“Edward B. Sell you are the first foreigner ever to successfully pass the Kukkiwon 9th Dan examination! Congratulations!” the chairman, Grandmaster Kim, Soonbae of the examination board announced through an interpreter at the Kukkiwon, Seoul, Korea. Today, those words still echo in Grandmaster Sell’s ears with great excitement! Then there came an exclusive article in the WTF Official Quarterly Magazine Winter 2000-2001, No.81 edition, stating “Edward Sell becomes first Non-Korean to earn 9th Dan!”
But this zenith moment in the life of Grandmaster Edward Sell was the culmination of decades of determination, intense training, prayer and answer to prayer.
Against all odds, an American-born martial artist made history by achieving a remarkable world title! Though defeating countless formidable opponents over the years was part of the reason why he earned this triumph, his world-title was not to be won by the fist. His story is about a victory that took forty years to be earned, proving that he is worthy of being recognized as an equal among Korean Masters and Grandmasters all around the world. Though on that historic day the words from the testing official took only seconds to be uttered, Grandmaster Sell’s achievement required a lifetime to be realized.
As pioneers often do, Grandmaster Sell laid the pathway on which other non-Korean martial artists may now follow. This path he left behind proves that honoring old martial art traditions are still relevant in modern times, that being respectful to one’s teacher/mentor remains the highest expression of gratitude and loyalty a student may bestow upon him, and that upholding all the martial art customs, courtesies, rules and regulations requires a deep sense of integrity. Finally, Grandmaster Sell proved that martial art training can indeed nurture a self-disciplined life-style, and once that rare trait is obtained, one cannot be defeated by anyone or by any odds stacked against you!
This is a brief story about how an American with Irish and French Canadian blood running through his veins, allowed his tenacity, determination, and unending visions to tear down national barriers within the Korean martial art system rendering them futile and ineffective. Even though there is much more in-depth information contained in his biographies, these few pages will give a brief summary of the many heartaches, challenges and victories that helped shape the person he became.
His quest to obtain the highest level of martial art skill, knowledge and wisdom required him to overcome several life threatening accidents, and to remain confident when people attempted to discourage him. His list of credits for his success includes his persistence, his over-whelming drive to achieve, and his hard physical training, these being under girded with a dedication to a prayer filled life. He claims that it has been his “indomitable spirit” that has kept him focused on his personal and business success. His hope is for martial artists to foster their indomitable spirit so that they may become not only martial art champions…but more importantly, true champions of life!
His name is Senior Grandmaster Edward B. Sell, 9th Dan in Taekwondo, the highest ranked non-Korean Black Belt in the world as confirmed by the Kukkiwon, located in the World Taekwondo Headquarters, in Seoul, Korea. His career’s culminating moment occurred on September 10, 2001 when his historic 9th Dan title was confirmed. Rightly so, the tragic events of 9/11 shortened his exuberance and perhaps diminished the opportunity for international and national news media coverage outside of the Taekwondo community.
Born on July 17, 1942, Edward B. Bogert was the son of Eddie and Dorothy Bogert. His dad was a boxer, whose obsession with the sport most probably led to the downfall of his three-year marriage. Sell feels that the same great enthusiasm his Dad had for boxing carried over into his genes and fueled his enthusiasm for martial art excellence!
Sell, at the age of three, became so excited to help his Grandpa lay floor tile in the bathroom that he picked up the tile knife and started running with it in his hand. Attempting to hand it to his Grandpa, he slipped and stuck the blade into his left eye. The doctors could not assure his family that he would ever see out of that left eye again. Requiring twenty-seven stitches and saturated with prayer, after six weeks of healing the eye patch and bandage were removed. He could see! He had received his first miracle. Over-coming obstacles combined with miracles of survival were to become almost commonplace in this young man’s life!
