WARNING TO ASPIRING
BLACK BELTS OF
WORLD HWA RANG DO ASSOCIATION
December 10, 2000
Links on this subject:
LINK TO WORLD HWA RANG DO CONTRACT cir. 1990-92
LINK TO OPEN LETTER TO CARSTEN JORGENSEN
LINK TO HWA RANG DO: PERSONAL HISTORY BY BOB DUGGAN
As all the readers of this Web site know, I have been
critical of the World Hwa Rang Do Association as directed by Joo Bang Lee and
his son, Henry Lee. I have a different memory of early events and the Associations
formative years and how the art evolved. Many of the devote followers of the Lee family
have reacted to the discussion as an act of betrayal. During most of the
years of my estrangement from the World Hwa Rang Do Association, I have avoided
personal attacks or attacks on the organization. However, in the last two years
the WHRA posted a number of personal assaults on my character on their Web Site that caused
me to be more explicit regarding my disagreements. What I once kept
private, I now adopt as a crucible.
The few True Believers remaining in the organization, John
Huppuch, Carsten Jorgensen, Tim Elliot and other younger and more naive
proselytes use words like Honor, Loyalty, Justice, Respect and a whole
list of high sounding moral virtues to denounce me and others who have abandoned
the organization. For the first time, I have decided to
explain in some detail why I walked away from what is and was a
great art form, .
The wake-up call began about 1974 or 75 when the Lee
Brothers launched their campaign to open a hundred schools nationwide over a
five year period. The ambitious prospectus proffered that Joo Bang Lee seed schools in
Los Angeles area, followed by a plan to head northward, opening a school in
Oxnard with dreams of moving up the coast to Seattle and across the country to
New York while Joo Sang Lee opened his second school in Phoenix, Arizona and
then he was to head eastward, meeting his brother in New York five years later.
An unrealistic plan, but who were we to question the great wisdom of the
Supreme Grand Master.
Joo Sang Lee took Gil Kim along with him to open the Phoenix school
and Joo Bang took me to Oxnard where we underlings ran the schools without
compensation while they plotted their expansive campaign to conquer the
continent. Immediately after Oxnard, Joo Bang opened a school in La Habra
and put a recent arrival, Mike Echanis, in charge of the
school. At the time, Echanis was Second Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do,
but knew nothing of Hwarangdo. It was my understanding from Randy that Joo Bang ordered Randy to
teach Echanis the system. Jim Mohoff, the big Russian, was ordered to run a school
in a suburb near Downey. There were other grand openings such
as the one in Santa Anna, and plans for national demonstrations and tournaments
to promote the business venture.
But within a year, the plans began to unravel. Joo
Sang Lee organized and a self-financed exhibition in the large sports stadium at
Arizona State University. Joo Bang and Joo Sang Lee put on an impressive
demonstration. I was there as a throw dummy which I had done a fair amount
during those early years of promotion. The demonstration turned out to be
a financial disaster and put Joo Sang Lee deep in debt which followed a similar debacle
in San Diego the year before. The financial stress began to feed
internally and the brothers set to fighting among themselves. I was not present
for the final feud, but it was clear to all of us that the brothers were
splitting up the partnership and the grandiose continental prospects dimmed.
Joo Sang Lee walked out of the Phoenix school, leaving Gil Kim in sole charge of
the school and returned to Los Angeles where he opened a furniture store on
Western Avenue in "Little Korea Town". He never taught the
martial arts another day in his life.
