by Master Rick Fine, Austin Kim Soo Karate

If you have studied the rich history of Chayon-Ryu, you readily recognize such names as Grandmasters Yoon Byung In, Hong Jong Pyo, Han Jin Hee, Toyama Kanken, Takeda Sokaku, and other great teachers who have figured so prominently in our family tree. But perhaps the most vital contribution came from a family member who never practiced or taught martial art at all, but whose support and encouragement led Grandmaster Kim to follow in his predecessors’ footsteps and bring their legacy to all of us: his mother, Mrs. Lee Duk.

Throughout Grandmaster Kim’s upbringing, his mother always advised him to pursue one chosen path instead of mixing his activities, thereby giving priority to his martial art training. She realized that her son could one day become an accomplished and renowned teacher himself, if he maintained his focus. As the following photographs illustrate, the strength of her spirit was quite extraordinary.

This portrait of his mother was taken in June of 1972. To her left you see her favorite flowers: forget-me-nots. A sincere Buddhist all her life, Mrs. Lee was very fond of flower-arranging. Sadly, she passed away in 1976 while Grandmaster Kim was here in the United States, so he was unable to attend her funeral.

Later in 1976, however, Grandmaster Kim was able to return to Korea and visit his mother’s grave. When he first walked up, he noticed that her favorite flower had sprung up right next to her headstone. He checked to see if it was real (it was) or if anyone had planted it there (no one had). There being no other forget-me-nots within sight, he took its appearance as a greeting from his mother.

In December of 1979 Grandmaster Kim again visited Korea, this time with a delegation of students from Puebla, Mexico. Enrique Gamez, their chief instructor, accompanied him on his second visit to his mother's grave. While speaking to his mother, Grandmaster Kim acknowledged that since it was winter, she would be unable to show him her favorite flower again. So he asked her to show her spirit some other way. Then when Mr. Gamez snapped this shot, his Polaroid camera made an unusual whining noise like a baby crying. As the picture developed, the area to the left of Grandmaster Kim was covered with a blood-colored liquid. A dried portion of the liquid still remains today, as shown.

Two years later, in December 1981, Grandmaster Kim paid his third visit to his mother's grave, this time with his wife Mrs. Kim. Grandmaster Kim had since published his Palgue 7•8 book which he dedicated to his mother, “without whose support and guidance, I would never have been a Martial Arts Instructor.” So on this visit, he brought her a copy of his recent publication to show how he had honored her. Inexplicably, when this Polaroid photo developed, a yellow streak appeared to the left of the book as if she were answering him this time with a beam of light.

A few years later, Mrs. Lee gave her son yet another sign, a sign from which all of us have benefited. Those who have known Grandmaster Kim for a long time will remember how he suffered with severe back pain for some ten years. He underwent numerous medical treatments of many types, including acupuncture and chiropractic care, yet nothing alleviated his pain. One physician even recommended surgery. Students from that period will recall how he often had to stoop over while teaching. When waiting to putt on the golf course, he always had to lean on his putter for support, using it as a crutch.

In his home Grandmaster Kim maintains an altar in honor of his mother. After receiving a spiritual message from her in 1985, he prayed and asked her to help him get well. Every morning he served fresh water to her and to the Buddha beside her. Then one day on the putting green, he realized that he was no longer leaning on his putter but was instead standing up straight without pain. His back problems had finally disappeared and have never returned. On occasion, he still serves her water as a tribute.