Kevin Sogor's journey into the martial arts started like so many other people - he saw Enter the Dragon - and got hooked on the notion of self protection, self control and self awareness as a process through training in the arts of fighting. Living in London, England at the time, Enter the Dragon was rated "X" and many of the fight scenes and all the weapons scenes were deleted - but still a great film.
This was the summer of 1979. By the fall of that year, Kevin had become immersed in the search for the art he would study. To further this search, he bought copies of all the available martial arts magazines, Karate and Oriental Arts Magazine was a particular favorite. Many of you in the UK made the journey to 638 Fulham Road, S.W.6 to the "shop" - well more like a mini-warehouse. Kevin spent many Friday's there, reading books he couldn't afford and talking to Paul Crompton - the magazine publisher. His advice to Kevin was to try the Ving Tsun Club of Victor Kan, the best able student of Yip Man and a formidable instructor. Mr. Compton secured a referral, and Kevin was on his way - but a lecture in an English class at the American School in London changed all that.
Mrs. Lee's Journalism Class had invited an instructor of the martial arts to their class for an interview. Dressed in a black satin uniform with gold trim, Kevin could only watch from another class as the instructor kicked and whirled another student around the room. Later that afternoon the instructor was given permission to do a demonstration in the school after class - Kevin was in the front row. The instructor was Bob Miller - 5th Dan Hapkido.
The classes in Hapkido started a few days later at ASL and Kevin was the first to enroll. Hapkido seemed perfect, kicks, strikes, throws, grabs, controls, and nunchuks... Well OK, nunchaku are not Hapkido - but Kevin didn't really care. All the students had black dobok from day one - $25 for a dobok and "karate" patch - we were the business!
The first class was huge - 65 kids of all ages in three pods of classrooms - all ready to stretch and kick - for the princely sum of $2 per class. Kevin was no exception - and got into the training with zeal - well, until he passed out from dehydration half way through class one. But as fortune would have it, Bob Miller woke Kevin up and said, "You don't pay here again as long as you always train that hard." That seemed like a great deal. The classes at ASL were great, until Bob brought in his "nunchuks" - the next day, the club was history - might have also been the huge amount of weapons he offered for sale in the school cafeteria that previous afternoon at lunch...
Training continued at the Abraxsis Racquet Ball Club. There were dance studios and a small cafe' in addition to the ball courts and the place had a real homey feel. One other ASLer made the trip to the new club - and he left after a month or so. Never the less the Abraxsis club got huge - fast. Mainly because Bob Miller was a supreme self-promoter - his favorite word when asked how he was doing was "DYNAMIC". There was a man in the club, with a goatee and a cane that was walking around giving advice on kicking and hand position, he was not introduced to us but I never forgot him.
Through the many adventures that were Bob Miller, I became the instructor of the children's section at Blue Belt as well as a well known replacement assistant instructor for adults - teaching all over London when other Hapkido instructors were unavailable or went to Korea to train.
Among the most notable people that I trained with in those days were Michael Forster (from Canada), Gavin Snell, Kevin Taylor, and a Shotokan guy named Leon Kuhn, whose white canvas uniform was stained gray from cleaning dojo floors in Japan and who had the best front kick I have ever seen.
Well, Bob Miller was a great self promoter - he promoted himself right out of Britain - seems he was there all that time with no work permit - so it was back to the States for him - he is remembered though for a demonstration at the Bull and Bush Pub that was attended by almost 1000 people.
Christian Schilling took over teaching the club full time, and started a search for a new club Chief. His selection was David Morgan-Brown.
David Morgan-Brown was a formidable instructor. He was highly ranked in Jiu-Jitsu through Professors Robert Clark and Richard Morris. In addition, he was head of style of 3 forms of Northern Style Kung Fu (never got the instructors names though). David Morgan-Brown was a reality specialist before such a thing existed; we trained in the moors of north Yorkshire, slept outside and did night training - long before this stuff was in vogue. He kept his own training current by training in whatever was trendy - he put on the first seminars in the UK in Hwarang Do with students and the son of Dr. Joo Bang Lee and Ninjitsu with Stephan Hayes. Kevin attended them all - but longed to return to more traditional Hapkido.