In his biography, Sell calls the incident about to be described as “The Battle at Sand Hill”. It was a premature, knockdown, dragged-out fist fight with two older neighborhood bullies. Not only did this experience introduce personal violence into his tender young life, but it also changed his whole pre-adolescent way of thinking about self-preservation. The traumatic incident took place shortly after his family experienced a devastating divorce. Deciding to take her two young sons and move in with her mother in a small rural town in Michigan, Sell’s mother had set up their new home for only a few weeks. Six year old Sell was still in shock with the realization that he no longer had a Dad at home. Still, when he discovered that there was a huge sand hill not far from his house, Sell and his three year old brother Tom decided to explore, knowing that it was where most of the neighbor kids hung out. Upon climbing to the top of the hill, Sell did not see any familiar faces but he did notice two troublemakers were present. Running towards the brothers, the bullies hurled hard chunks of dirt at them yelling, “We are going to beat you up!” Those three simple words—“Beat you up!”—left an enduring impression in his young mind. Other than a thorough spanking from his mother, this was the first time he had experienced the traumatic effects of someone deliberately causing him physical pain. Due to their violent nature, these boys kicked and punched with horrible effectiveness. When it was over, Sell’s body ached, his scull was on fire from having his hair pulled right out of its roots and each breath was agony due to badly bruised ribs. In their aggression, the bullies didn’t regard even the defenselessness of small Tom who was also in great pain from the assault. Sell had now tasted his own blood—now tasted defeat.
With tears streaming down their faces the two traumatized boys limped home. Sell’s mother, upon seeing the condition of her sons, simply took a cold washrag, wiped the blood and dirt from Sell’s face and declared, “Now, you go out there and fight your own battles!” Shocked by her seeming lack of sympathy, Sell now realizes that his mother was really trying to teach him an important lesson: he had already been warned to stay away from those bullies. After reflecting on this one incident, which occurred nearly six decades ago, he still believes that the Battle at Sand Hill stirred his fighting spirit, the Indomitable Spirit that everyone has, but most individuals never have an opportunity to foster. At that young age, he determined never to allow this to happen to him again! The experience became the foundation for a formation of building blocks that Sell has incorporated into his teaching on the practice of self-defense.
Within days after physical assault, the trauma still fresh in his mind, Sell was watching a forerunner to our reality television. The program, called “You Asked For It!” gave people the opportunity to write in to the show requesting to see people do spectacular or unusual things. On this particular night a person was going to attempt to break at house brick with his bare hand! After successfully fighting off several men and performing a series of choreographed movements (Kata), a massive Asian man turned his attention to a platform upon which stood a large steel anvil with a brick a top it. He picked up the brick with one hand, tilting it so that one end of the brick rested on the anvil. As his eyes pierced right through the brick, he lifted his other hand high in the air. With a blood-curling yell, his hand came smashing down upon the brick and it broke in half! Upon witnessing this feat, Sell, almost fell backwards exclaiming “Some day, I am going to be just like that man!” Unknown to Sell, that man happened to be one of the world’s most famous Karate Masters, Master Mas Oyama. Naturally, he had no idea that fifteen years later that same man would become one of the most influential Masters whose name, reputation and teaching principles fanned the flames of excitement and enthusiasm that gave Sell the indomitable spirit of martial arts!
While most of Sell’s friends could turn to their fathers for advice and security, with his father absent from his life, Sell began to look for comfort and encouragement from the Heavenly Father of Bible. His birth father had a great love for him and his brother, but circumstances beyond his control eventually caused him to believe that it was for the best interest of his sons to leave them in the care of their mother as he started a new life in Chicago. Soon after Sell’s tenth birthday, Mr. Raymond Sell started dating and eventually married his mother. Sell was delighted when his new step-dad decided to adopt him and his brother. Now he could enjoy the love of a physical father in addition to his growing relationship with God.
At 11 years old, while target practicing with a friend, Sell was accidentally shot in the side with a .22 caliber rifle. As doctors operated to remove the bullet, his parents were given little hope of their son’s survival. Sell has always credited his faith in God and the power of prayer for pulling him through this and many more serious injuries he experienced as a youth.
During his senior year in high school, at seventeen years old, Sell was selected for the varsity football team. However, his football career was short-lived, and almost ended his life! Only minutes into the first quarter of opening night he was tackled so brutally that he almost was knocked unconscious. He likes to tell the story that “as he ran with the ball, he should have zigged instead of zagged when he was struck by a huge truck wearing a football jersey”! For three days following the incident, he experienced a near-fatal fever. The doctors were confounded by his condition and decided to perform exploratory surgery, finding that his appendix had been ruptured for three days. During the operation to remove the appendix Sell fell into a coma. Once again, he was in need of a miracle. The prayers of his family were answered and within a couple of weeks he was returning to normal activities.
While most of his classmates were planning for college, Sell set his sights to travel to the Orient to train in the martial arts. That image of Mas Oyama was still well planted in his memory. Every attempt to find a martial art school in his home state of Michigan or even books on the subject only led to disappointment and fueled his curiosity. He gained a very basic knowledge of Judo, but his appetite to learn was insatiable! On July 17, 1960, which happened to coincide with his eighteenth birthday, he enlisted in the United States Air Force (USAF). Graduating from his first stage of military training, he qualified for special Air Police Technical School. Shortly after, he was given orders to serve a tour in Korea, at Osan Air Force Base with the 6314th Air Police Squadron. His dream had come true—he was going to the Orient!