For Gil Kim, Ken Corona, Vicente Montenegro and I,
it was a terrible loss. Joo Sang Lee was the most skilled teacher I have
ever seen or known. The others felt exactly the same. It was from Joo Sang
Lee that Gil Kim, Montenegro and I learned Hwarangdo. He had a precise eye
for every detail of a technique, and while he never taught from a syllabus like
his brother, he was magic on the mat. He taught us how to fight,
stripping the style of its extraneous exhibitionist techniques, and built speed
and power. We all enjoyed the systemic and comprehensive material introduced to
us by Joo Bang Lee, but Joo Bang, while wondrously skilled, he was never the teacher that his older brother
In 1973, I was invited to form a partnership with other
martial artists to run a two month camp in Colorado called The Aspen Academy of
Martial Arts. The other ten months of the year I ran the Oxnard school,
but the Aspen Academy was pivotal for me personally as it invited such notable martial artists as Marshal Ho, Dan
Innosanto, Toichi Tohei, Joo Bang Lee, Fred Degerberg and many others. As
founding member and eventual president, I stayed with the Academy for ten years,
until 1980 when I founded ESI, the country's first degree granting training
academy for professional bodyguards and protective intelligence.
Joo Bang Lee's pursuit of the continental business plan for Hwa Rang
Do continued, but it began to burn out the staff as none were
paid for their efforts and none of the schools were financially successful. In
1977, after a very short period of training, Mike Echanis abandoned the La Habra
school and took up a training contract at Ft. Bragg with the Special Forces. Joo Bang Lee was
dumb-struck at what he considered a betrayal.
No instructor acted out the role of obedient coolie with more flare and obsequious
behavior than Echanis during his short stay in Hwa Rang Do. (I will write more
on the Echanis phenomenon elsewhere. Echanis's return from Ft. Bragg and
Special Forces is another story). Joo Bang ordered Randy Warner and George
Thomas to take over the school. After vainly attempting to make the
school a financial success, Randy
Warner abandoned the school, and headed for the Mojave Desert where he lived for
many years. The La Habra school was closed. Then Jim Mohoff gave up
after trying to live on nothing for nearly five years. By the mid 1980s, almost all the
schools were closed except Downey and the first and second generation instructors
began to leave.
We were also disheartened at the failure of the
prospectus, but we knew that it couldn't work without diluting the art.
For many of us, it was the first realization of the concrete meaning of the
commercialization of martial arts. In the 1970's, I was in close association with
Joo Bang Lee, I observed him burn with a single minded ambition to open as many
schools as he could despite the human cost or the price that the art had to pay
in the loss of skill and depth of the system. There was simply no way to
maintain the quality of the system and the teaching of techniques with an his
expansive agenda when we lacked trained instructors who could run these
schools. Despite the obvious fact, he immediately began handing out rank and diluting the
system. In my personal case, I was taught the original syllabus through
Second Degree, but in 1981, Joo Bang handed me my Fourth, plus a certificate for
School and State Certificates. In 1982 or 83, he offered me my Fifth
Degree without testing. I refused it. (Huppuch was handed his at the same time,
but he welcomed the "Master" status, and accepted his new
I returned to Colorado further disheartened when I
learned that the original syllabus was watered down so that techniques that were
originally required in First Degree Black were thinned out into Second, Third, Fourth and
Fifth Degree. I remember Joo Bang Lee's unfettered envy
of his Tae Kwon Do buddies who were operating ten or twenty schools and making
enormous amounts of money (compared to him) on a martial art style that was a
simple kick-punch style. It egged him onwards with his ambition despite
the loss of his brother. He had us as his coolies; as far as he was concerned, a
Half-Black was sufficient to be an instructor.
Disappointed with the lack of "Loyalty" of the
Americans as they departed,
Joo Bang sponsored six Korean martial artists immigration into the U.S.,
including his right hand man in Korea, Hjin Lee. Joo Bang
installed these instructors, some of them were Tae Kwon Do instructors, into Hwa
Rang Do schools and pressed on with his goal. But within two or three
years everyone one of these instructors abandoned their schools and left the
organization. The departure of Hjin Lee was particularly bitter
and the two Lees no longer speak to one another.
During this time, I was in Aspen, estranged from what was
happening and glad to be focused on building ESI. I was still in the
organization, but living in Aspen trying to build a very different concept
of the Hwarang than the one conceived at WHRDA in Downey. But as ESI
achieved success there was an exchange of some letters between myself and Henry
Lee, Joo Bang's eldest son, that caused the complete severing of ties that bind
one to the WHRDA.
