Name: Grandmaster Robert J. Howard
Grandmaster Howard (9th degree) is the highest ranking Taekwon-Do practitioner in Ireland. He was one of the first Irish men to achieve the rank of black belt in 1971, (the other two were Mr Liam Dandy and Mr Frank Mathews), and was one of the driving forces in the promotion of Taekwon-Do in Ireland. Through his instructor, First Grand Master Rhee Ki Ha, he has a direct lineage to the founder of Taekwon-Do, Gen Choi Hong Hi. Indeed many of today’s students of Taekwon-Do in Ireland can trace their roots back to Gen Choi Hong Hi, via GM Rhee and Grandmaster Howard. He was the first Irish man to be promoted to Master (7th Degree).
Over his years of teaching Taekwon-Do, Grandmaster Howard has trained thousands of students and produced hundreds of black belts (including Master and Senior Masters). He has trained many international competitors and World Champions. Many of his former students have become senior instructors in their own associations, e.g. INTA (Senior Master Brendan O’Toole, Master Val Douglas, Master Gerry Martin) and ITTIA (Senior Master Paul Kavanagh).
Since the early 70s he has been travelling the world training in Taekwon-Do and umpiring in European and World Championships. He is very well respected both in Ireland and internationally and has many Taekwon-Do friends around the world.
Grandmaster Howard is the chief instructor and president of the Republic of Ireland Taekwon-Do Association. He still trains and teaches in Cabra, Dublin, as well as teaching Taekwon-Do black belts and colour belts throughout Ireland.
Grandmaster Howard’s Taekwon-Do History
The Early Days (The late 60s)
Grandmaster Robert Howard (8th Degree) started his martial arts training in 1966 (at the age of 28) when he took up the Japanese martial art of Karate at a Dojo in Gardiner St, Dublin. After several years of training a Korean instructor (Yung Wu Kwon, 3rd Degree) arrived and started to teach them a new Korean martial art which he said was called Taekwon-Do. Mr Howard (as he was then) and his class mates were very impressed by the instructor’s techniques and trained hard in this new martial art. Unfortunately Mr Yung had to leave Dublin to find work, but he was soon replaced by another Korean instructor (Chang Ho Cho, 5th Degree). Mr Chang promoted Mr Howard (and two of his class mates, Mr Frank Mathews and Mr Liam Dandy) to red belt. But soon after he too had to leave in search of work and Mr Howard was again without an instructor. As the most senior student in the class Mr Howard regularly took the classes, as he and the other senior students kept searching for a new instructor. Fortunately for them (and for martial arts in Ireland) they eventually made contact with another Korean, and invited him to come to Dublin and be their instructor. That Korean was the now world famous First Grand Master Rhee Ki Ha (http://www.ukta.com/history.php)
Mr Rhee (he was then a 5th degree), agreed to teach Mr Howard and his class mates but he informed them that they had been in fact learning been learning Tang Soo Do, and not taekwon-Do. He would now teach them Taekwon-Do, and this was the official introduction of Taekwon-Do in Ireland.
Mr Rhee travelled to Dublin once a month to train Mr Howard and his class mates. They trained all day Saturday and all day Sunday, and although the training was very intense, he loved every minute of it. Mr Rhee’s skill, technique and power motivated Mr Howard to train harder. Mr Howard was inspired by Mr Rhee and wanted to be like him, he was infected with the pioneering spirit of Taekwon-Do. ‘Mr Rhee really was the best, I’ve seen all the other masters from then, but Mr Rhee had so much power’ Mr Howard recalls. ‘We used to bring down lumps of wood from building sites and get him to break them’.
Mr Howard, Mr Dandy and Mr Mathews were the three senior grades at the time and in between the monthly visits by Mr Rhee, Mr Howard conducted the weekly classes in Dublin. Other members of the school at the time were Mr Anthony Phelan, Mr Aidan Walsh, Mr Brendan Roche, Mr Mick Gerathy and Mr Paul Kavanagh.
In 1971 Mr Howard and his two Taekwon-Do friends (Mr Frank Mathews and Mr Liam Dandy) travelled to Oxford, England to grade for the first degree black belts.
Their patterns and techniques were rigorously tested. As a test of power they were required to break two inches of timber with an array of kicks (both legs), punch ten tiles and finally chop a house brick. The trio were successful and became the first Taekwon-Do black belts in Ireland.