Within hours after arriving at Osan Air Base, he signed up for classes in Tae Soo Do Chung Do Kwan. This was long before this form of Korean Karate was called Taekwondo. The 6314th Air Police Squadron also had their own martial arts school at the training center on base, just a few yards from the barracks that he was stationed in. This made it very easy for him to attend classes every day, sometimes two and three times per day. Between regular class sessions he hired Korean instructors to give him private lessons. When he learned of a Korean national martial art school located in downtown Chi’co village Sell decided to attend classes, in spite of the district being declared “off limits” by military officials because of its horrific street crime. In addition, he trained at the main Chung Do Kwan school in Pyon’Teak kun! The only time he didn’t engage in some form of martial arts training was when he was on duty.
It seemed that many Korean Black Belts felt threatened by his extraordinary enthusiasm. They mistakenly saw his zeal for learning as a personal attack upon them. For instance, he would never back off when warning strikes found their target on his body, head and face! His Korean teachers and fellow students (opponents) spoke no English and he understood no Korean. His only way of communicating was to fight back harder and harder.
By the time he was a 5th Gup (Green Belt), his fighting ability had developed to that of a Black Belt. As his fighting ability and reputation grew none of his fellow American or Korean classmates wanted to free-style spar against him. In fact some of the students would not attend class when Sell attended class, and some even dropped out. Sympathetic of Sell’s eagerness to learn, but not wanting to lose anymore students, his instructor, Myong Kil Kim, developed a plan that seemed to worked out for all involved. The plan called for Sell to hide in the bushes outside the school and to not join class until all students had bowed in to their instructors. Mr. Kim also asked him to not fight so hard. After that point Sell turned his aggressive sparring style only on the higher ranked Korean Black Belt students. Eventually, upon successfully passing the test for 1st Dan, he joined the teaching ranks among other Korean assistant Instructors.
Requiring an extended tour of duty in Korea, Sell was given a special examination for 2nd Dan at the Korean Taekwondo Association headquarters in Seoul. It was agreed by all the current Kwan’Jangs at the time that upon getting a high score, a portion of then necessary time-in-grade for the Ee’Dan (2nd Degree) would be waived. Given his reputation, Sell knew that who ever he had to free style spar on that day would be out for blood. A young 4th Dan, Korean Taekwondo college champion named C. S. Chong was the one who walked out on the floor. The large arena was packed with children and college age Taekwondo students, all of them dressed in their toe’balk, ready to cheer for their hero, Mr. Chong. As soon as the match began, it was obvious that Chong was not going to show any mercy. With a lightening fast round kick, Chong struck Sell’s face, slitting the right side of his lip. Before Chong had time to recovered from delivering his kick, Sell countered with a devastating round kick of his own which landed on Chong’s face, slitting the left side of his lip! The match went on well past the normal two minutes duration. For nearly ten minutes, both men exchanged blocks and counter-attacks as the crowed watched in amazement. As Chong kept relying on his thundering round kicks, Sell would block and parry right or left. However, on two separate occasions Sell stepped inside instead of parrying to the side, delivering a blistering spinning side-chop to Chong’s side of the neck causing him to drop to the floor! No one had ever seen the Korean champion be knocked down to the floor before.
Sitting at the judges table that day was Grandmaster Uoon Kyu Uhm, Chung Do Kwan president and current president of the Kukkiwon. He personally congratulated Sell for being promoted to 2nd Dan in record time. Though Chong was indeed a most skillful fighter, on that particular day Sell was the champion. After the match the two competitors became friends and never sparred again. They did meet in Miami, Florida, more than 30-years later and enjoyed reminiscing about the famous bout they engaged in so long ago.
Sell was named the Team’s Captain of the Pyong’Teak Kun Tae So Do Team in 1963, becoming the first foreigner to ever be allowed to enter a National Korean Championship, called the Presidential Flag Championship. Most matches at this tournament were won by knockouts. Other than bamboo canvas chest protectors, and a primitive groin protector, no other safety equipment was permitted.
Sell felt handicapped as he was not familiar with the introduction of the new restrictive rules which prevented contestants from using Karate hand techniques to the head and face. He was matched against an all-college Korean champion and lost to the much more experienced fighter. Sell remember that his challenger would strike and then run away, causing Sell to have to chase after him. Obviously, he had heard of Sell reputation!
