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Senior Instructor: Master Mark O'Donnell VII Dan ITF

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RITA President achieves Taekwon-Do's Highest Rank of Grandmaster

Senior Master Robert J. Howard, was promoted to Taekwon-Do Grandmaster, 9th degree black belt, at the 17th ITF World Championships in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Grandmaster Howard received his new rank (Sasung, Korean for Grandmaster) from the president of the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF), Professor Chang Ung, at the 17th World Championships. The RITA’s president has just returned from the North Korean capital city and his family and students throughout Ireland are already celebrating the fantastic news. He is the first European to be promoted by the Professor Chang Ung and the ITF and, according to the ITF’s website (www.itftkd.org), makes him the 8th worldwide. Also promoted in North Korea to the coveted rank of Grandmaster was Senior Master Phap Lu (Canada), SM Hwang (ITF and Czech technical director), SM Kim (Technical director to Bulgaria).

On his promotion Grandmaster Howard said "I'm so honoured to be promoted to Grandmaster by the ITF. When I started in Taekwon-Do back in the sixties I never thought I'd be still training today, and still with my original instructor First Grandmaster Rhee Ki Ha. Perseverance is one of General Choi's five tenets and I’ve always tried to live by them."

Grand Master Howard is the highest ranking Taekwon-Do practitioner in Ireland. He is renowned for his loyalty to both his instructor, First Grandmaster Rhee Ki Ha, and the founder of Taekwon-Do, General Choi Hong Hi. He is a true martial artist and teaches Taekwon-Do in the spirit in which Gen Choi intended.

He started his martial arts training in 1966 and was one of the first Irish men to achieve the rank of black belt in 1971, (the other two were Mr Liam Dandy (now Master) and Mr Frank Mathews). He 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 GM Howard.  In 1995 he became 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.

  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.

In 1994 he retired from umpiring internationally but as the president of the association he continues to represent Ireland at European and World congresses.

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).

Grand Master Howard still trains and teaches. He travels throughout 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. GM Howard teaches at the Cabra Parkside community centre, Dublin 7 (www.masterhoward.com). The promotion will make the RITA's 40th anniversary in 2012 even more special.

Photos by Mark Nixon (http://marknixon.com/)