Mr Howard and his two friends were now really fired up and on returning to Dublin initiated the setting up of a National Governing Body for Taekwon-Do in Ireland. And so, on the 27th of May 1972, with the help of Mr Rhee, the Republic of Ireland Taekwon-Do Association was born. The open ceremony of the new association was held in Croke Park, ironically over 30 years before soccer or rugby were allowed to be played there. In 1973 Mr Howard was promoted to 2nd degree as were Mr Dandy and Mr Mathews. At the same grading Mr Anthony Phelan, Mr Aidan Walsh, and Mr Brendan Roche, Mick Gerathy were promoted to 1st degree black belts. To see Mr Howard’s promotion history CLICK HERE. The grading coincided with the RITA’s first home international, Ireland Vs Turkey, which was held at the national boxing stadium in Dublin.
Mr Howard (34) was the proud captain of the Irish team, he says, ‘I’ll never forget that night, the roar of the crowd as we ran into the in ring was unbelievable. It was one of the most memorable moments of my Taekwon-Do career.’ The Irish team on the night included Mr Liam Dandy, Mr Aidan Walsh, Mr Brendan Roche, Mr Mick Gerathy.
One of the highlights of his competitive career was winning two silver medals at the second ITF World Taekwon-Do Championships in Oklahoma, USA (1978). In 1979 he achieved the rank of 4th degree (‘Sabum’ in Korean) and the title of International Instructor and Examiner.
In 1981 he travelled to Argentina as an umpire and the manager (Mr Aidan Walsh was the coach), to the 3rd ITF World Taekwon-Do Championships. It was a very successful trip for the Irish team and the title of best overall country.
In 1984 Master Rhee Hi Ha stepped down as the president of the Republic of Ireland Taekwon-Do Association and Mr Howard became the president.
Mr Howard continued to train and grade under his first and only Taekwon-Do instructor (First Grand Master Rhee Ki ha, 9th Degree). To see his promotion history (CLICK HERE). He is renowned for his dedication to Taekwon-Do and his loyalty to his instructor. In 1994 he received an ‘Outstanding Instructor Award’ from the founder of Taekwon-Do Gen Choi Hong Hi. When asked about his loyalty to his instructor he remarked ‘there were many times in the early days of my martial arts training when I had no instructor, we were training with no direction. When Master Rhee arrived we had a purpose, a reason for training. He was a very tough instructor and a lot of people left him. But I swore to myself that he was my instructor and that I was never going back to the bad old days of looking for someone to teach me.’ ‘Master Rhee is Gen Choi’s student and so is a direct link to the Gen Choi and the ITF’.
He trained many times under the founder of Taekwon-Do Gen Chjoi Hong Hi
and other leading world Masters
(To see his seminar history (CLICK HERE)).
He has represented Ireland as both a competitor and umpire ((To see his Competition history (CLICK HERE)), and is very well respected on the international circuit.
Indeed many Irish representatives at international events are asked ‘How is Senior Master Howard?’ ‘Please tell him I said hello’.
In 1994 he retired from umpiring internationally but as the President of the association he continues to represent Ireland at European and World congresses ((To see his Congress history (CLICK HERE)).
In 1995 he was promoted to 7th degree, making him the first Irish man (and third European) to achieve the title of Sahyung (Korean for Master). To see his promotion history (CLICK HERE).
Over his years of teaching Taekwon-Do, Grandmaster Howard has trained thousands of students and produced hundreds of black belts (including Master and Senior Masters). He has trained many international competitors and World Champions.
In 2002 was promoted to 8th degree (Senior Master, Sonim Sahyung) again making him the highest ranked Taekwon-Do Instructor in Ireland. Unfortunately 2002 was also a sad year for Senior Master Howard and the international Taekwon-Do community, as the founder of the art Gen Choi Hong Hi died. Senior Master Howard travelled to Pyongyang, DPR Korea to attend the funeral.
In 2011 was promoted to 9th degree (Grandmaster), again making him the highest ranked Taekwon-Do Instructor in Ireland.
Grandmaster Howard still trains and teaches. He travels Ireland, giving seminars and classes and continues to be an inspiration to his students. He is also the senior examiner at the RITA black belt gradings.
His son (Master Robert G. Howard 7th degree) and his grandsons also train in the art. SM Howard teaches Taekwon-Do at the Cabra Parkside community centre, Dublin 7.
|For Grandmaster Howard's Full Bio, please click here