Once his first four-year enlistment was up he had to return home, though his hunger to learn more Chung Do Kwan was a constant burning desire.
He hoped to get a civilian job, save some money and then return to Korea for more intensive training. In a short time after returning home and being honorably discharged from the Air Force, he found out that getting a decent job was quite difficult. In hope of getting an assignment back to Osan, he decided to re-enlist in the USAF. Before he ever had the opportunity to re-enlist he found himself in a hospital bed with a broken neck! A diving accident into shallow water left him with doctors saying he would never walk again! Naturally, this would destroy anyone’s dreams of furthering their skills in martial art, but not Sell. He had faith in the God of the Holy Bible. He was joined in prayer by many others for his complete recovery. Ten days after the accident Sell walked out of the hospital. Within thirty days after his accident he re-enlisted in the USAF. He spent one year at Vandenberg Air Force Base where he was assigned to the Air Police Combative Tactics Department.
With special orders he was sent to the USAF Combative Tactics School in Reno, Nevada, where he spent sixteen weeks of highly intensive technical training in all areas of military field combat, ranging from small arms fire to hand-to-hand combat; a military technical training school designed to train the trainers. It was made up of men with strong leadership character traits and possessing the indomitable fighting spirit. Already highly skilled in Chung Do Kwan, Sell excelled in his training and was soon promoted to a position of training other instructors. Today, Sell gives much credit to that training school and several others he attended while in the USAF for contributing to his successful career as a profession martial arts teacher. Upon graduating with honors, he returned to Vandenberg AFB where he was given the assignment to rewrite the entire USAF Police Combative Tactics Training Manual, a book totaling more that 400 pages of very out dated WWI and WWII personal hand-to-hand fighting methods and techniques. As a result of successfully completing that special assignment with honors, he was rewarded with the opportunity to be reassigned anywhere in the world. Of Course that choice was Osan Air Base!
Within months after returning to Osan Air Base, Sell was award many honors for his creativity within the 6314th Air Police Squadron where was assigned as a Combative Tatics Instructor. He trained hundreds of Air Policemen who received special orders for an assignments to Vietnam. His teaching principles and special advanced methods were revalitively new to the USAF at that time. After being selected as Outstanding Airman of the Month for Osan Air Base, he was then selected as outstanding Airman for the entire Pacific Air Command throughout the orient! This award help get him the promotion to staff sergeant with only five years in the Air Force.
When it came time to test for my 3rd Degree, I knew that it was not going to be easy. My name and reputation had spread throughout central Korea after my 2nd Dan testing.
The official that was responsible for the selection of the Korean Black Belts that I was to be tested for my sparring ability was the senior Instructor of those who were training me, Master Lee. He made no secret out of the fact that he would see my Taekwondo/Korean Karate career come to an abrupt end when I tested for the 3rd Dan. Even though I suspected it, I had no proof that he did everything short of threatening the lives of several Black Belts if they did not seriously injure me during my free style sparring matches while testing for the 3rd degree Black Belt examination. It was rumored that no other foreigner had ever successfully passed that test. Later, I found out that was no rumor.
After executing all my forms exactly the way that I was taught, I stood in the middle of the Korea Taekwondo Association headquarters gym, anxiously awaiting the first sparring partner. A tall long-legged Korean walked out next to me. We both bowed to the judges and the match began. I could tell within the first few blow and kicks that the Korean seemed to be sparring for his life. We both exchanged a few blows, all properly blocked.
Then I experienced a sensation as if I was kicked by a horse. It felt as if my lungs were being kicked out. The spin kick that my opponent delivered had absolutely no control, nor any intent to be controlled. My uniform jacket tore and I felt a huge swollen sensation begin across my chest area. The whelp grew quickly as the pain in my chest reached an intensity that I had never experienced before in my life. I gasp for air as my diaphragm went crazy inside my rib cage. I wanted to fall, but I did not want to give my opponent that luxury. I have learned that to gain composure after a strong blow into the solar plexus, one is to simply relax and don’t even try to breathe. I did that and it worked. I rearranged my torn uniform, gave a slight bow to my now, adversary, and went into the sparring position.
