28 August 2011

Noemi Prone

Noemi Prone and myself.

On Thursday, at the 2011 Taekwondo Hall of Fame I met someone I never thought I'd meet, someone I've always considered somewhat of a legend, the great pattern specialist Master Noemi Prone (6th Dan). Master Prone is the adopted daughter of the late General Choi Hong-Hi, the principle founder of Taekwon-Do. I have no qualms about calling her a master even though that title is usually reserved for 7th and 8th Dans in ITF Taekwon-Do. It is well accepted that Master Prone has mastered the pattern Moon-Moo and actually set a new standard in pattern perfectionism, power and aesthetics, which is strived towards by younger generations of ITF practitioners. I remember as a young martial artist looking at her performance of Moon-Moo in absolute awe. To this day, whenever I look at her iconic performance of the pattern for the Legacy CD-ROM series (see below), I am still filled with a sense of great admiration. Her power, control, flexibility, balance and focus have been an inspiration for thousands.

I still remember seeing footage of her during an ITF World Championships and the sense of awe I experienced that bordered on fear as she shouted the pattern's name at the end. She did it with the intensity of a true kihap – a “spirit shout”. In some martial art legends a real kihap can instil dread in an opponent, sometimes causing them to faint or flee in terror.

My impression of Master Prone has therefore also been somewhat clouded by these powerful pattern performances. Meeting her on Thursday left me surprised. She was nothing like I imagined her. I imagined her to be a stern unapproachable person. This was not the case at all. She turned out to be a very friendly, open, and amiable individual. While she doesn't come across as shy, neither is she very outgoing and although this might seem unflattering in some people, it only accentuated her humble character. After having met her I can only speak of her in pleasant terms.

Something that caught my eye while we were dining at the same table at the Hall of Fame banquet was that she did not consume any alcohol. I noticed it because I don't drink either. Alcohol plays a conspicuous part in Korean culture and my abstanence often leave me feeling somewhat uncomfortable at such martial art socializing events where people are often expected to drink and toast. When I asked her about it she said that she doesn't like drinking and prefers water; I was happy to ask the waiter to bring more water to our table.

During the 2011 Taekwondo Hall of Fame Ceremony, Master Prone was inducted into the Taekwondo Hall of Fame for her great achievements. She had won medals at World Championships on numerous occasions, including gold medals in 1990 (Canada – Patterns), 1992 (North Korea – Power-Breaking), and 2004 (South Korea – Patterns), making her a three times world champion. She is known as a high level competitor in patterns, sparring and power-breaking. She received her 1st Dan in 1986 and received her 6th Dan in 2006.

Master Prone is from Argentina. She is / was the vice president of the ITF Taekwon-Do Federation of Argentina and is also a prominent member of a number of other sports organizations. She has also been declared sportsperson of the century by the Taekwondo Association of Argentina (TAA) and received numerous other awards in Argentina.

Although she is a great female role model for thousands of female Taekwon-Doin, her achievements really transcend gender. I know that I have always looked up to her and I know of many males that share my admiration. This post, is in part, a small tribute to this phenomenal Taekwon-Do woman.

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