Jhoon Rhee, known as the “father of American Taekwondo,” passed away at the age of 86 on Monday.
Rhee spent his final moments in hospice care in Arlington, Virginia, succumbing to a long illness.
“With a heavy heart I want to announce the passing of my father, Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, this morning at 7:25 am. He was with his wife Theresa and daughter Meme,” his son, Chun Rhee, announced.
Rhee, a 10th-degree black belter, emigrated from Korea in the 1950s and popularized taekwondo in the United States. He starred in the 1973 film “When Taekwondo Strikes.”
“Martial arts was a way of life for him,” Chun said.
Interestingly, Rhee’s mother, Kay-im, had a conception dream or taemong, where she heard the roar of a tiger in a palace surrounded by a protective wall.
“I think it has to do with the prominence I’ve been lucky to achieve with my Tae Kwon Do activities—the ‘noise’ I’ve made throughout the world outside my mother’s castle: Korea,” Rhee interpreted his mother’s dream.
Rhee established his first taekwondo school in Washington, D.C., in 1962. He built 11 schools in the area by the 1980s, according to the Associated Press.
He was also friends with Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali. He reportedly challenged Ali and basketball star Wilt Chamberlain to a fight to find out who the “greatest athlete” was.
Lee’s daughter took to Twitter to remember her father’s good friend:
“It is with sadness that we say goodbye to my father’s good friend and fellow martial artist, Jhoon Rhee. Your accomplishments have been many, your life has been full, and the lives you’ve touched have been numerous. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself.”
But Rhee had not just spread taekwondo in America. Prior, he also joined the Air Force as an interpreter and was eventually drafted into the South Korean Army as a member of the 101st Batallion during the Korean War.
While Rhee is credited for numerous accomplishments, many remember him for his ads, which carried a catchy jingle, as per WUSA 9.
“When you take Jhoon Rhee self defense then you too can say, ‘Nobody bothers me, nobody bothers me.’ Call USA-1000. Jhoon Rhee means might for right.”
The commercials end with children saying “nobody bothers me.”
More information about his memorial service is expected this week.