It is a busy week in Annapolis, with the legislature finishing its annual 90-day session in a flurry of hearings, negotiations and votes on bills. But there is still time, apparently, for martial arts.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) hosted an event Tuesday evening to mark “Taekwondo Day” in Maryland, joking with the crowd in the Miller Senate Office Building that he is an honorary black belt “to the ninth degree” and promising they would see his skills in action.
He then left the room and reappeared, moments later, dressed in a white martial arts jacket, black suit pants and dress shoes. The crowd, made up of Hogan staffers, lawmakers, his wife, Yumi, and taekwondo students and teachers, cheered.
Jimmy Rhee, secretary of the Office of Minority Affairs, said any lawmakers who were thinking of overturning the governor’s vetoes might have second thoughts after what they were about to witness.
Grand Master Chung Koo Nam lifted four pieces of wood taped together over his head. Scribbled in black marker on the front: “Partisan Gridlock.”
Hogan bowed, placed his hand on the board, shuffled to get the proper stance.
Then he raised his right hand over his head and started counting backwards.
“Three, two, one.”
The boards crashed to the floor. And like a prize fighter, Hogan pumped his fists in the air. The crowd screamed. He took a bow, then hugged his wife.
Some of his staffers were still imitating the move minutes later.
During the event, the governor honored Jhoon Rhee, who is Jimmy Rhee’s father and is credited with bringing the Korean self-defense discipline of taekwondo to the United States. Jhoon Rhee taught taekwondo techniques to Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and Muhammad Ali, his son said.
Hogan said Jhoon Rhee, who is in his 80s, also trained members of Congress decades ago, including the governor’s father, Larry Hogan Sr.
Mentioning his wife, who is Korean American, Hogan said, “Korean culture has a special place in my heart.”
Del. Benjamin F. Kramer (D-Montgomery) said he studied with the elder Rhee 40 years ago and came to the ceremony to catch up with the legendary grand master. He also said he was impressed with Hogan’s chop.
Thinking ahead to the legislation that is being passed by the House and Senate and moving to the governor’s desk, Kramer said with a smile: “Hopefully, he signs bills with his left hand.”