon-Do Association.
The Association grew rapidly with members throughout the world.
Kwan Jung Nim Benko is also the president and founder of
the following organizations:
He realized that the physical aspects of the martial arts just scratches the
surface and should be balanced with mental training and development.
After returning from Viet Nam, and while starting his new family, he continued his
education. He received his Masters Degree in Management and
Administration in 1987, and his Ph.D. in 1994.
In addition to his busy administrative duties, Grand Master Benko continues
to develop new training programs for students, instructors, and masters.
His programs also include law enforcement, rape defense, advanced black belt
studies, and several masters' programs.
Grand Master Benko has traveled throughout the United States and
Asia conducting Seminars and Training Camps,
like in Malaysia (see photo to right),
promotional tests, and advanced training for black belts and masters.
Since he began studying the Korean martial arts in 1959,
Grand Master Benko, through decades of training and research, has
become one of the world's foremost authorities on these Arts. His vast
knowledge of the Korean martial arts, from both a historical and physical
perspective, has made him one of the most respected
Korean martial arts authorities in the world.
Many Korean martial arts styles do not include weapons training as part of
their curriculum. In order to meet the needs of Korean-style martial artists
who wish attain rank in Korean weapons, Grand Master Benko
created programs so practitioners can earn Black Belt and Master ranks in Shim Soo Do
Korean Swordsmanship and in Han Kuk Mu Ki Do
Traditional Korean Weapons.
He is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Tae Kwon Do Journal.
He is the author and publisher of more than two dozen Korean
martial arts books.
Grand Master Benko's books may be found in libraries throughout the world,
another endorsement of his many accomplishments and contributions to
the Korean martial arts. In his unending quest for knowledge.
He continues his research into the background of the martial arts.
This enables him to provide the public with well researched and
Grand Master Benko has written, produced, directed and starred in
over 70 martial arts training video presentations, including programs used
by military and law enforcement personnel. He has created one of the
largest and most authoritative collections of Korean martial arts
in the world. He has been featured in magazines in Europe, Asia, and
the United States. His books and videos are used by martial arts
schools and universities all over the world.
Grand Master Benko is listed in:
"The Martial Arts Source Book",
"Who's Who In American Martial Arts",
"Who's Who In Karate & The Other Martial Arts",
"Masters, Founders & Leaders of American Martial Arts".
Grand Master Benko has been honored with several national and international
awards. He received personal letters of appreciation from both
President Ronald Reagan and President George H. W. Bush.
He was presented with the "Key to the City" of Florence,
He has been awarded membership in the
World Head of Family Sokeship Council (WHFSC)
and received the honor of being granted the title of
"Grand Master of the Year".
He was the Technical Executive Advisor for Korean Martial Arts and the
Chairman of the Board of Governors of the
Canadian Martial Arts Society (CMAS).
Grand Master Benko has been inducted into the prestigious
World Martial Arts Hall of Fame
and the Martial Arts Masters, Pioneers & Legends Hall of Fame.
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