Tae kwon do master to be inducted into Hall of
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
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
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
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.
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