George Allen, Willing to Go to the Mat for Martial Arts?

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sen. George Allen's little-known life as a taekwondo aficionado was exposed in an exclusive interview this month in Martial Arts World, a quarterly magazine for professionals. The cover headline: "The next president of the U.S.? Republicans, Independents, and even Democrats like him. Who will be good for the martial arts industry?" Who, indeed? Key excerpts of a five-page interview with Publisher Y. K. Kim:

· "As a great leader running for re-election, you must be very busy," Grandmaster Kim asks. "How many hours a day do you exercise?"

The Virginia Republican replies: "I try to exercise for thirty to forty minutes a day. I do sit-ups and push-ups, lift weights, just to get my day started on a positive note. I also like to ride my bicycle, and I play tennis with my son."

· Allen describes his concern about the obesity crisis and the need for schools and parents to encourage children toward physical fitness.

"Perhaps they can enroll them in martial arts classes?" Kim asks.

"An excellent idea!" says Allen. "I am very much in favor of it. . . . There's a certain trust that you can have in someone who's trained in the martial arts because you know what they've gone through."

· Later, after being nudged by his interviewer, Allen endorses martial arts programs in schools, run by local instructors: "The great thing about martial arts is that it doesn't matter your height, your gender, or your physical attributes. You're going to become the best that you can be, and it will bring out the best in you."

· In closing, Kim thanks Allen for "your time, your wisdom, and your exceptional leadership. Please let us know when you announce that you will run for president."

"I like your positive spirit," says Allen.

As comprehensive as the article is, it still leaves some questions unanswered:

· Is it, ummm, real?

Yes. Despite the worshipful tone and tabloid graphics that led us to wonder if Mark Warner had bought the National Lampoon, the story is based on an interview conducted two months ago in Allen's Senate office.

· How did Allen get into martial arts?

His father, former Redskins coach George Allen , became friends with Northern Virginia's own Jhoon Rhee , the man credited with bringing taekwondo to the United States. "Grandmaster Rhee has been a very close and respected member of the larger family of Allen friends for many years," says press secretary David Snepp.

· Does Allen have a black belt?

Although he took taekwondo at U-Va., Allen has achieved no belt for proficiency.

"The principles of martial arts is what Sen. Allen really respects," says Snepp. Allen did, however, don a black-colored belt for the article photos -- in a startling breach of martial arts etiquette.

Can't wait for the Sen. Hillary Clinton interview in International Kickboxer!

A Pageant in Itself: Offscreen at Miss USA

Scenes from the Miss USA pageant in Baltimore that you couldn't have seen on TV: Pageant owner Donald Trump being applauded as he walked to his seat in the Baltimore Arena . . . Mrs. Maryland , Ms. North America Galaxy and Miss Teen New Mexico sitting in the audience like visiting ambassadors in tiaras and sashes . . . The Ravens-loyal crowd booing Steeler Hines Ward when he was introduced as a judge . . . The man in the long brocade coat and cornrows who brayed "Yessss! Yessss! Yessss!" when Miss D.C. Candace Allen was named a Top 15 finalist (later Top 10) . . . The crowd giggling as Miss Florida fumbled her Q&A . . . The crowd booing as favorite Miss Ohio (a fresh-faced gal in a black plunge-to-her-navel gown) was announced a mere third runner-up . . . William Donald Schaefer waiting to pose for a photo with winner Miss Kentucky after the show . . . At the VIP reception, getting a smile out of judge Nicole Linkletter (a coltish "America's Next Top Model" winner) with our catty talk about the finalists' dresses. "I don't think I'm supposed to talk about that!" she laughed before cute gold-medal speedskater Chad Hedrick , a fellow judge, lured her away . . . Kendel Ehrlich , glam in strapless chartreuse and pavé diamond snake necklace, leaning in to whisper conspiratorially to Miss Ohio . . . Commentator (and "Queer Eye" star) Carson Kressley blanking on the first name of his new best friend: "Oh, First Lady Ehrlich! First Lady Ehrlich!" . . . The gaggle of Miss Teen USA contestants circle-dancing late into the night, unfazed by the shortage of available boys . . . Mayor Mart in O'Malley's un-PC response when we asked whom he rooted for: "I thought Ohio was strong." Playing to a national audience already!

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