dojo identity

our dojo name

Hanja for Cheonjikido

Our dojo name, Cheonjikido, reflects not a claim to a new style or some form of mixed martial arts. We have never claimed to be any of these things. This name is simply a statement that honors the teaching and teachability of a late sensei and a reminder of our responsibility to faithfully preserve for future generations the indigenous principles and indigenous training of that which holds a special place in North Carolina's martial arts history.

"Cheonjikido" is an amalgamation of four Korean hanja characters that literally translate: “the way of a heaven lake.”  This designation highlights an analogy frequently taught by the late Sensei Larry Beal (1944-2010) concerning the health and vitality of a martial artist. The health of a heaven lake (i.e. mountain lake) is dependent upon its ability to feed while being fed. In other words, a vibrant mountain lake not only receives nourishment from precipitation, snow melt, springs, run-off, etc., it likewise provides nourishment via streams and tributaries that water the land below.  A mountain lake that only receives sustenance inevitably becomes brackish, stagnant, or highly acidic, thus less able to support life. A perfect example of this is Mono Lake in Mono County, California. On the other hand, a mountain lake that only provides sustenance inevitably dries up. The desert expanse of America’s Great Basin is dotted with dried-up lake beds that once discharged without receiving nourishment. In the same way, a martial artist retains vitality and health by constantly feeding and being fed, through teaching and accountability. Such necessitates a spirit of integration, unbound by the walls of impractical tradition and unhinged from self-aggrandizing titles that breed dead egoism. A martial arts student who constantly learns without opportunity to teach what he has learned inevitably overtrains and becomes burned out or undertrains and falls into stagnancy. A martial arts instructor who teaches without being taught becomes self-absorbed and eventually dries up. Therefore, Cheonjikido, as implied by our name, demands martial training that is necessarily eclectic (i.e. drawing from its traditional roots), pragmatic, and evolving - teaching and being taught. It follows, therefore, that there are no superior martial arts, only superior martial artists. Moreover, all Cheonjikido students are instructors, and all Cheonjikido instructors are perpetual students. Such conforms to the spirit of integration and eclecticism introduced by the original instructors in the two primary roots of our lineage: Korean Grandmasters In Yoon Byung and Nam Suk Lee (hence the Korean hanja in our style name), and Tomiki Aikido patriarchs, Kenji Tomiki and Jack Mumpower

Byung-in Yoon (1920-1983) was the first Korean national to study Chinese Chuan-fa. He then took that knowledge to Nihon University in Tokyo, Japan where he studied and assimilated Shudokan Karate under the teaching of Kanken Toyama. Upon returning to Korea, Byung synthesized Northern Chinese Chuan-fa with Korean & Japanese martial arts, and produced an eclectic style that became known as Chang Moo Kwan (i.e. Korean for “building a martial arts house”). Until his death, thought to be in a North Korean forced-labor factory around 1983 after he went missing in the North during the Korean War, Byung-in Yoon embodied the spirit of cheonjikdo (i.e. the way of a heaven lake) in his approach to the martial arts.  The same can be said of his protege, Nam Suk Lee (1925-2000), who took over Byung’s schools in Seoul after the Korean Conflict and preserved eclectic principles through a body of kata known as The Twelve that he revived during the last days of his life in San Pedro, California.

Traces of this same spirit endured in Chang Moo Kwan and migrated to Salisbury, North Carolina in the 1960’s.  Eventually, in direct descent, it re-blossomed and ripened under the watch-care of Sensei Larry Beal who taught in Catawba County, North Carolina for more than two decades within the framework of a biblical worldview, introducing key martial arts principles into the art from extensive training he had received in Tomiki Aikido. 

Kenji Tomiki (1900-1979) systemized one of the first eclectic styles to emerge from traditional Aikido as taught by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969).  As a result of the religious mysticism that negatively affected the practical effectiveness of Ueshiba’s teaching in his latter years, Tomiki, his top student, embodied the spirit of cheonjikido by renewing an emphasis upon Aikido’s martial Daito-Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu foundation, what he was originally taught, while introducing pragmatic elements from his extensive background in Judo. Valuing the lessons of history, his art, by default, was eclectic, pragmatic, and evolving–not away from its roots but through them. In 1958, Tomiki formed the Waseda Aikido Club at Waseda University.  At the same time, he and Hideo Ohba (1910-1986) practiced and taught the indigenous principles of the art (i.e. those principles deemed too dangerous or politically incorrect to openly demonstrate and perpetuate at Waseda University), to United States service members at Fuchu Air Station. Jack Mumpower  trained with these martial arts masters four days a week for more than two years, and he was regarded by them as one of their best American students. Upon completing his military service, Mr. Mumpower returned home with the rank of Nidan under Tomiki and Ohba’s tutelages (8/17/1960). He was the first American to attain this rank and brought the spirit of cheonjikido passed to him by Tomiki himself back to the United States and opened a dojo in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1960, the very first Tomiki Aikido school in North America.  From day one, he emphasized the importance of preserving indigenous Aikido principles by way of learning and teaching, never one without the other, the way of a heaven lake. Sensei Larry Beal was one of Mr. Mumpower's early students, and in 2016, an elderly Jack Mumpower began personally teaching Sensei Jesse Boyd and Michael Arney.

