Four congressmen were presented with black belts in tae kwon do yesterday at a ceremony in the Russell Senate Office Building.
Their "grandmaster," Jhoon Rhee, martial arts guru to columnist Jack Anderson, actor Chuck Norris, boxer Muhammad Ali, former Redskins coach George Allen and former Korean-about-town Tongsun Park, brought along 100 copies of a biography of George Washington and enough young students to perform a "martial arts ballet" called "Ancestors."
The ballet -- set to a poem penned by Rhee and not to be confused with one performed yesterday to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony or the one set to Kate Smith's version of "God Bless America" -- depicts God's world divided into Evil on the left and Goodness on the right.
"Sometimes you say you should never be political and religious," said Rhee, after the ceremony. "But these two fields dominate our lives more than anything else."
The new black belts -- Reps. Bill Chappell Jr. (D-Fla.), Toby Roth (R-Wis.) and Bob Livingston (R-La.) and former congressman Richard Ichord (D-Mo.) -- have been training with Rhee for many years. "I feel more confident that I'm able to take care of myself in a challenging physical situation," said Ichord.
They praised Rhee's patriotism and his brand of spiritual training, especially for young Americans. Chappell called Rhee a "symbol" and said he can "help us and help us help others see what's important in America."sk,2
The congressmen demonstrated tae kwon do moves, broke boards with their bare limbs and, in the ultimate test of their determination and fortitude, took to the carpets with each other and with former national champs Jeff Smith and Michael Coles.
Dressed in white pajamas with a Korean flag on the left shoulder and an American flag on the right and with red foam pads for their hands, feet and heads, they flailed, kicked, punched and jumped.
Match 1: Roth versus Ichord. Limbs flail, kicks to the head find their mark, punches land with unsettling thuds. The warriors, tangled, almost fall into the TV cameras.
Match 2: Chappell versus Livingston. Livingston, the tallest of the four, exploits the great reach of his kicks. He aims for Chappell's head but misses and loses his balance. Chappell, struggling to remember his moves, holds up like a pro.
Match 3: Democrats versus Republicans. A hopeless melee. It's two-on-two, then three-on-one, then two-on-two again. The result is inconclusive. Like Congress.
And the winner is . . . Jhoon Rhee.
"The judges have been very, very generous," Rhee smiled. Each congressman took off his brown belt and stood tall as Rhee replaced it with a black belt. Each got a diploma and a bouquet of roses, plus three bruised ribs for Roth, a sprained toe for Livingston and a swollen mouth for Chappell.