Unparalleled Martial Artist: Master Robert Frankovich

Unparalleled Martial Arts feature interview with Master Robert Frankovich, rambling martial arts enthusiast and keeper of tradition.

Titles and Honors:

  • Pine Tree Taekwondo 7th Dan Senior Master Instructor

  • WTMA Haidong Gumdo Chief Master Instructor

  • Tiger Tactics Personal Protection Instructor

  • White Tiger Security Training Instructor

  • USA Hall of Fame Korean Martial Arts Master of the Year (2014)

  • USA Hall of Fame Haidong Gumdo Master of the Year (2015)

  • Bruce Lee & Legends Hall of Honor Inductee (2015)

  • Minnesota State Co-Director of the Martial Arts Alliance (2014)

Master Frankovich is the epitome of an Unparalleled Martial Artist. Not only does he share his knowledge with students at his school, White Tiger Martial Arts, but he commits his life to preserving the traditions and history of martial arts.

White Tiger Martial Arts teaches two disciplines; Pine Tree Taekwondo and Haidong Gumdo. These styles are discussed in depth during the interview so read on!

Aside from directly leading others on their Martial Arts Journey, Master Frankovich spreads his knowledge through writing. He has articles in a variety of publications including; Black Belt Magazine, TaeKwonDo Times, The Budo Journal, Inside Kung Fu Magazine, and Totally Taekwondo Magazine. He maintains a blog, White Tiger Ramblings, covering topics such as leadership, finding the right school, maintaining a beginner’s mindset, and priceless advice for anyone walking their path.

The first 5 years of his blog are compiled in White Tiger Ramblings: “Thoughts while Traveling the Path”. You can purchase it here.

He is the founder of Tiger Consulting, a POST accredited program fusing his martial arts and law enforcement training to teach conflict resolution and self-defense.

Master Frankovich keeps the spirit of martial arts alive with his development of the International Song Moo Kwan Association (ISMKA), an organization striving to collect stories from the first leaders and Grand Masters in the art.

His published book, Chung Bong Hyung: The True Forms of Song Moo Kwan, which covers the background and techniques for three out of seven original hyungs, or forms.

This book is FREE on Kindle Unlimited!


What style of martial arts does White Tiger Martial Arts teach?

What types of programs do you offer?

We teach two martial arts within White Tiger Martial Arts. The first is Pine Tree Taekwondo, traditional Song Moo Kwan Taekwondo. I say “traditional” in the sense that we are not an Olympic style school. We do provide Kukkiwon Dan certifications but our Song Moo Kwan lineage and history are more valuable to us. This history is continued through the World Song Moo Kwan United. It is taught as Pine Tree Taekwondo because I have been teaching the curriculum since 1987, prior to moving to the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area.

The other martial art taught is Haidong Gumdo, a Korean sword art. We are a member of the USA Haidong Gumdo Association branch of the World Haidong Gumdo Federation. The program is unique as it focuses on the actual use of the sword as it applies to combat. It is an Art, not a sport. We aren’t a Kumdo/Kendo school. I think that is why the Federation used “Gumdo” to help separate the brand from the “Kumdo” schools that follow Japanese Kendo. Developing proper cutting and applications of sword techniques are done through gumbub (patterns) and target cutting (bamboo, straw mats, fruit, paper).

The two martial arts are offered in a very simplistic format. The Pine Tree Taekwondo is set up as an all age (8 years old & up) 30-minute beginner class and a 50-minute advanced class (everyone who has tested once or more). The Haidong Gumdo is an all rank class for 12 years old and up with a handful of sessions set aside for getting up to speed. The classes do rotate through the various sections of the curriculum with a focus on forms/patterns.

What was running through your mind during your first martial arts lesson?

This is kind of tough to answer as the first class I attended was in January of 1981. That’s a long time ago! I do know that I had been searching for a school to train at for a couple years. I came across a Taekwondo class being offered by a neighboring city’s community education. I had wanted to train since watching the original Kung Fu television show and seeing Bruce Lee in the Green Hornet. The part of Northern Minnesota where I grew up had a very quiet martial arts community, so it wasn’t until I had started training that I found there were about a half-dozen schools within driving distance (for us that was about an hour). The only thought that I can remember is that I was finally getting to learn!

“The physical techniques of an art are only 10% of what you’re learning, you better start looking at what is beyond the movement.”

Who was most inspirational to you in the beginning stages of your journey?

The most inspirational part of the beginning of my training was the size of the organization. My first promotion test was a 15 school organizational event where 300 students participated. Seeing the number of black belts on the test board made me want to earn that spot too.

Since I came up through a community education program, there were several teachers who ran the school. They all had good-quality knowledge and teaching skill but the part that stuck with me was how all of them were slightly different but still correct. It made me start to think more about why things are done instead of how.

What is your process in motivating a student who wants to quit? Was there ever a period that you thought about quitting?

That’s a really tough one.

