Castle Rock’s Man of All Seasons
I scheduled a meeting with a man I have come to admire, intensely. I first met Grand Master Han Lee at Castle View High School, on a Saturday evening, in October 2017. Many, yes many students of all ages and ranks were entertaining a bleachers-filled crowd of parents, neighbors, and spectators. I had the privilege of photographing the event. Having a background in Tai Chi and Qigong myself, I was intensely intrigued by the respect this man received from his students. What impressed me even more, was the respect the Master returned to his students. Recently, I was thrilled at the opportunity to sit with Master Lee for a brief interview and discussion. This discussion evolved into an emotional, close to tearful moment of friendship. One of the by-products of martial arts is discovering existence in the moment. We were there. In the moment. We shared a powerful, spiritual moment in time.
I arrived at the Taekwondo Academy around 4:30 in the afternoon. While awaiting my much-anticipated meeting, I decided to sit in the guest area outside of the Dojang, the formal meeting place between student and teacher; it is a space set aside by tradition. Around 6:00 PM, Master Lee, a man about my height and stature, came around the corner at a fast pace, apologizing continuously along the way. I assured him that it was not a problem. I was enjoying myself. It was apparent that everyone is seeking time with Master Lee. I could see why. He is a Grand Master of Taekwondo, a man of great humility, and a true human being filled to the brim with love and care for others. Who could not be attracted to such a person?
As we walked into his office, Master Lee continued to apologize for my wait. My wait? I was blessed to be in such a place. I was in the presence of animated Grace. I was thoroughly enjoying every moment of this trivial delay. Taking a seat, I continued with a little small talk about my contentment. This went on for a couple of minutes as I pointed out many of the things I enjoyed about being at the Castle Rock School of Taekwondo. I then asked my first question, “Tell me a little about yourself?” He leans in, as if he was entering into a sacred space of which I began to feel we both were suddenly sharing. Han Won Lee began to tell me, in summary, his story.
Grand Master Lee was born in Korea of what he described as, less than modest means. Yes, he and his family were poor (there is a life-lesson here). In his younger years he was able to come to America where he grew in his love for the martial arts. His training and skills found him in the Olympic Games in 1988, where he won the Bronze Medal. He served as coach of the U.S.A Taekwondo Team for 10 years. Castle Rock has an Olympic champion in its midst. Today, with the help of dedicated and skillful instructors, his schools of Taekwondo operate in Castle Rock, Centennial, and Aurora. He is an immigrant to our country who has not only discovered the “American Dream” but dedicated his life to living it so he can give it to others less fortunate. Thus, the real, and the genuine story of Grand Master Han Won Lee.
As the conversation moved through the years, the sacred space we seemed to share suddenly became filled with enthusiastic emotion. He began to share with me the outreach programs he has dedicated his life to; a passion for teaching the life-skills of discipline, respect, integrity, and a “never give up attitude”. I sincerely experienced the passion, love, and care he has and he shows for the young people of today. He has a special torch in his heart for the many who he can relate to from his own childhood.
The “After School” Programs run for several weeks during the school year, with graduations in the Spring. His focus is on Title 1 schools. Two hundred students or more will attend the graduations. The Hallmark of Graduations will be the Aurora Schools. Ten schools will be represented. I missed two previous graduations, I intended to attend due to unexpected circumstance, but the Aurora graduation in May is on my calendar. Among his outreach works, Han Lee is actively involved with fund raisers for Children’s Hospital. All uniforms for the many in the “After School Programs” are purchased and and supplied by Master Lee. He gives much more than just his time and experience.
After sharing his passion for his schools and his outreach work, we easily slipped into a common ground of discussion. I didn’t grow up poor, but our commonality comes from life-changing experiences. I too, was an athlete, being a jockey in horse racing for several years. Other than our personal life challenging experiences that opened our hearts up to a higher love, we both suffer from the conundrum of wear and tear on our bodies LOL! I could have talk for hours, and I felt he would have done the same. I will say, as much in demand as this man is among so many, his time was totally dedicated to the attention of my heart and my ear, and I took in as much as I could. You should meet such a man; a man who IS the “American Dream”!
View the website here: https://www.hanleetaekwondoacademy.com/