Master Yong Dai Cho is one of the most well known names in Australian martial arts. He is the highest ranked Taekwondo instructor in the country and is the highest 9th Dan Taekwondo Instructor in the Southern Hemisphere. He was graded a 9th Dan and awarded Taekwondo’s highest honour as Grand Master in December 1992. Grand Master Cho is the Chief Instructor and founder of the Australian Taekwondo Federation for which he was inaugural President and foundation member of the Australian Taekwondo Union.
Grand Master Yong Dai Cho has come a long way since his introduction to the Martial Arts as a boy in his native Korea. He had always liked sports, and as a small boy had his sights set on becoming a world class long distance runner. He was making good progress as a sprinter and in field games when the shadow of war fell over the country and a young Cho and his family were forced to flee Seoul and trek further south to escape marching soldiers. They fled to the city of Kong Joo and remained there for two years.
It was at Kong Joo that a young Cho had his first encounter with the martial arts when he witnessed a neighbour (Mr. Kung) performing Tang Soo Do. Mr. Kung invited Cho to train with him and Cho accepted with dedication. For a year the older boy taught him all he could but of course he was unable to grade him.
In the summer of 1953 at the conclusion of the war, Cho’s family travelled back to their war-torn home city to find what was a harmonious and thriving populace turned into a city riddled with chaos. Cho joined a school to learn Tang soo-do. This was called Ji-Do-Kwan – literally, “Wise Way School”. Here Cho had to start again from the beginning, but the experience and knowledge he had gained from his friend in the country helped him make rapid progress. He trained under the watchful eye of Professor Yun of the Korean University. Back then, classes weren’t easy for the beginner who cleaned the floors before and after each training session as well as washing the feet and faces of their seniors.
Discipline was vigorously enforced during every class and if a student failed to perform his stance correctly, the teacher would relentlessly flog his legs with a stick making sure that next time the stance was executed with perfection. Cho committed himself fully to developing his martial arts skill from a young age even though he had to travel a long distance to the university. Later that year the family moved closer to the university and as a consequence, Cho’s training increased to six days a week. It wasn’t long before Cho advanced through the ranks to be graded a first Dan black belt by Professor Yun.
In 1957 Cho began to train with the Korean University Taekwondo Club for competition. The Korean University Taekwondo club had may members from all the different styles which resulted in the exchange of techniques and the strength of the club increased to be one of the strongest university sides. Because of the variety of members and background, it was then possible for the university to stage an open tournament of which the first was held in 1959 consisting of a variety of different Taekwondo styles where Cho won the Black Belt open division.
In 1961 Cho was selected as one of the eight top men in the country to compete for Korea in Japan. This was an invitation of the Japanese Karate Association, the first time such an invitation had ever been issued. One of the experiences of that first visit to Japan was that Cho wore protective gear for the first time, because it was a rule in Japan that it should be worn but was not preferred in Korea.
On his return from the tournament, Cho soon found himself conscripted into the army where he remained for three and a half years. During his service, Cho taught Taekwondo, which was a compulsory discipline for all members of the Korean army.
Cho left the army in 1965 and returned to Professor Yun for training until 1966 when he was appointed to the position of instructor at the Korean University. Between 1966-67, Cho taught in Hong Kong and then returned to the Korean University until 1970. In 1970, on the recommendation of the Korean Taekwondo Association, Cho immigrated to Australia on a two-year contract to teach Taekwondo at the Andrea’s Sports Centre in Springvale, Victoria. He was a 6th Dan upon arrival here, but within a few months, was upgraded to 7th Dan. Mr. Cho was elevated to 8th Dan in August 1983, even though he was rather young for that rank. In 1972, after the completion of his contract, he started what is now known as Cho’s Taekwondo Academy.