Born in the small farming village of Mooul, South Korea, Grandmaster Jung Oh Hwang was the fifth child of a struggling family. His father died while he was still very young, which caused both financial and emotional turmoil for young Jung. Despite the many obstacles, Hwang believed that nothing is impossible, and always worked harder and dreamed bigger than his peers.
Grandmaster Hwang began his life in the martial arts at the age of seven. Hwang would travel one hour by bus to the nearest dojang in Sunsan. After he watched the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, he dedicated his days on the farm to exhaustive physical and mental training in preparation of his Olympic dreams. Hwang’s persistence earned him a black belt in Taekwondo at the age of nine.
Eventually, the Hwang family moved to Taegu, South Korea to pursue better opportunities. While attending Jungang Middle School in Taegu, Grandmaster Hwang was introduced to another type of martial art –Judo. Grandmaster began his Judo training twice a week as a part of the middle school’s physical education program. Soon, he was a member of the Jungang Judo Team and the Taegu Middle School National Taekwondo Team, both consisting of the top athletes from Taegu Middle Schools.
Jung’s work ethic and aptitude did not go unnoticed. Grandmaster Dong Chul Ma of Taegu Kaesung High School recruited Hwang with a full scholarship to attend an elite, private Christian academy. He immediately began training for the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
When he graduated high school in 1976, Hwang earned a full scholarship to Yong-In University. At the age of 18, he won a spot on the Korean National Judo Team and was welcomed to the Olympic Training Center to prepare for Moscow. Hwang trained for four demanding years, but then President Jimmy Carter led an international boycott of the Moscow Olympics. Grandmaster Hwang’s dream would have to wait another four years. Hwang spent that time focusing on his education, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Yong-In University in 1982.
Grandmaster Hwang spent the four years between 1980 and 1984 in sheer determination. He refused to give up his Olympic dream, and was the only member of both the 1980 and the 1984 Olympic Teams. With pride, Jung Oh Hwang won a silver medal in Judo in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, finally making his dream a reality. After 15 years on the Korea National Team, Grandmaster Hwang retired to focus on his changing priorities and new family.
Grandmaster was invited to the United States to teach Taekwondo and Judo at the University of Tennessee, Martin through a program the Korean government instituted under President Chun Doo Hwan. Grandmaster attended graduate school, developed and taught martial arts courses, and supported a new family, all in another language – another demonstration of the determined spirit that had gotten Hwang so far.
In 1986, Hwang opened his first martial arts school in Martin, Tennessee. In the midst of this, Grandmaster Hwang took a short trip back to Seoul to officiate as an international referee in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
While attending University of Tennessee, Grandmaster published a book titled, “A Survey of the Historical, Philosophical, Conditioning, and Educational Dimensions of Taekwondo and Other Martial Arts.” On August 5 of that same year, Jung Hwang graduated with a Master’s degree in physical education from UT.
Grandmaster Hwang’s travels brought him knowledge and experience; he saw first-hand the vast amount of children and homeless in need. With a new goal of making life better for everyone, Grandmaster set out to change lives through martial arts. This goal marked a change, as Grandmaster Hwang turned his focus toward teaching others the positive benefits of practicing a martial art. After graduation, Hwang worked tirelessly to expand his own martial arts school. In 1993, Grandmaster Hwang opened his second school in Paducah, KY, only thirty miles from Martin, Tennessee.
Grandmaster Hwang and his family poured their time and energy into developing a school where Grandmaster Hwang’s teachings of courtesy, integrity, perseverance, and an indomitable spirit could help the community one student at a time. While operating his schools, Grandmaster taught Taekwondo and Judo classes at the University of Tennessee, Martin and Paducah Community College. All the while, Hwang continued in his own training, becoming a 6th degree black belt in Taekwondo, a 6th degree black belt in Judo, and a 7th degree black belt in Hapkido, which earned him the prestigious ranking of Grandmaster.
After five years of helping the Paducah community, Grandmaster Hwang and his family moved to Louisville, where he opened his third school in 1997. Hwang took the Louisville Metro area by storm with his vision of community service and mastery of martial arts.
Grandmaster Hwang incorporated community service as a part of his school’s curriculum. He partnered with the WHAS Crusade for Children, Louisville Metro Police’s Crimes Against Children, Wayside Christian Mission Homeless Shelter, the Jefferson County Public School System, and countless more organizations. Now, with four locations in Louisville, Hwang’s Martial Arts shares in its growth. Members give time, money, support, and services to the local community.
From a young boy in a small village, to Grandmaster of one of the leading martial arts schools in the country, Grandmaster Jung Oh Hwang has yet to waiver in his culminating goal of making the world a better place to live.
A family photo taken at the 2013 Martial Arts Showcase that raised $48,000 to benefit the Children’s Hospital Foundation supporting Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.