Master Who Claimed Credit for Bruce Lee's Kick Has Died

Jhoon Rhee popularized taekwondo in the US beginning in the 1950s
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 1, 2018 12:43 PM CDT
'Father of American Taekwondo' Dead at 86
In a Jan. 24, 2018 photo, a class practices at the new Taekwondo studio in Fitchburg, Mass.   (John Love/The Sentinel & Enterprise via AP)

Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, the man known as the "father of American Taekwondo," died Monday after a long illness at age 86, reports the AP. His son, Chun Rhee, said his father died in hospice care in Arlington, Va. Jhoon Rhee was a 10th-degree black belt credited with popularizing taekwondo in the US, especially around the nation's capital, after emigrating from Korea in the 1950s. He opened his first taekwondo school in Washington, DC, in 1962. By the 1980s, Rhee had 11 schools in the Washington area.

Rhee became friends with legendary martial artist and actor Bruce Lee—he reportedly claimed to have taught him how to properly kick—and appeared in a 1973 movie, When Taekwondo Strikes. He also befriended boxer Muhammad Ali and counted presidents Lyndon Johnson and George HW Bush as clients. "Martial arts was a way of life for him," Chun Rhee said of his father, who at 68 was doing 1,000 pushups a day with plans to "live to be 136," Deadspin reports.

(More martial arts stories.)

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