At LifeTrek Martial Arts, while we respect those who still do, we no longer issue the traditional Dan Bon (Black Belt Number) that many Tang Soo Do/Soo Bahk Do/Moo Duk Kwan schools who trace their heritage back to Grandmaster Hwang Kee do. The truth is, there has been so much splintering of the style over the years, that the value of the Dan Bon has been greatly diluted for MOST (not all) people.
For instance, my Dan Bon is #24911, but not directly under the Moo Duk Kwan. Rather, it was earned in 1992 under the World Tang Soo Do Association and Grandmaster Jae Chul Shin. This was many years after the official “split” from the Moo Duk Kwan.
As a result. there are likely several other practitioners of the Moo Duk Kwan heritage who have the #24911 Dan Bon, because the approach several groups took was, whomever splintered off from the original group typically would keep their Dan Bon, and allow those who came with them to keep their Dan Bon from the Moo Duk Kwan. Then, any new black belts would be issued a number in order after whatever the highest number was in that group.
So, very few groups (if any) have a #0 or #1, other than the original Moo Duk Kwan.
Thus, while I am #24911 under Grandmaster J.C. Shin, there is likely another #24911 under another Grandmaster, and another #24911 under another Grandmaster and so on, all claiming a lineage back to Grandmaster Hwang Kee. And that’s not even speaking of whomever out there is the actual #24911 under Grandmaster Hwang Kee.
In short, outside of historical interest, the Dan Bon is a construct that has little value (in my opinion) in terms of original intent, aside from those who received a legitimate Moo Duk Kwan Dan Bon. At LifeTrek, it is the proficiency and knowledge of the practitioner that we value much more than Dan Bon, the number of stripes, or the red center Master’s line through someone’s belt.
I have often quipped that you could take all of my stripes away and even give me a white belt, and I’d continue training, teaching, and learning from others. Guess what? I mean it! While I’ll continue to test for higher rank (if I’m ever honored with the invitation), I’ll be just as honored and happy to continue making an impact in people’s lives at my current rank for the rest of my life. And please, don’t ever call me “Master” (even if I earn that rank.)
All of that as a backdrop, for those of who care, here is the LifeTrek lineage:
- Grandmaster Hwang Kee (Founder of the Moo Duk Kwan)
- Grandmaster Jae Chul Shin (Moo Duk Kwan Dan Bon #698 and Founder of the World Tang Soo Do Association)
- Master Ki Yul Yu (Moo Duk Kwan Dan Bon #5311)
- Master Michael W. Hicks (Moo Duk Kwan/U.S. Tang Soo Do Federation Dan Bon #18166. This is one of the lowest active Dan Bons in the World Tang Soo Do Association today)
- Brian R. Burkett (World Tang Soo Do Association Dan Bon #24911)
To be clear, as a mostly independent Tang Soo Do school (with affiliation mentioned elsewhere), LifeTrek no longer utilizes or recognizes my Dan Bon. As far as I know, the World Tang Soo Do Association may no longer recognize it, either. This lineage is only provided for those who believe it to be a qualification for instruction of the martial arts. We realize this is likely a small number of people, but we want to accommodate as many as possible when seeking the right home for your martial arts training.
We think it’s far more important for you to know that we are committed to continued training for our instructors, even at our highest levels, and that dogmatism is wholly rejected at LifeTrek. “Karate” is something that, prior to the advent of large associations, while it had core techniques, kata/hyungs, etc… was more about meeting the needs of the individual student based on their abilities and attributes rather than rigid curriculum. While you will instantly recognize us as a “traditional” Tang Soo Do school if that is your background, you will find we innovate where it makes sense.
There is no “change for change’s sake,” just to be on the “cutting edge” or whatever, but there is also no slavish adherence to things that have been proven completely ineffective. We have a core curriculum we expect our students to learn to achieve rank. Beyond that, the sky is the limit in the evolving study and knowledge of the martial arts.