WOOSTER — Chuck Murzda was disappointed that the World Taekwondo Jidokwan Federation didn’t require him to test his eighth-degree black belt.
“I tested all the time to the seventh degree“Murzda said. “This time they said they researched me and my reputation preceded me, so I didn’t have to test. We’ll just promote you, they said.”
For someone who has worked hard for everything he has achieved, Murzda said, he did not expect such an easy path to his latest milestone in taekwondo.
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Still, he trained hard in the Korean form of martial arts for more than 40 years to reach such a high level, and the 58-year-old said it would take him about nine more years to achieve the ninth degree status.
Not bad for someone who was usually the smallest kid in his class growing up in Youngstown, graduating from high school at 5 feet, 2 inches and 110 pounds.
Murzda said he started taekwondo at 15 because he was bullied and needed to protect himself. He didn’t grow much after high school, going 5-4 at one point, and is now 5-3.
Because his family didn’t have much money, Murzda said he had to walk several miles after school to attend a taekwondo school and several more miles to continue doing club gymnastics, which he said he started when he was 12 because it was the only sport where his height was not a factor.
Then he had to walk home in a tough neighborhood late at night, Murzda recalls.
“You start fighting to avoid bullying and when you start winning fights you become a target and people want to beat you,” said Murzda, who then added with a shake of his head: “It bothers me that I had to fight in high school.”
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As he teaches his students at his martial arts academy in Wooster how to fight, he doesn’t want them to fight.
“There’s so much more to martial arts than fighting,” he said. “There’s discipline, patience, perseverance, respect and going beyond what you think you can do.
“There are a lot of mental things in martial arts,” he added. “Those are the things you really learn with marital arts – finding out what you’re capable of, what kind of person you are.”
‘You have to work hard’ in Murzda’s martial arts class
It wasn’t easy 25 years ago when he started his marital arts school, which he named Grandmaster Chun Tae Kwon Do after his teacher in Youngstown, Grand Master Kae Bae Chun, who tested him until at his seventh degree black belt until his death. a few years ago at 87.
“The first two years were tough,” Murzda said. “It’s hard to open something new in a town like Wooster where everyone knows everyone else.”
The past few years during COVID have also been difficult for his martial arts academy. It ended up with seven students when it reopened after being closed for several months of the pandemic in 2020. He said it was slowly rebuilding and now has 39 students.
At one time he had 65 students, and over the years, he says, he has taught thousands of students, including several hundred black belts and 25 Grand Tournament Champions. Five students also became doctors, two lawyers and an engineer, along with several others who went on to successful careers, thanks to the discipline and hard work ethic he teaches, Murzda added.
“I teach traditional martial arts, which is not easy,” he said. “You have to work your butts off. Our black belts are real black belts. I’ll put my students against anyone.”
Kat Amstutz, Murzda’s assistant who has been involved with her school for about 20 years, said Murzda is both an excellent teacher and a mentor who is dedicated to the martial arts.
“He was always passionate about passing on his knowledge and skills to the many students he had and continues to have,” Amstutz said. “Not only does it cultivate comprehensive taekwondo practitioners, but it also helps people improve.”
Started teaching martial arts part-time while working at Bob Evans
Before starting his martial arts academy, Murzda worked as a manager at Bob Evans in Wooster. After graduating with a business degree from Youngstown State University, Murzda began working for the restaurant chain, traveling from Virginia to Maryland and finally to Wooster, where he decided how much money to eat. he earned for the hours he worked (about 70 hours a week), wasn’t worth it.
He decided to try his passion for teaching martial arts. He continued to teach taekwondo part-time while working at Bob Evans.
“I just fell in love with teaching and making a difference in people’s lives,” he said. “There is so much more than the fighting aspect to taekwondo. There is understanding and self-confidence, learning to get along with people, learning to diffuse a fight and learning to walk away when you don’t. don’t have to fight.”
Not only does Murzda plan to continue teaching while working toward his ninth degree black belt, but he also plans to earn the rank of 10th degree, which few achieve only after a lifetime of dedicated service to the martial arts, often after their dead.
“I’m going to do this until I can’t anymore,” he said smiling, then stopped and added, “until I’m dead.”