In 1956 Jhoon Rhee came to the U.S. to study at San Marcos Southwest Texas State College and as a member of the Korean Army Officer Training Program. He was called back to Korea to complete a year of remaining active duty before returning in late 1957. Rhee returned to the U.S. entered engineering school in 1958. In 1959 he transferred to the University of Texas in Austin, Texas and needed a source of income to continue his education. He began teaching a non-credited karate (the name tae kwon do was not known at the time) class in 1959. To attract students he gave a demonstration where he would jumped into the air and brake 3 boards 8 feet high with a kick. This greatly impressed the audiences, especially when you consider Mr. Rhee is 5 feet 4" tall!.
184 students signed up for Rhee's first class. Of those students, only six made it to black belt. One of those six was Allen R. Steen, who is credited as being Mr. Rhee's first American black belt. In 1962 Rhee moved to Washington D.C. to build a karate empire as Steen would do the same in Texas.
Grand Master Rhee went on to open many schools across the US and overseas (65 in Russia). He has taught many congressman, senators and celebrates martial arts. On Capital Hill he created karate tournaments between Republicans and Democrats. Rhee is credited for inviting the padded safety gear karate fighters wear when they spar to reduce injuries. He also started musical forms, the "martial arts ballet" - synchronized taekwondo performed to music.
In 1976 Rhee was named the Martial Arts Man Of the Century by the Washington D.C. Touchdown Club in 1976. His Jhoon Rhee Foundation teaches the "Joy of Discipline" program to public school children. Many have witnessed Rhee's demonstration where he does 100 push-ups in 60 seconds. Pretty impressive for a 68 years young man! In 1999 Black Belt Magazine named Grand Master Rhee as one of the 10 most influential martial arts of the century.
- World-renowned 10th Degree Black Belt; known as the Father of US Tae Kwon Do.
- Presidential Ronald Reagan appointed him as a member of Commission on National Council on Vocational Education. (1988 To 1991)
- President George H. W. Bush, Sr. appointed him as a Special Advisor to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sports (1985-1988)
- National Chairman of the July 4th, 1983 Nation’s Birthday Celebration
- Martial Arts instructor for Muhammad Ali, Tony Robbins, Jack Valenti, Bob Livingston, Jesse Jackson, Jr. Nick Smith, Mike Espy, and over 300 US. Members of Congress.
- Creator of The National Teacher Appreciation Day, the first Friday of each year, which was signed by President Ronald Reagan on October 16, 1986.
- He has over 60 affiliated Tae Kwon Do studios in the US and 65 in the former Soviet Union
- Selected as the 721st “Daily Point of Light” by President George Bush on March 17, 92'.
- Received American Immigrants Achievement Award on March 19, 1999.
- Received NAPMA’s Life Time Achievement Award on June10, 1999.
- Only Korean American, who made one of 203 most contributing American immigrants selected by the National Immigrant Forum and the US Immigration Services. The list includes Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Kissinger and 200 others.
- A member of the White House Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
- The Honorable Mayor Anthony Williams of the Washington DC made a proclamation of The Jhoon Rhee Day on June 28, 2003, commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Jhoon Rhee Tae Kwon Do in the Washington D. C. Areas.
What People Say About Jhoon Rhee
"Dear Jhoon, Your generosity and willingness to serve others merit the highest praise, and I am pleased to recognize you as the 721 Daily Point of Light.”
"Master Rhee taught me Accu-Punch; it is so fast, you can hardly see it.”
“Master Jhoon Rhee stands tall among all great people of the world I met.”
-Chairman and CEO of the Parade Magazine
“I think Taekwondo can be useful for any age. I am 64; Master Rhee is 61, but he is wonderfully flexible, so he is my idol.
“Master Rhee is the greatest American I know.”
Grand Master Jhoon Rhee
and The Legendary Bruce Lee
“To Tae Kwon Do Grand Master Jhoon Rhee, whose constant love, loyalty and knowledge inspire me to greater accomplishment. I respectfully bow to you, sir.”
-World Renowned Motivational Speaker
“I might say Master Jhoon Rhee has become a national treasure.”
“Master Rhee defies the assumed rush of the years. He is an ageless patriot, whose brand of unbreakable loyalty is seldom seen, which is why he is honored by his friends.
"You have certainly impacted a lot of people and I am grateful I can call you my friend."