That matched continued. I scored a couple of extra points even though no one was officially taking record of any points delivered. The two-minute match ended and to everyone’s surprise, I was still standing and prepared to spar another. The man that delivered the nearly devastating kick to my chest was the Republic of Korea (ROK) Air Force Champion. Little did I know at that time, my next two matches were the Champions of the Korean Army and Marines. I was thankful that Korea had no Navy at that time. Normally, there were only two matches required when testing for a 3rd Dan; I sparred three. The ROK Army Champion was a little rough and through many uncontrolled blows that bruised my forearms as I blocked them, but it was obvious that he was more scared than focused.
However, the ROK Marine was another story. He was focused and out on a mission; a mission to at least put me in the hospital. The unction of my mission was also there, stirring my spirit more than ever, but I had no idea that I was fighting for my life. This was as close as I ever wish to get to a “do or die” situation. I believe that the indomitable spirit of man that each of us have begins to take action under a such physically challenged and stressful situation. I really appreciated all the time that I took to practice my forms over and over and over again. Such hard and strong practice of my forms prepared me and indeed strengthened and conditioned my defensive reflexes for such a moment as this!
The muscular, short, and stocky Korean had an arsenal of advanced kicks that I was not familiar with. One of his powerful round, kicks found its way to the side of my head. His kick literally “rang my bell!” I had a cauliflower ear for several months afterward. I shook it off. The next combination was a flurry of kicks that nearly broke my hands and arms as I attempted to block them.
My senses immediately told me, “This was not a game! It was real as it gets!” One of his feet made it’s way to my face, splitting my lip, reminding me of the match I had when testing for 2nd Dan. I could taste the blood as it leaked into my mouth and down the front of my uniform. The flurry continued. My arms ached from the battering his legs that felt like base ball bats smashing against my forearms as I defending my face and upper body. Then it happened! I felt a tremendous blow to the side of my face. My lights nearly went out. The pain was like electricity all along the upper side of my left jaw. I tasted more blood.
The cheering and shouting of all the Korean spectators in the building was beginning to fade in the distance and my knees started buckling. That unction reared up inside me again. I no longer was in control. Something else seemed to take charge of my actions.
During Black Belt tests there is no referee. However, the judges sitting at the examination table called for the match to be temporarily stopped so that someone could check the extent of any injury. I had decided that if the match was not stopped, I was going to let my knees take over and fall to the floor, hoping that the flurry of kicks would also stop. I knew that one more kick to any part of my body would have certainly put my lights out or would have been a serious injury ending my Korean Karate career.
When the match was stopped, I staggered slightly, reached in my mouth and removed one of my back molar teeth that I nearly swallowed. I threw it off to the side of the arena, spit the blood out and stepped back in the middle of the examination area, assuming the fighting stance once again! At that instant, I had a serious choice to make. The unction had left. It was now totally up to me to go on. My body was totally numb as I heard I said myself say within my own mind, “This must be stopped before he does kill me!” My instructor motioned for me to sit down or come to him. I refused.
I knew that a decision had to be made right there and then. I knew that it was up to me to prove that a foreigner had what it took and no matter who or what was placed in front of me to spar, I was going to do it to the best of my ability. Once again, I heard myself say, “This must be stopped!” The match resumed. My uniform was dripping with blood. He had no marks, at least no visible ones, even though I knew that I had buried several punches into his rock hard body, only to see him slightly stagger. I must admit; I was hurting. But once again, as I collected my composure, the unction, the drive to succeed was nearly overwhelming. It was like a hot burning fire inside me. I simply ignored pain in my jaw and side of my head. I now became focused once again on the job I had to do. My defensive reflexes kicked in as my mind went blank and I felt like my movements were being viewed as in a slow motion video, frame-by-frame. It was now his turn to experience my flurry.
I only remember what looked like…a spray of red paint as his nose was torn from his face. I don’t know if it was done by my round kick or a reverse punch or perhaps by both. The next thing I saw was the cavity of his nose in between his eyes; his nose was barely held on his face by some skin as blood sprayed in all directions. It didn’t even slow him down. Two of his instructors ran out and pulled him back, my instructor held me back as well. The match was finally over!
Later, with his face wrapped in a huge ice-pack towel, he approached me and said, “I was afraid of you!” I grabbed him and hugged him as our blood soaked uniforms pressed close to each other. I was truly sorry that our actions had to be stretched to that extent. He later became a good friend. I was awarded the 3rd Degree Black Belt, which placed me in a position that no other foreigner had ever been. My training intensified as I set my sights on that 4th Degree Black Belt. I had to extend my tour in Korea in order to qualify for that goal. I needed another three years of training and teaching experience.
