Tae kwon do does Lewis, pupils well

Tae kwon do does Lewis, pupils well
By KENNETH COKER
Messenger Sports Reporter
Pardon Union City resident Dennis Lewis if he gets “defensive” about his tae kwon do students.
After all, the senior master instructor and resident sixth-degree black belt at the Lewis Institute of Tae Park Tae kwon do does consider himself close to the youths under his watch.
“I consider these young people to be part of my extended family,” said Lewis, who oversees classes in UC, Dyersburg, Tiptonville, Mayfield and Milan. “I want to teach them tae kwon do, but I also want to help them become better members of society.
“Self-defense is important, but I’d like to think I’ve made the world a better place by instilling honesty, integrity and responsibility into these young people’s daily lives.”
Thus, training doesn’t end when the students leave the room where classes take place at Health Quest.
Instead, Lewis — who moved to Union City in 1983 as an employee of Goodyear — attempts to keep his pupils motivated by encouraging them to act properly at home and make good grades.
“I try to keep up with their grades,” Lewis said. “I encourage all my students to make good grades. I also tell them to be sure and tell their parents that they love them when they get home.”
Lewis, 54, also said his teaching message includes one possessing “loyalty and respect to self, country, parents, friends and senior instructors.”
However, tae kwon do as a self-defense mechanism isn’t an idea shunned by Lewis or his instructors.
“We teach one punch, one kick and that’s it,” Lewis said of his self-defense style. “I teach tae kwon do as an art and to be peaceful while you practice it, but self-defense has a lot of worth, too.
“I grew up watching kung fu movies with Bruce Lee play in them. They were fun to watch and all, but they’re just movies. It’s nothing like a real fight. In real-life, there are no rules. If you know how to defend yourself properly, you can save your life.”
About 65 percent of tae kwon do involves kicking, though, Lewis claimed he attempts to keep the focus on hands and feet nearly equal in classes and seminars he instructs.
In the grand scheme of things, Lewis has several instructors that report to him from local classes.
At Union City, Terry King conducts many of the classes (open to ages 5-and-up) at Health Quest. Lewis, who is on the road throughout the state and country promoting tae kwon do, observes and instructs as his schedule allows.
“I have 100 percent confidence in all the instructors that work under me,” Lewis said. “I make sure we always have a line of communication open and that I’m always available if they need me.”
Furthermore, in the tae kwon do chain of command, Lewis reports to Grandmaster Tae Zee Park — a ninth-degree black belt with 12 international competition gold medals to his credit.
For his own part, Lewis — a 32-year veteran of tae kwon do circles as either a student or instructor — has taught numerous standout pupils.
One such student — whose name was withheld for security reasons — was among the special operation forces group that rescued U.S. Army Private Jessica Lynch from her Iraqi captors.
“When I see students I’ve taught growing up and making it in life, it does me good,” Lewis said. “If one of my pupils goes on to be governor of Tennessee, I feel like I’m the governor because that’s how invested I am.”
All totaled, 150 of his students have advanced to at least a first-degree black belt with three achieving world champion status in international competition. Some of his past pupils have achieved fourth-degree black belt status.
On average, it takes two to three years for one to reach their first black belt in tae kwon do.
Lewis has also appeared on local, state and national television promoting tae kwon do and he has served as tournament director for two “World Class” championship tournaments, helping to bring one such to Troy and another to Mayfield.
Lewis has also served as an international referee for the World Tae Kwon Do Federation. He also teaches a yearly tae kwon do seminar at Dyersburg State Community College, thus, making the 1974 Jackson (Miss.) graduate a busy man.
Yet, all the medals in the world couldn’t equal the feeling Lewis gets when his pupils become standup members of society.
“Tae kwon do is made up of three parts,” Lewis explained. “There’s the ‘tae’, meaning to smash with foot and the ‘kwon’ meaning to smash with the hands. The ‘do’ means way of life and that’s the most important. If these youth live a clean and good life, I’m happy.
“Doing right is No. 1 and medals are secondary. When we go to tournaments, I think we’ve already won because there’s the chance to compete and make new friends. All the awards — when compared to living the proper and right way — are secondary.”
Published in The Messenger 7.21.10

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