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Universal Martial Arts Ministry gains new taekwondo black belts at annual exam

LANSING, Ill. (November 21, 2023) – Universal Martial Arts Ministry held its annual belt test last month to promote candidates to the highest level of taekwondo belt ranking, black belt.

“The black belt test is a promotion exam for candidates who are eligible after being promoted through all of the color belts in our system,” said Master El, the founder and owner of Universal Martial Arts Ministry in Lansing. “It usually takes one and a half to two years or more.”

At table from from left: Technical Director of US Chun Kuhn Taekwondo Grand Master Deborah Henkle, Founder of UMAM Master OgunLana El, and Vice President of US Chun Kuhn Taekwondo Grand Master Daniel Gaul were the judges at the black belt testing at UMAM in Lansing in October. It is standard to have three judges present at the black belt promotion but higher ranking Senior Masters are able to conduct the test without other judges. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

The founder of Lansing’s UMAM

Master OgunLana El, also known as Master El, founded UMAM in 2009, shortly after moving to Lansing. He has over 20 years of experience in martial arts and currently holds the title of 7th degree Dan Senior Master.

He is also trained to teach special needs children and adults with a specialization in ADD, ADHD, autism, Asperger’s, cerebral palsy, dyslexia, asthma, and down syndrome.

Master El actively volunteers at events throughout Lansing including the annual trick-or-treat event and the Holiday tree lighting event at Fox Pointe.

“[This] ministry is important to the Lansing community because it develops students in the culture, discipline, mental toughness, and accountability along with spiritual awareness,” Master El said. “These are all the things we need to help establish and maintain our community structure.”

Many parents are thankful to have Master El as a part of the Lansing community.

“Master El is patient, passionate, and everything you can expect [in] an instructor,” said Shinyree Thompson, a parent of two children enrolled in the martial arts program at UMAM. “He loves the kids.”

Students pose in a fighting stance ready to receive instructions from Master El. (Photo: Kinise Jordan)

LaKeisha Poole’s son was one of the students up for a black belt ranking at the exam.

“My son was shy and soft-spoken but training with Master El at UMA has helped him a lot,” Poole said. “He teaches [the kids] discipline, checks their school grades and their behavior at home.”

Chun Kuhn Taekwondo

Students participate in hand-to-hand combat at UMAM in Lansing (Photo: Kinise Jordan)

The ministry focuses on teaching candidates how to defend themselves using Chun Kuhn Taekwondo, also known as Chun Kuhn Do, a martial art that focuses on all areas of self-defense based on traditional taekwondo.

Unlike other styles of martial arts, Chun Kuhn Do also teaches grappling, throwing, and the use of traditional weapons.

Master El studied under Supreme Master Bok Man Kim, one of the technical founders of taekwondo and the founder of the World Chun Kuhn Taekwondo Federation.

Students showcase a Chun Kuhn Do self-defense technique. (Photo: Kinise Jordan)
Students grapple at UMAM in Lansing. (Photo: Kinise Jordan)

Black belt testing at UMAM

The four-hour exam on October 21 consisted of candidates showcasing their knowledge and skills of a variety of Chun Kuhn Do techniques learned through years of training.

In the first half of the exam, students performed routine exercises and were quizzed on their knowledge of these Chun Kuhn Do techniques in a collective group.

Universal Martial Arts Ministry students performed Chun Kuhn Do techniques in a collective group. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

According to Master El, students are qualified to take the black belt test after they have completed all other color belt promotions and display high character and sound judgment.

“The ceremony demonstrates the high quality and hard work that the students have performed over the years,” he said. “It symbolizes that they are now part of an elite world group that is held to higher moral standards.”

The second half of the exam consisted of students participating in several forms of one-on-one combat techniques including how to disarm a person with a weapon.

(Photo: Kinise Jordan)

The exam ended with students demonstrating the art of wooden board breaking using high kicks.

Master El holds a wooden board while a student performs a high kick to break it. (Photo: Kinise Jordan)

Master El felt the black belt testing went “very well” and was “pleased’ with the overall results of the exam.

“All the students performed as expected,” Master El said. “They did what they were trained to do [and] I was very proud of them.”

Grand Master Daniel Gaul and Grand Master Deborah Henkle greet Master El and the black belt candidates with a traditional bow before the start of the exam. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Universal Martial Arts Ministry is located at 3517 Ridge Road in Lansing.

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Kinise Jordan
Kinise Jordan
Kinise Jordan brings local experience and a long list of journalism skills to her work with The Lansing Journal. She understands the need for reliable, factual information in equipping people to build community. An Audio News internship with WBEZ honed her interviewing skills and her sense of timing and deadlines. A native of Calumet City, Kinise is familiar with the interplay of local government, local schools, and local businesses.