With his second USAF enlistment coming to an end, he began to entertain plans of building his own professional teaching career by opening a chain of martial arts schools, something no one had successfully done at the time in the U.S. He was now a 3rd Dan, a few months short of the minimum 4th Dan requirement. When stationed in Korea, there were many occasions that he would be sent to Tokyo, Japan for special assignments. There he would train in Shodokan Karate at the Kotakan. Many of his newly learned hand techniques would be brought back to enhance his Chung Do Kwan training. Sell’s instructor, Myong Kil Kim, was quite impressed with his ability to integrate his newly learn Karate techniques into Tae Soo Do Chung Do Kwan.
In recent times, it has been confirmed that the founder of Chung Do Kwan, Grandmaster Won Kuk Yi (1944), was also the founder of modern-day Taekwondo. Interestingly, Grandmaster Yi also spent time in Japan and integrated many Karate techniques into his personal Chung Do Kwan training.
It became evident to Sell that Grandmaster Uoon Kyu Uhm had developed an interest in Sell’s martial art career. By special request from Grandmaster Uhm, Sell was given the privilege of applying for the 4th Dan pending the approval of all five Kwan’Jangs active at that time. These five original Kwans were endorsed by the Korean Government and later made up the World Taekwondo Federation.
If he succeeded Sell would be the first foreigner to ever to be awarded the 4th Dan Korea Tae Kwon Do Association certification. He was shown favor from his USAF Commander and given special leave-time to undergo more intense training. Upon successfully passing the Tae Soo Do Chung Do Kwan 4th Dan examination with Grandmaster Uhm presiding, he then appeared before all the other four Kwan’Jangs for their approval. History was in the making. Executing his required forms as well as his one step sparring test flawlessly, the final phase of the test was to be free style sparring. Due to his established reputation however, it seemed no one wanted to spar him. He was exempt from having to spar, a very rare decision by officials!
Sell was now the first foreigner to accomplish the 4th Dan in Tae Soo Do Chung Do Kwan and the 4th Dan in Korean Taekwondo Association, thus making him the highest ranked non-Korean in Taekwondo worldwide!
Three months after returning from Korea and receiving his second honorable discharge from the USAF, Sell began to look for a suitable building for his first martial art school. He found an old laundromat in Trenton, Michigan. Borrowing $250 from a close friend, he began remodeling the building. On August 18, 1967, he opened his first Korean Karate School, making it one of America’s first professional martial arts schools. His rough military style of training and teaching caused forty-one of his students to quit after the first month. Of the remaining four students, three were his brothers! Some personal adjustments were made and Sell stopped sparring so hard with his students. He never chose to lower his standards however, he simply adjusted them to be more suitably challenging to American students.
From the very beginning, he was not going to settle on just operating a successful martial arts school. He already had the firmly established vision to create a national association. Since there were neither books nor experts he could turn to for guidance, he began to formulate and then document all his ideas. The fact that he had very little knowledge of the structure of the Chung Do Kwan Association and the Korea Tae Kwon Do Association did not deter him from establishing America’s first Taekwondo national association. His mental concept was to build a national institution that would train American Black Belts all around the country as well as teaching them how to become great leaders throughout their community. Within the first year of opening his original school, Sell actually fully visualized his national association as it is today! He created his own Chung Do Kwan system of teaching using 80% of what he learned in Korea, combined with many Karate techniques and unique methods used by no one else in America. Sell referred to his all new American teaching system as “The art, science and teaching of Taekwondo Chung Do Kwan”. By trial and error, Sell’s vision materialized into what he named the United States Chung Do Kwan Association or USCDKA!
However, Sell remembers that shortly after opening his first school, his personal accountant gave him little hope of ever succeeding in his chosen profession. Sell was told by the account to “Go get a real job!” He immediately fired his accountant! Sell did acknowledge that if he was going to succeed at his new career, he did have to continually conceptualize new strategies of operation. Systematically, Sell began to implement the right methods that would bring him success: he opened new schools all over the lower part of Michigan, formulated instructors’ training courses and seminars in order to develop more knowledgeable instructors, and traveled with his students to every possible tournament in the region. By training five to six days per week and performing exhibitions at every opportunity, Sell maintained his cutting edge martial arts skills. Highly entertaining and educational for people of ages, his exhibitions catapulted his reputation for brick and concrete breaking to national fame. Sell’s name grew to nation-wide recognition and his association had now established a solid foundation!