I’m not much for following the industry version of running a school. Students that come to me become family pretty quickly. My attrition rate is quite low and usually comes from students leaving for college or adults who have schedule changes. The students have become important to each other as well. Their networking has provided support in many endeavors outside of the school.

Have I thought about quitting? Yes but not really. I can get into a mood from the stresses of life and running a school that I vent about it, which includes saying that I quit, then the next morning I’m back to it. I haven’t ever really thought of quitting.The reason for continuing still doesn’t have words for it. I do know that a large part of my world would be missing if I did.

I’ve been a step-parent a couple times and agree with the statement “Blood makes you related but it doesn’t make you family.” A family is a group of people who RESPECT each other, work FOR each other, SUPPORT each other and want YOUR success. These are not qualities guaranteed by blood. Because of these qualities (and many more), I have a huge family!

“There are no egos here, just beginners who may have been around for a while.”

What is the training philosophy of your gym? Does your school have a student creed?

“Play, have fun!”

If you aren’t enjoying the training, then you are 1) not clicking with the teacher, 2) not clicking with the art, or 3) searching for something else but aren’t certain of what that is.

The core values would be:

1) Do the work! There are no shortcuts to success of any kind. You need to train first and often.

2) Learn the curriculum! Anyone can dance around doing martial arts looking stuff. Actors do it all the time. Since the physical techniques of an art are only 10% of what you’re learning, you better start looking at what is beyond the movement. How does it apply tactically (actual practical self-defense use) and how does it apply the principles/concepts/theories of the art? Hopefully, the first part never happens but… The second part is how to use the martial arts every day. The head of the Seidokan Aikido system that I train in stated that if you can’t use your training every day, you’re wasting your time.

3) Help others! This is as basic as training with them. It is also teaching as you understand it, which is beneficial to the student teaching because you don’t truly know your curriculum until you can talk it. Most importantly here, though, is taking responsibility for others. The world isn’t just you and you need a support system to help you through.

What does the Tiger symbolize for your school?

“A tiger is a solitary creature and learns to be successful in their environment.”

So, this one will make you laugh. I use a White Tiger in the school name because I was born in the year of the Tiger and I’m not orange.

That was the first idea behind using it. Over the years, I’ve found other reasons for it. As with every school, the students tend to mirror the teacher. My participation in athletics was more from wanting to play the game than to win trophies and titles. I’ve always been interested in learning and developing skills. I have had a personal journey to grow.

A tiger is a solitary creature and learns to be successful in their environment. The students that I attract are those interested in traveling their journey how they wish but knowing they have companions on similar journeys gives them additional strength.

Every martial arts gym is unique, how would you describe your gym culture as “Unparalleled”?

Since we are quite simple in our approach to training, the school is (possibly) unparalleled for its family feel. We don’t follow the current industry favorite of $29.99 for a month of class plus a free uniform. We have a standard “one-month free” offer for both programs. There are no uniforms required until testing…well, the first Haidong Gumdo test can be done without a uniform because they don’t have white belts included. We offer a package deal on the test fee and uniform (dobok) to create the opportunity to have a belt for the dobok. The Taekwondo has a similar offer but the dobok is provided for the test as they come with white belts.

“A family is a group of people who RESPECT each other, work FOR each other, SUPPORT each other and want YOUR success.”

I say this about the family feel as we’ve done several events with my school and several that I help where the seminar teacher couldn’t tell that there were multiple schools in attendance. There are no egos here, just beginners who may have been around for a while.

How do martial arts create Heroes and Masters of Daily Life?

Joseph Campbell’s extensive study of mythology brought out the “Hero’s Journey”. This is a multi-step action that every hero follows. We apply the same journey to training. The multi-step action is the same as preparing for a rank promotion test. The thing that’s even better about using martial arts is that you get to repeat the journey several times before reaching a Chodan (1st Dan Black belt).

Here’s where the mastery comes into play. The term Chodan means “the first step”. It isn’t the end of the journey, but rather the start. Western interpretation of the terms had made things well misunderstood. By continuing the journey, students develop further in how their skills can be used every day. The most common aspect is High-Speed Problem Solving (thank you, Randy King, for giving me good words to use here).

What are the top three lessons you have taken from studying martial arts?

  • First, this is your journey so follow it where it takes you. If you’re not happy with the path you see, take a different one.

  • Second, keep going because you never know how close you are to something life-changing.

  • Third, always learn because once you stop, you start dying. I regularly say that once you stop watching cartoons/anime, you’re old.

  • The most important lesson for students to learn is that their achievements are limited only by their goals.

What advice would you give someone just beginning their path as a martial artist?

If you aren’t having fun, try another school! Even the same art taught a different way might be what you want. Don’t think the art is bad just from one experience. Try other arts, too.

Ask questions! Who is the teacher? Who was the teacher’s teacher? What is the history of the school? What is the history of the lineage? There is no regulation for the martial arts industry. This means that ANYONE can buy a belt and open a school.

“The reason for continuing still doesn’t have words for it.”

We would like to thank Master Frankovich for his Unparalleled wisdom and everything he does for our Martial Arts Community!

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