I will quote extensive sections from these letters for the historical record and for
the novice who is unaware of the trap that awaits them. Henry Lee and I
had exchanged several acrimonious letters that had their origin in an article
he wrote in Black Belt magazine in which he claimed Mike Echanis was the first
American student of Hwa Rang Do. This, of course, irritated me immensely since
the truth was that he was with Hwa Rang Do a very brief period and perhaps more
importantly, I despised his mercenary morality. I not only dressed Henry
down for the this public error, but I circulated the letter to all the other
remaining Black Belts.
Henry responded with a non-sequitur excuse and then proceeded to
lecture me on my lack of Loyalty to my Master, his father. He then got to
the heart of his discontent. In a letter by Henry Taejoon Lee dated June
7, 1986, he writes, ...."You continue because Do Joo Nim allows you to
and so do I. I have no bad feelings for you your organization. If
you founded ESI and placed Grandmaster as the President of the Board of
Directors, I would have said that ESI was our organization but you failed to do
this and maintain the "Me Generation" ideas. I would like to
talk to you sometime in the future, but before I do, you must ask yourself one
question, "Where does my loyalty lie?"
I wrote back. "God only knows where you
derive the authority to lecture me on my past mistakes, my duties and
obligations, and I must not forget the admonition to "share my great
fortune". When I began the study of Hwa Rang Do with your father, you were barely four
years old; when I wrote the book on Hwa Rang Do for your father, you were not
yet ten, and now at the grand age of 22 you presume to say that I continue Hwa
Rang Do at your behest. YOU PRESUMPTUOUS ASS!
What I have acquired in Hwa Rang Do, nobody can take
from me. What I have accomplished with ESI, I sure as hell don't owe to
you. And since you left me with something to think about, I'll leave you
with something. Why is Hwa Rang Do so small? Why, after almost two
decades, we have almost the same number of instructors as we did when we
began? Let me suggest that you start looking for the answer in the mirror.
This has not been a pleasant letter to write, but I
fear that if someone does not throttle your ego, it will destroy Hwa Rang Do
completely, and Finally, I am not interested in being a member of a family where
young boys strut about calling themselves "Master".
June 25, 1986
THE HAND IS ALWAYS OUT
As you might imagine, this letter caused my sudden
from the graces of
the Supreme Grand Master Dr. Joo Bang
Lee. It suited me just fine. I never heard another word from any one from
WHRDA for several years. But in 1989, I and several associates launched a
new venture as collateral to ESI in direct mail catalog business. It
was called Life Force Technologies. We took this company public and raised
several million dollars on the Vancouver Stock Exchange. The catalog was modeled
after Shaper Image and its theme was a commercial blend of clothing and spy
products that Mr. and Mrs. James Bond might like to have in their closets. We
published a quarter million catalogs per issue. It was a great commercial
In 1990, as the Life Force Technologies was in full force
and receiving widespread media attention, I received an unexpected call from the Supreme Grand Master Dr. Joo Bang Lee. He was solicitous,
even effusive with compliments about the new catalog and my good fortune.
Someone, Huppuch I believe, had given it to him. His intentions were
transparent, but I seized the opportunity to suggest that we meet and discuss
our difficulties. I flew to Los Angeles and in the company of Jesus
Lechuga, a student and instructor under Vicente Montenegro, drove to his herbal
storefront on Western Ave.
I talked frankly with him. I told him that I had utterly
no respect for his son, Henry, and that Hwa Rang Do appeared to be in jeopardy
of relentless decline. I didn't want to see this occur, but I could do
very little to change what was happening. In the course of this
conversation, Jessie committed the mistake of mentioning that he was aware that
Henry Lee had a serious alcoholic drinking problem, had been arrested for
driving under the influence . One of those incidents included Joe Nepomuceno who
was a student of Jessie Lechuga but at the time studying at the headquarters.
For the past ten years, Nepo was a member of LAPD's gang unit in South Los
Angeles, CRASH, and currently he is with the Mounted Unit.