The Art of Cheonjikido cemented the spirit of cheonjikido  passed to it by the late Sensei Larry Beal when Jesse Boyd sought out and retained accountability from the last students of Chang Moo Kwan patriarch Nam Suk Lee (2013) and Tomiki Aikido patriarch Jack Mumpower (2016). To this day, Mr. Boyd remains a student of these direct descendants of an indigenous past.

Over the years, the traditional arts of Isshin-Ryu, Kyoshu-Jitsu, Tuite, and Small-Circle Jujitsu have also left a mark on the spirit of Cheonjikido.

Cheonji Lake

Cheonji Lake

Interestingly, a mountain lake by the name of “Cheonji” (i.e. heaven lake) actually exists. It lies in the caldera of Baekdu Mountain at 7,182 ft. above sea level, literally straddling the borders of Korea (the land of Chang Moo Kwan patriarch Byung-in Yoon's birth and the place where he taught martial arts in the 1940’s) and the region of Manchuria in Northeast China (the land where Byung first learned martial arts under a Mongolian Chuan Fa grandmaster). This lake is fed by precipitation and snow-melt from the surrounding peaks and feeds the land below via a vibrant 70-meter waterfall near the north outlet. Cheonji Lake is one of the highest and most beautiful crater lakes in all of the world. Of additional interest is evidence suggesting that Byung actually died in the North Korean city of “Cheonjin,” nomenclature also linguistically related to our style name.

Thus, the name Cheonjikido boasts historic and philosophical meaning, invariably tied to principal figures in the black belt lineage that eventually fashioned this art.

our dojo patch

The Cheonjikido dojo patch is simple, yet ripe with meaning. The Outer Red Ring boasts a dual significance. First, proper martial arts training or the way of effectual martial energy is a harmonious annular relationship that should exist between fundamental technique, the honing of ki, and the application of ki to fundamental technique (i.e. that which matures, adapts, and reciprocates upon itself). Secondly, martial arts training is not to be a hierarchy of achievement crowned by fancy titles, “ultimate arts,” and arrival. Rather, it’s an unending quest of humble learning where there are only students and no true masters, a perpetual cycle of feeding and being fed.

The Inner Ring depicts a mountain lake receiving vitality from four blue triangles while watering the land below. This represents the “way of a heaven lake” analogy that embodies the integrative, pragmatic, and evolving spirit of this art as demonstrated in the training of Chang Moo Kwan founders In Yoon Byung and Nam Suk Lee, reflected in the the early teachings of Aikido patriarch Kenji Tomiki, and expressly embraced and taught under the patronage of Sensei Larry Beal.

The Four Blue Triangles represent the four birthplaces of indigenous martial arts that left their mark in the lives of the patriarchs listed at the top of our lineage (i.e. Korea, Japan, Okinawa, and China).

The Three White Triangles formed by the spaces between the blue triangles portray the subtle rhythms of reversal, of which Miyamoto Mushashi, a samurai warrior from the 17th Century wrote: “Unless you understand the rhythms of reversal, your martial artistry will not be reliable.” These three white triangles also pay tribute to the three primary style designations that show up in Cheonjikido’s black belt genealogy, going back to the days of In Yoon Byung in Seoul, Korea (i.e. Chang Moo Kwan, Carucado, and Teashikido).

The Blue Color in this logo salutes the indigenous art of Chang Moo Kwan, as this color was prominent in early style emblems. The Red Color of the outer ring matches that of the sun on the Japanese flag and thus pays tribute to indigenous Tomiki Aikido which has heavily influenced our training and proven key in terms of unlocking In Yoon Byung’s Chuan-fa roots.

The word Cheonjikido appears in both English and Korean hanja (i.e. Chinese script). As In Yoon Byung, a Korean, ventured outside tradition to study martial arts in China, so should we never shun accountability from outside sources and/or other martial arts styles.

Finally, the symbol rising just above the middle blue triangles is the Hanja / Kanji Character for the Number 12, a reference to Cheonjikido’s Core Principle of Twelves. This numeric symbol also resembles a cross atop a hill. As everything within the inner circle falls below the top of this symbol, so Cheonjikido operates within the framework of the Cheonjikido Core Principle of Twelves as well as a biblical worldview that recognizes only one Master or Soke in this earthly life, the Lord Jesus Christ. Subtly, this symbol also pays tribute to The Twelve, a set of indigenous Chang Moo Kwan forms revived and acknowledged by Nam Suk Lee during the last years of his life in San Pedro, California before his death in 2000.  Through these forms, taught to us by some of Nam Suk Lee’s last students, Cheonjikido has been able to reconnect with one of the indigenous arts that resides at the top of our family tree.