The comprehensive history of the American Kang Duk Won Association can be traced back to the earliest references of the martial arts in China. Although Kang Duk Won is a Korean martial art, many factors influenced the development of Kang Duk Won, as is the case with most modern martial arts. The Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945 undoubtedly had the most impact on the development of Korean martial arts. During this time, any practice of Korean tradition was forbidden. Koreans were allowed to study Japanese and Chinese martial arts. Following the Japanese occupation, numerous Korean martial art schools (kwans) emerged under differing influences.
The modern roots of American Kang Duk Won were planted in the 1950’s when former students of Kwon Bop, Hong Jong-Pyo and Park Chul Hee, formed Kang Duk Won. In 1952 Korea was deep in war. Representatives of the different Korean kwans demonstrated various skills to the South Korean President. In response, President Syngman Rhee ordered the kwans to unite under a single system. The old had met the new and on April 11, 1955, the name Tae Kwon Do was decided as the single unified martial art system for South Korea and its military. The kwans had united, but retained some of their individuality under the new system.
In 1954, Raymond Arndt, an enlisted member of the United States Army and an avid boxer, was stationed in Okinawa. After a brief but impressionable clash with a local martial artist, Mr. Arndt began to study the Okinawan art of Wado Ryu. His fascination with the martial arts grew and with his every military assignment came the quest for more knowledge. From 1954 to 1968, Mr. Arndt immersed himself in the study and practice of Wado Ryo, Beikoku Goyukai, and Kung Fu.
Mr. Arndt was introduced to Tae Kwon Do in 1968 while stationed in Korea. As an experienced boxer, Mr. Arndt had relied heavily on his hands in his sparring drills. This proved no match for the lightning fast kicks and swift footwork of the Koreans. Mr. Arndt was so impressed that he turned his attention to the study of Tae Kwon Do. He met and befriended Kum Chun Kim, an unusually gifted martial artist who served as a chief instructor for Kang Duk Won under Park Chul Hee. Mr. Arndt and Master Kim trained rigorously for three hours each day. In September 1969, before a panel of eight masters and over 2500 onlookers, Mr. Arndt tested for and received his black belt in Tae Kwon Do Kang Duk Won.
In October 1969, Mr. Arndt returned to the United States and was stationed at Fort Drum, Watertown, New York. He opened a martial art school at the Family YMCA under the authority of Isaac Henry of Beikoku Goyukai. Another school soon followed at Potsdam University. Shortly thereafter in 1970, Mr. Arndt arranged for a visit from Master Park Chul Hee. Master Park was so impressed with the capabilities of Mr. Arndt’s students that he named him as the East Coast Representative of Kang Duk Won in the United States. Mr. Arndt had also arranged for Master Kim to move to the United States and eventually receive his American citizenship. Prior to Master Park’s return to Korea, the American Kang Duk Won Karate Association was officially established and Master Kim was named as President of the association. This took place prior to the implementation of the modern Kukkiwon system developed by the South Korean government to organize and govern world Tae Kwon Do activities. Mr. Arndt's first students from the Watertown, NY dojang included Robert Lawlor, Charles Hardiman, and Joseph Hardiman. During the 1970's, Kang Duk Won schools flourished in the northeast and were also established in Washington, D.C., West Palm Beach, FL, and Homestead, FL. While Mr. Arndt was teaching Kang Duk Won classes at Homestead, FL, he continued his study of other styles and was awarded a 3rd degree black belt rank in Ashi-Te-Do in 1974.
Following Master Arndt’s retirement from the United States Army in 1978, he moved to Port St. Lucie, Florida where he established another Kang Duk Won school in 1980. One of his first students was Daniel Borger. Mr. Borger was instantly captivated with the beauty, strength and grace of the art of Kang Duk Won. He eventually earned his black belt and began teaching classes with Master Arndt in the Port St. Lucie/Treasure Coast area.
In 1983, the untimely death of Master Kim brought about a very challenging period in the history of the association. It had been Master Kim’s wish for Master Arndt to be the Grandmaster and heir to the art of Kang Duk Won in America. The relationship that existed between Master Kim and Master Arndt nurtured the tenets of spirit, loyalty and virtue, which have been learned and shared by thousands of American Kang Duk Won students.
Grandmaster Arndt had a profound impact in not only the growth of Kang Duk Won in the United States, but the martial arts in general. Because of his wisdom, knowledge and dedication to the martial arts, Grandmaster Arndt also served as an advisor for several other martial arts organizations in Europe and the Middle East. In April 2007, the Action Martial Arts Hall of Fame and Spirit Awards inducted Grandmaster Raymond P. Arndt. He was inducted as a Platinum Pioneer in recognition of his over 50 years of martial arts leadership and dedication. Action Martial Arts Magazine’s Hall of Fame was designed to recognize the elite of the martial arts profession, and Grandmaster Arndt’s willingness to pass on the knowledge and philosophy of the martial arts has established him as a true visionary of the arts.
Sadly, Grandmaster Arndt died January 30, 2010. Grandmaster Arndt taught that any journey begins with the most important first step. Grandmaster Arndt’s first step in the martial arts in 1954 carried him on a journey that brought him to lead one of the largest non-franchised martial arts organizations in North America. Grandmaster Arndt’s legacy of strength, knowledge, and leadership continues to live through the spirit of his students and establishes a solid foundation for continued growth and evolution of the American Kang Duk Won styles of martial arts. Currently, Master Robert C. Lawlor serves as Chief Master of American Kang Duk Won Karate based in Watertown, NY and Master Daniel M. Borger serves as Chief Master of American Kang Duk Won based in Port St. Lucie, FL. And the legacy continues...