SGMD Joo Bang said nothing to Jessie in response,
but a week later he excommunicated him and attempted to close his
school. No one was about to physically challenge Lechuga, particularly not
John Huppuch who had the unsavory task of going to Jessie's school and meekly
demanding that he close it because of Jessie spoke disrespectfully of Master
Henry. (This incident occurred exactly the
way I describe it. If you care to verify the details, Jessie Lechuga's e-mail is
[email protected] )
(John Huppuch this April 2001 wrote me his interpretation of this incident;
ludicrously humorous. Although, he was not present so I assume that Joo Bang
told him his version, Huppuch claims that I "got
down on my knees to beg forgiveness of the Grand Master for
my transgression". Now, I am not a
religious man and would not get on my knees for anyone, real or imagined, but
this is such a wild invention of grandiosity that it is difficult to understand
the mind set except in terms of cult psychology. I will deal with Huppuch's diatribe in another
When the news of Jessie's treatment reached me, I gave
up. There was no hope of changing the stripes on the tiger. I never
again made any effort to influence or change the policies of the
WHRDA. As far as I was concerned, the art would have to survive
independent from the Lee Family. The World Hwa Rang Do Association was just a
cult-business focused on mesmerizing young, naive true-believers who would
function as unpaid coolies for SGMD Lee and his son.
THE INDENTURED SERVANT CONTRACT
For many years, all candidate Black Belts in the WHRDA
have been required to sign a contract. The early version of this infamous contract
protected the name of the World Hwa Rang Do Association, their logo and demanded
a non-competition agreement from novice Black Belts. Most of us signed
one. I did even
though I had reservations about its legality. In the State of California, like
most of the states in the U.S., it is illegal to demand that an employee or
anyone else to sign a Non-Competition Contract or Clause. It is against
the law in California to have any form of restraint of trade.
But in the late 1980's, the contract
underwent a further refinement, relegating Black Belt candidates into indentured
servants. The contract not only demands annual dues from schools and
students, fees for "passport" renewals, purchase of uniforms from the
headquarters, etc which is fairly common in the martial arts business, the
new contract defines all martial arts whether it was learned from WHRDA before
or after to be under the terms of the obligations to the organization. I
have posted a version for your examination. The
addition of this new provision means that the Lee Family will have its hand out
for twenty-five percent, if not control of any business venture of their devoted
followers. Henry Lee is
responsible for the new language and has modeled his new contract provision
after the Moonies of whom he is a great admirer, and it is precisely what he
demanded of me in his 1986 letter quoted above. LINK
TO WORLD HWA RANG DO CONTRACT cir. 1990-92
For candidate Black Belts, I advise slow and
certain consideration of the implications of this WHRDA contract. Ask to
see one before you are up for the test. Typical practice inside the WHRDA
wait until the moment before the student's first Black Belt test and put the contract in front of the
novice, and demand their signature before they continue. You should also
know that most of the provisions are not legal in most states. IN
CALIFORNIA, NON COMPETITION CLAUSES ARE ILLEGAL AS A MATTER OF LAW.
Whether you are prepared to give them a share in your current business or future
venture is a personal decision, but it is a different decision when you are
twenty than when you are forty years old. Be Prepared in advance!
Make no mistake! The World Hwa Rang Do Association is a
I am looking for more recent copies of the contract in order to post
on this Site. While it is the general practice of the WHRDA not to give a copy
to the devotee, I am very anxious to publish the contents on this site. If anyone has one that they would like to share, send to Bob
Duggan, 2128 Railroad Ave., Rifle, CO, 81650 or attach to e-mail
to Bob Duggan: [email protected]
A FAMILY FEUD
Posted December 24, 1996
Since the publication of this Web Page in July of 1996, The World Hwa Rang Do
Association has behaved in a manner that is both typical of their self concept and
predictable in the form that they choose to treat an outsider. The WHRDA Web Site The World Hwa Rang Do Association Web Page is devoted
primarily to commercial promotion, but under Archives, a file is devoted to a form of
personal slander and vituperation against myself, Kil Gil and Mike De Alba only understood
by those who are familiar with the internal politics and psychology of cults. The
statement is supposedly a decision by "The Masters Judicial Committee". There
are numerous citations of legal codes and other high sounding citations. The facts are,
however, I was never invited to stand before such a Committee, never allowed to confront
my accusers and call witnesses or present testimony. It is what is referred to in our
judicial tradition a rump Kangaroo Court, and there is only one source: Joo Bang Lee.
