Martial Arts Legends: Jhoon Rhee & Furman Marshall mentors of Muhammad Ali
My friend who was truly an officer and a gentle-man, martial arts legend Jhoo Rhee died Sunday April 30, 2018. He was 86 years old. He definitely leaves a void in Washington, DC and the worldwide community of martial arts (Taekwondo).
I met Mr. Rhee in the early 70s through my partner in the community a martial arts legend in his own right, Grand Master Furman Marshall. Furman is one of the founders of Black Ski an internationally ski group known world wide. As the history of the martial arts over the last half century is recorded and documented, the name of Furman Marshall has attained iconic status. He is a 10th degree black belt and the founder of Simba DoJang the oldest black martial arts organization in the world. Simba DoJang is the winningest karate studio in the world. It was easy to see why Jhoon Rhee referred to Furman “As a humble and kind man”, it takes one to know one.
Mr. Rhee’s martial arts’ career got its start in the early 60s in Washington, DC, but he didn’t really come into prominence until the early 70s about the same time I was becoming a pioneering radio sports talk host on W-O-O-K radio. We established a bond after he appeared on my talk show. After the show he reminded me, he was always just a telephone call away.
Mr. Rhee would take DC by storm in 1974 when he open several studios and made his two little children household names. He became a promotional and marketing genius when he produced a television commercial showing his kids, I would guess they were 3 and 4 years old in karate uniforns demostrating kicks and jabs saying “Nobody Bothers Me.” The popularity of the martial arts here in DC went through the roof. Mr. Rhee would make several more appearances on Inside Sports, keeping his word, he was always just a telephone call away.
Our next encounter would be in 1975 in the Poconos Mountains in Pennsylvia at Muhammad Ali’s boxing camp. Ali had invited Mr. Rhee to the camp to help him with his conditioning and to strenghten his jab. I was there to discuss a time frame for the champ to watch our one on one interview recorded after his historic knockout of George Foreman in “The Rumble in the Jungle.” While I was waiting in a cabin with his brother Rahman, he walks through the door with Mr. Rhee and introduces us, but Mr. Rhee says, “I know Harold Bell, he lives in my hometown Washington, DC.” The champ looks out-done and says, ‘Dam Harold you know everybody.’
Mr. Rhee teaches “The Greatest” some basic conditioning techniques of Taekwondo. Ali renames his jab “Accu-Punch” and claims he will use the new punch to knockout his upcoming opponents. Richard Dunn is his next opponent and he will be the last knockout victim of Ali’s career.
Mr. Rhee would go on to become the martial arts instructor to the stars, to include, politicians, entertainers and pro athletes such as Congressman Newt Gingrich, Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris,, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and a host of other Congressmen and celebrities. Mr. Rhee was also a movie star, but he was anything but Hollywood. He never lost his humanity and integrity. He starred in a movie titled, “When Taekwondo Strikes” but left the bright lights to return to doing what he really loved—teaching. He was truly, “The Godfather of American Taekwondo.” He showed how this form of martial arts was different in very unique ways and so was he. RIP my friend.