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San Ke Paik

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Tae kwon do master Sang Kee Paik left humanitarian legacy

Tae kwon do master Dr. Sang Kee Paik passed away at the age of 80 on Sunday July 12, 2009 after a long battle with cancer, leaving behind a legacy of humanitarianism and exceptional training of martial arts.

Paik was born into Japanese-occupied Korea on Aug. 21, 1929. He started his martial arts training in 1945, and received his first black belt in 1947.

Paik and his two children joined his wife in America in 1969 when the University of Wisconsin-Madison sponsored him to come and work. He worked as a lab scientist in the UW primate research lab, eventually becoming Unit Chief.

According to Paik's son Peter, his father decided to start teaching martial arts in 1971 after speaking to one of his old teachers from Korea. Peter said the change in career was due to his father's love of martial arts.

"His job was what he went to school for, his passion was martial arts," said Peter. "He believed in what martial arts taught. He believed you could improve self esteem, confidence, character."

Peter said his father wanted to use martial arts to remind people of traditional values and virtues.

"He was a real humanitarian in that he took a lot of at-risk people and transformed their lives," said Mia Scheid, Paik's daughter. "My dad wanted to help anyone who wanted help."

Paik's first school was operated out of a restaurant basement in Madison, but the number of students soon grew and Paik eventually moved to the Hilldale Mall. In 1977 Paik bought an abandoned elementary school on the east side in Madison, and converted the school into a martial arts studio and student dormitory.

According to Peter, his father took in many students from rough backgrounds, who at times could not even afford to pay the rent in the dorms. Paik would tell them it was fine, and that they could pay next month.

"He would tell me, 'When a person comes to you, you can make a choice to help them or to turn your back on them, and my choice is to help them,'" Peter said. "That's kind of how he approached life."

In addition to his humanitarianism and generosity, Paik was respected for his exceptional teaching style.

"He was truly one of the last great masters of tae kwon do," said Jim Raemisch, a former student of Paik's.

Raemisch said he studied under Paik for eight years. According to Raemisch, part of the reason Paik was such a exceptional teacher was because of his ability to incorporate many different styles of martial arts into his training.

"He was years ahead of his time in terms of ring work and punching," said Raemisch. "His training was second to none."
Unlike other tae kwon do schools in the area that would only participate in tae kwon do tournaments, Raemisch said Paik encouraged his students to participate in open tournaments where they were exposed to many different forms of martial arts.

"He just loved martial arts," Raemisch said. "He was a pretty strict teacher but he had a great sense of humor and knew how to laugh."

Mia said her father transformed many people's lives through his teaching and compassion.

"He taught people confidence more than anything else and he believed in them more than they did themselves," she said.
Paik was one of the few people in the world who was granted 10th-degree black belt status. He also founded his own form of martial arts called Sasang. In 1990, Paik hosted the National Tae Kwon Do Championships in Madison