In November, I approached both John Huppuch and Joo Bang Lee privately to retract and
apologize for the personal slander. They chose not to respond. This leaves me with the
choice of dropping the matter completely and allow the statements to remain in public view
on the World Wide Web, take legal remedies against them, or respond in a public forum.
They have chosen the Web to conduct a libelous declaration against me; I choose it as
First, let me explain why I decided against the other options available to me. I can
not just let the statements stand because they are false and slanderous. A person who does
not know me would have no basis to judge either the truth or falsehood of the statements
and is libel to take them at face value. So, while others choose to ignore the slander, I
Second, I have thought long and hard on the legal remedies which are numerous, but I
have decided against them for the following reasons. My lawyer who has considerable
experience as a successful tort attorney was astonished at not only the mean and cruel
intent of the statements, but their stupidity from a legal point of view. But Joo Bang is
too clever to attach his name to the "Masters Judicial Committee" therefore
leaving Huppuch and others to dangle as penniless targets. It is true that I could cost
them a fair amount of money responding to my suit in a Federal Court or out of state
jurisdiction, but it is not worth the money or the time.
It has been my opinion for the better part of twenty years that Joo Bang Lee's failure
was his belief that He is the Art, and that central focus of study at the
Headquarters is devotion to the Cult of the Personality. It was for this reason that he
was abandoned by both Korean and American instructors year after year until none of the
First, Second or Third Generation of Instructors, Korean or American with the exception of
family members and one or two sycophants remain by Joo Bang's side. The ones who remain
are True Believers. I have always regarded this fact with great sadness because Joo Bang
Lee is an immensely gifted martial artists, a Grand Master. Over the years that I traveled
with him, I had the opportunity to compare his talents with many other masters of Korean
and Asian martial arts, and Joo Bang Lee was in a league by himself. This was acknowledged
by all who met him.
While I wish he were a different person, there is nothing I can do to change the human
personality. As they say, you have to play the cards as they are dealt. After attempting
to reform the personality and the training regime for nearly a decade, I simply abandoned
the effort. I moved to Aspen, Colorado to build a school for training professional
bodyguards. It was my personal vision of the role of the Hwarang in this Century. I now
devote my time at both the school and the SOCIETY OF THE HWARANG.
If I can quote from our own Preamble, "One of the goals of THE SOCIETY OF THE
HWARANG is to unify principles, independent of ones loyalty or devotion to a
particular style, teacher or system."
"Most of the Charter Members of the SOCIETY have been in the Korean arts for
twenty to thirty years and we have had time to balance our experience of the real world
against what we have been taught. In effect, we are a society of nonbelievers in the
concept that any knowledge whether in whole or in part is perfect. No teacher regardless
of how great, no system of fighting regardless of how old, or text regardless of how
sacred, is ever complete. We are engaged in a constant search for an illusive concept of
"The fundamental assumption of the SOCIETY OF THE HWA RANG is that this
fighting system is a living art form, and that each generation assimilates wisdom as a
natural part of experience and learning. But the wisdom of one period is not always the
wisdom of the next. We acknowledge Tradition, but do not treat it as an encyclical edict.
It is simply accumulated experience that must be constantly tested on the mat and in the
Finally, my only response to the personal attack on me will be the publication of the
private warning, now made public, to Retract and Apologize that I sent to Joo Bang and
Huppuch over their E-mail and via a registered letter. At this moment in time, my
publication of the warning will suffice, and I reserve other remedies for a later day. I
have decided that I will devote my energy to the development of the art as expressed by
the Society of the Hwarang, and by so doing, deprive them of the legacy of Hwa Rang
A DEMAND FOR RETRACTION AND APOLOGY
To: Joo Bang Lee
From: Robert E. Duggan
Re: Retraction & Apology
1. I am writing this personal note as a consequence of our past association in order to
urge you to take action to forestall an event which might have severe and painful
repercussions for you.