With the growth of the organization Sell created a unique Instructors Degree system which has served to train, evaluate, promote and certify his Black Belt Instructors. Containing ten levels of instructor degrees/appointments, the first level of training qualifies the instructor for an “Associate Instructor” degree while the final level of training earns recipients the most highly esteemed title of “Grandmaster”. Each level of training systematically coincides with the teaching and leadership ability of the individual instructor. Sell claims that no other martial arts systems exist that can match this extraordinary instructors’ training system.
Within a very short time after inviting his instructor, Myoung Kil Kim, to join him in building his American martial arts institution, it was quickly discovered that such a business relationship could not work! They went their separate ways. Hearing the news, Grandmaster Uhm personally placed Sell under the mentorship of world renowned Grandmaster Hae Man Park, Vice President of Chung Do Kwan. As Sell implemented his national association plans he always reported to his Korean mentors Grandmaster Uhm and Grandmaster Park. Though he received little feedback from them, he still chose to continue keeping them informed and remains deeply grateful for having been given the opportunity to develop such a unique and wonderful relationship with them. Likening their relationship to being “kindred spirits”, Sell looks to both his mentors as father figures.
Under the authority of his Korean mentors, and in due time, Sell received his 5th, 6th, and 7th Dan from both the Chung Do Kwan and the Korea Taekwondo Association. Upon receiving the Chung Do Kwan 8th Dan in 1987, he applied for the WTF Kukkiwon 8th Dan and eventually received it in 1991. Remaining loyal to his Korean heritage, all his Dan promotions continued to project his faithfulness to his teacher Grandmaster Park. With each promotion in rank, Sell pressed on towards expanding the growth of Taekwondo throughout America. His indomitable spirit, fueled by his tenacity, deterred any and all obstacles from hindering his quest to be the best!
Sell received a personal invitation from Sr. Grandmaster Uhm to bring an American Team to complete in the 1st World Taekwondo Championship in 1973, hosted by Korea Taekwondo Association. Due to poor communication among other top ranking Taekwondo officials in America at that time, the recently formed AAU Taekwondo body had also made arrangements to take a sixteen man team chosen from schools around the country. Prior to the start of the Championship, a meeting took place to determine which team was going to be allowed to represent America at the competition. Upon arrival of all these American Taekwondo competitors in Seoul, Korea, this very sensitive situation had to be resolved. Thanks to Sell’s strong relationship with all Korea Taekwondo Association officials, the officials determined that America would be allowed to have three teams competing. The Western Team led by Master K. Min, the Eastern Team led by Master R. Chung and the Central Team led by Master Edward Sell. Though Sell’s U.S. Team didn’t placed in the standings, his brother Ray Sell earned a Bronze Medal the individual competition! It was during these Championship events that history would be made as the World Taekwondo Federation and Kukkiwon were voted into existence. Master Sell was bestowed the honor of being one of the foreign delegates from among sixty Taekwondo leaders from around the world.
In 1975, Sell married Brenda J. Begley, then a 2nd Dan student. Affectionately known as “The Sell Team”, they have worked side by side for more than thirty wonderful years. Currently Grandmaster Brenda Sell is a Kukkiwon 8th Dan, placing her as the highest ranking female of non-Korean nationality. Her story also has had national and international Taekwondo significance. Grandmaster Brenda Sell is currently the USCDKA President, National Kwan Jang and Chief Administrator, while Sell serves as the CEO and International Kwan’Jang. They have two sons, Chief Master Ronald Sell, who owns and operates his own school in Tampa, Florida and Master Robby Sell, a vital employee of the national association, serving as the Arts and Graphic Designer and Video Production Director.
In 1985, Grandmaster Edward B. Sell was ordained as a Christian Minister and traveled the world conducting Taekwondo Evangelistic Exhibitions. He has worked closely with the Chief of Chaplains of the Pentagon resulting in the arrangements to conduct hundreds of Christian crusades at many of the larger military training bases in America. He has been extended two personal invitations to speak and perform at West Point Academy and the USAF Academy. Sell and his wife have traveled over a million miles performing, preaching, teaching and giving motivating lectures to military bases, churches, civic centers and special Christian events throughout the world! Today, their unique ministry continues to thrill, educate and encourage thousands of people throughout the world!
Sell originally established the Annual U.S. Chung Do Kwan Championships as an open event from 1970-2006. However, in 2007, his wife, Grandmaster Brenda J. Sell, developed a tournament circuit strictly for USCDKA Chartered Schools and their members. More than two hundred successful championships throughout the U.S. have been organized and directed by the Sell Team and their staff.