David Morgan-Brown was a great instructor, and wanted his students to grow as much as possible - but a series of decisions led Kevin to move on. Those are not for publication, but needless to say, Kevin has never left any instructor and that is that.
One real positive benefit of the David Morgan-Brown experience was meeting lifelong friend Kerry Stanton. Kerry is currently training in the Bujinkan - so there are still lots of fun, and pain, ahead when Kerry and Kevin get together.
Kevin contacted Grandmaster Fred Adams, the man with the cane from his early training in 1980, in the summer of 1984, and returned to the fold of Traditional Hapkido in Grandmaster Adams organization of International Hapkido.
International Hapkido was the natural progression of the Great Britain Hapkido Association and all of Grandmaster Adams travels around the world teaching. Grandmaster Adams is a man of many firsts in Hapkido. He was the first to start and organization in the UK - the Great Britain Hapkido Association - founded in 1971. He was the first to teach Hapkido in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and many countries in Europe - including much of the former USSR - including some training classified to this day.
Kevin is student AM1 - America 1, and is Grandmaster Adams longest training student outside the UK and one of the longest training students period. Training with Grandmaster Adams - often privately is both fun and painful. Grandmaster Adams technique is superb. A common bond between Grandmaster Adams and Kevin is the thirst for the history of Hapkido - something Grandmaster Adams own instructor N. G. Joo was not very willing to discuss.
This thirst for knowledge led Kevin, with Grandmaster Adams support, to contact Michael Wollmershauser, the head of the American Hapkido Association in the spring of 1987.
Kevin was a young, brash man in his early twenties when he first spoke to Grandmaster Wollmershauser, and basically quizzed him about everything he could think of - ignoring the fact that Grandmaster Wollmershauser was the only Westerner to have trained in Korea with the founder of Hapkido, Great Grandmaster Choi, Yong Sool. Grandmaster Wollmershauser was very patient with Kevin (why??) and they talked often by phone as Kevin absorbed all the information he was given.
During this time, Kevin was traveling back and forth to the UK to train, and bringing Grandmaster Adams son Nial to the US for more training. It was during this time that Kevin met Doug Suhr, his friend and senior student since 1990. International Hapkido USA came into full being in 1992 when the first dojang was opened in the Bliss Building on Mulberry Street in Rockford, IL.
The first school was 300 square feet in the basement in an unused storeroom. Kevin and Doug, with the help of several students cleaned the room and put in the first throwing mats - old, dirty, cotton batting filled things, down for training. The school got moved three times in the same building. Every time Kevin cleaned a space, the landlord saw potential in the spot and moved them to another dirty room - but for the sum of $80 per month rent, complaining would have been futile.
The Rockford school closed in May 1993 when Kevin graduated from Rockford College and moved to Chicago. He really had no real plans to open a full time dojang again until a weird twist of fate intervened.
Kevin was on the internet and looking at EBAY items for Hapkido in 2002. (Yeah, there is a time jump here - visit me in Chicago and I'll fill you in...) One of the items listed was videotape from the American Hapkido Association that said in the description that Master Wollmershauser was very ill and could no longer be contacted - out of curiosity, Kevin grabbed his letter from 1987 and called the number - and Master Wollmershauser answered. Master Wollmershauser remembered Kevin and offered to do a seminar in Chicago in November 2002. The idea of a seminar was great - but how to do a seminar with no dojang - so the present 6500 square foot facility was located and cleaned up. Kevin met Master Wollmershauser on November 30, 2002.
After Master Wollmershauser passed away, the AHA offered to promote a series of seminars with Grandmaster Lim, Hyun Soo. Kevin was asked to host a seminar in Chicago. Grandmaster Lim is a 9th Dan, directly from Dojunim Choi. See www.jungkikwan.com. After the success of the seminar in Chicago, Kevin was asked to come to Korea by Grandmaster Lim - the first trip was in the fall of 2004, Kevin travels to Korea yearly to train at the Jungki Kwan - and has founded Jungki Kwan Midwest. The rest as they say is history...