2. I have submitted to my lawyer copies of the various documents on the WHRDA Web Site
which reference me. I am embarrassed to report that he was incredulous that someone or
some organization would so clearly, and voluntarily, place itself in great and unnecessary
jeopardy by making public such demonstrably unfounded accusations.
3. It seems probable to me that either those postings were made without your knowledge
and consent or, if they were made with your knowledge and consent, you were given very bad
advice indeed. If this is the case, you have not been well served in this matter, and
should reconsider the position of those who gave you such dire counsel.
4. I have no compelling interest in engaging in intramural warfare: I could, in fact,
respond by posting on the Net what I know of the personal lives of various
"leading" Hwa Rang Do personalities, in order to demonstrate their hypocrisy. I
will not do so.
5. Instead, I have directed my lawyer to examine the possibility of defending my
reputation in court.
6. I feel that litigation can easily be avoided. In order to do so, you should direct
the responsible party within your organization to immediately remove from your Web Site
the following documents: (1) the 10-1-96 document entitled "From the Decision of The
Hwa Rang Do Judicial Committee" and (2) a document entitled "An Open Letter of
Concern to All Legitimate Martial Artists" authored by John Huppuch.
7. I will also require you to direct John Huppuch to write a full, sincere, complete,
and believable apology and post it in the same space (on the Web Site) which his letter
occupied for thirty (30) days.
8. I will wait until close of business on 12-2-96 to see if you have responded to these
requirements. If you have not done so by then, I will take such further actions as I deem
necessary to effect the ends stated here.
In all sincerity,
Bob Duggan, President
Executive Security International, Ltd.
TO THE WHRDA "MASTERS JUDICIAL COMMITTEE"
Re: Demand For Immediate Retraction of Defamatory Publication
I have been made aware that a Web Site whose contents are apparently copyrighted by the
World Hwa Rang Do Association (i.e., http://www.hwarangdo.com) contains written material
which defames me. In a document entitled "From the Decision of The Hwa Rango Do
Judicial Committee" I am accused of criminal behavior, ex post facto violations of
the so-called Hwa Rang Do Rules & Regulations, and accusations of breach of contract
and, furthermore, there is a reference to actions purportedly taken against me by
crypto-judicial bodies (i.e., HRD Master's Committee and Master's Judicial Committee)
whose work is apparently carried out in secret and without notification to the
"accused." You are no doubt proud of a practice sanctioned by all the ugliest
and despicable tyrannies throughout the history of the world.
The Web Site also contains a long, libelous letter by John Huppuch. It is filled with
venom, lies, and inflammatory statements, deliberately intended to defame me, and thereby
injure my reputation and livelihood. It contains nothing of value.
I have examined the accusations in both of these documents, and have found them to
contain hardly a shred of truth, and what truth is contained therein is so distorted as to
be unrecognizable and, thereby, becomes effectively a lie.
I assume that this reckless and unprovoked publication was taken without even the most
rudimentary understanding of the laws of libel (for example, the accusation of criminal
conduct is in and of itself "libel per se") and in the absence of common sense.
You would have been better off to have consulted a lawyer before undertaking such
foolhardy and risky acts. You should consult a lawyer now.
I hereby demand that you immediately remove the offending documents from your Web Site.
I further demand that you publish, in the same space, an open apology for their
publication, stating explicitly that you had no factual basis upon which to base your
libel. If you do not have the wit or the courage to write such an apology, please let me
know. I will put one together for you. I feel qualified to do so inasmuch I am well aware
of the indiscretions of those who so self-righteously condemn me and also of the failures
of the Organization and of the Art as mis-directed by them.
In the event that you choose the course of continued folly, refusing to retract and
apologize prior to December 1, 1996, I will look to whatever legal remedies are available
Bob Duggan, President
Executive Security International, Ltd.
E-mail to Bob Duggan
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