In an effort to provide Taekwondo practitioners with the opportunity to use their martial arts skill as an out reach for Christian churches and a tool to assist in spiritual discipleship, the Sell Team created the “Christian Taekwondo University”. It has become a very effective method of encouraging people of all ages to develop a closer relationship with God and continues to produce and nurture Christian Taekwondo schools all across America.
In the year of 2000, during Grandmaster Hae Man Park’s annual visit to the Sells home, Grandmaster Sell respectfully inquired about the possibility of him testing for the Kukkiwon 9th Dan. After several minutes of contemplation Grandmaster Park asked Grandmaster Sell to show him his Kukkiwon ID Card. Confirming that Grandmaster Sell actually had two years past the minimum time-in-grade requirement, he told Grandmaster Sell that he would test in one year (2001) pending Kwan’ Jang Uhm’s approvable. Immediately, upon hearing that he might be testing in one year, Grandmaster Sell asked Grandmaster Park to join him in the backyard of his house to help him initiate his one year of intensive training. Standing in the backyard with his coach and mentor, it occurred to him that he had indeed accomplished all his dreams, with the exception of the coveted Kukkiwon 9th Dan! At that instant, his emotions from past memories, the significance of that very moment with his teacher, plus the excitement for his future achievement all beautifully merged into a lifetime of meaning and purpose. With the acknowledgment that we are the sum of all our lifetime experiences, Grandmaster Sell had already achieved the most wonderful pursuit…becoming a champion of life!
The culmination of his dream for promotional testing occurred on September 10, 2001, when he successfully passed the Kukkiwon 9th Dan. This event marked a significant historical occurrence not only for Grandmaster Sell but also for Korea, America and for all Taekwondo practitioners world wide. On that particular day Grandmaster Sell not only became “the first” but still remains “the only” Kukkiwon 9th Dan Black Belt of non-Korean nationality!
Today, Grandmaster Sell continues to train, teach, preach, perform, and research better ways of mentoring Black Belts into Masters and Grandmasters. Joined by his lovely wife of 40+ years, Grandmaster Brenda Sell, they continue to travel nationally and internationally, inspiring others with their martial art teachings principles and philosophy of personal and spiritual growth. One of the Sell Team’s many goals is to edify and encourage Taekwondo instructors who have lost their zeal to achieve a high level of excellence in their martial art career. One year prior to this publication Sr. Grandmaster Sell breaks his own world record of 30 inches of concrete at his annual training conference. This unique breaking technique proves his “CHUNG-DO Theory” on how to develop “Awesome Power” really works!
As he fulfills his CEO duties at the USCDKA Headquarters, Grandmaster Sell has once again conceived a new vision. He encourages all Taekwondo organizations in America to work together in order that we can better achieve our common goals. Individually, we can do great things but by working together we can do even greater things. Postponing his full-time preoccupation with fishing, Grandmaster Edward B. Sell is willing and eager to help bring unity to the wonderful profession of Taekwondo in America!
It is said that one distinguishable trait shared by all great teachers and leaders is their desire to inspire a greater degree of accomplishment in their students’ lives than they themselves were able to achieve. For us as students of Taekwondo, there is perhaps no greater honor than to continue to expand on what our teachers have taught us and to treasure their influence in our lives forever! By continuing this cycle of influence, as Grandmaster Sell and many other great American Grandmasters have done so sacrificially, Taekwondo’s future is brighter than ever.
At the time of this publication, at the age of 64, he will continue to teach, lecture, preach and give stage presentations wherever he is called. He lives with great excitement knowing that God has bigger and better plans for him. It is his desire to establish the world’s first martial arts evangelistic college, where specially selected Christian Black Belts will be trained up to follow in his foots steps; to teach morality and family values; to perform world class martial arts exhibition with motivating messages that will touch and change peoples lives.
It is estimated that the cost for this major project will be 1.5 million dollars to make his final dream come true. He says he is waiting on God to move by leading him to the right people and to open those doors that will make it happen! As he waits, he continues to write books and produces training material that will continue to refine the art, science and professional teaching career of Taekwondo Chung Do Kwan throughout America.
On February 5, 2014, from a battle with leukemia, Sr. Grandmaster Edward B. Sell passed from this life to the next at home with his family present. His life and legacy continues with the U.S. Chung Do Kwan Association, The Sell Team Ministry through the leadership of his soul mate and partner, Sr. Grandmaster Brenda J. Sell, 9th Degree Black Belt.