Chasing the lost legend of a Tang Soo Do pioneer

Profiling Frank Trojanowicz, one of the pioneers of Korean martial art Tang Soo Do in the U.S.

(UPDATE: Mr. Trojanowicz left our world on June 4, 2016. A touching obituary has been published by the Times-Tribune, please give it a read to get a sense of how many lives he has touched and transformed for the better.)

Pop quiz: What martial art do celebrities Chuck Norris and Cynthia Rothrock practice?

It’s not Karate, not Taekwondo, or even BJJ. It’s a unique Korean martial art called Tang Soo Do, which mixes hard sparring with some deft and gracious forms.

To boot, it’s a great workout, the second best I ever had after a traditional Japanese Ju-jutsu class. The action starts with the word go and doesn’t stop. A trial class I attended had speed kicking and punching, and ended with sparring without protective equipment.

TSD practitioners can take serious hits, so a stomach of glass won’t help. For Korean martial arts fans, it’s a great training ground if chasing a career in UFC.

TSD is a young martial. An instructor said the martial art came to the U.S. sometime in the 1960s, which was the heyday of martial arts in this country. TSD was originally created perhaps 20–30 years prior to its arrival in the U.S.

One of TSD’s pioneers in the U.S. is Master Frank Trojanowicz, who now runs a small school called Scranton Karate School in Scranton, PA. According to research, Trojanowicz bought TSD from Korea to his small school some 30–40 years ago. The school still stands and has trained some of the greatest martial artists in the system.

Original board members (credit and copyright U.S. Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation)

Little is known about the enigmatic Mr. Trojanowicz, but some research reveals some astonishing achievements that deserve recognition. Among Trojanowicz’s most famous students is Cynthia Rothrock, who is a martial arts pioneer in Hollywood, and now holds a sixth dan in TSD. Media coverage and exposure of TSD to the public flourished with the help of Trojanowicz and other masters at that time.

Trojanowicz has ties to some of the most important figures in TSD, including Hwang Kee (famous in a form TSD called Soo Bahk Doo Moo Duk Kwan). He helped bring Jae Chul Shin — the founder of a major governing body called World Tang Soo Do Association — from Korea to the U.S. WTSDA and U.S. Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan are the major governing bodies of TSD today.

Most importantly, Trojanowicz managed to keep out of the politics and breakups that hit TSD in later years. In all the turmoil, Trojanowicz managed to keep his focus on training hard. He didn’t seem to care about the spotlight, and is still operating under the radar. His school is now training a new generation of martial artists.

The legend of Frank Trojanowicz lives on, and I hope to visit him someday. I’d love to hear his TSD story, and hope to write about it.

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