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Teaching Moves, Wisdom

Tae kwon do master to be inducted into Hall of Fame

by Jennifer Choi

February 26, 2009

Walter Vendura of Port Jefferson is about to be inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame.

Vendura, 61, who operates the Long Island Traditional Tae Kwon Do Center in East Setauket, said he began his martial arts training in 1967 while on tour in Vietnam. He "trained diligently" and continued to do so when he returned stateside in 1968. Under the instruction of Grandmaster Hyun Ok Shin, a 10th degree black belt, Vendura earned his first degree black belt in 1973 and worked his way up to a sixth degree in 2005.

Having had the same instructor for all 40 years of his training, Vendura said he learned the value of commitment and loyalty. Martial arts "has been my life," he said, adding "I do it for the love of the art" despite all the "obstacles, dead ends and detours."

Vendura, who was inducted into the World Karate Union Hall of Fame in 1997, said his role in the world of martial arts is not to win awards but to fulfill his responsibility to pass on his wisdom. The sabumnim, which means master in Korean, noted that instilling perseverance, integrity, honor and loyalty in his students is his primary goal. Even though these values often get lost in living day to day, he said, they are "really some of the most important things in life." Martial arts has "made me stronger in all aspects of my life. It helped me persevere through personal challenges." When asked how much longer he will teach tae kwon do, the instructor replied, "Until a time I don’t exist any longer."

Vendura, who previously operated martial arts centers in Smithtown, Port Jefferson and Stony Brook, said he currently has about 15 students at the East Setauket location. Among the classes he offers is a program for kids with special needs, according to the sabumnim. Nine students between the ages of 4 and 17 attend this program, he said, and activities address areas such as balance, spatial awareness, motor planning and multi-tasking. Assisting Vendura in this aspect is his fiancée, Linda Burney, a certified special education teacher with 20 years experience in autism and developmental disabilities.

Burney noted that merging Vendura’s expertise with hers has been a "nice combination, the best of both worlds." As for his induction into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame, "I’m very proud of him," she said. Passing on the values of martial arts to the younger generation has been Vendura’s "main, full-time pursuit," according to Burney, who said "It’s nice that he’s getting the recognition he deserves."

East Setauket resident Bruce Solomon, whose 8-year-old son Daniel attends Vendura’s tae kwon do center, said he visited and evaluated several facilities but found that this center was the "most appropriate and positive."

"It’s been great," Solomon said. "[Vendura] is very focused on passing on his wisdom to these children in the form of martial arts." Even though the instructor is in his early 60s, there’s still a certain "childlike quality" about him, according to Solomon, who said Vendura is "as much a teacher as anyone in the school system."

Steve Forte, another East Setauket resident, also praised Vendura’s ability to help children develop high self-esteem. His 12-year-old daughter Elizabeth, who takes classes three times a week, "definitely carries herself with a higher feeling for herself," Forte said. "This is the only thing she does that she doesn’t complain about waking up early for."

Similar to Solomon, Forte said he observed other programs but didn’t get the "right feeling" until he arrived at Vendura’s center. "It’s like a family here," he said, "not just a business."

Vendura’s induction ceremony will take place Feb. 28 in New York City. Burney said the location is fortunate for them, since the national honors are bestowed at a different location throughout the United States each year.

Jennifer Choi
Times Beacon Record Newspapers
631.751.7744 x124
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