Last Saturday, John Murphy, the owner and head instructor of JTMS Korean Martial Arts in Greenville, received an honor of a lifetime as he was inducted into the Korean Martial Arts Masters Hall of Fame.
The recognition was extra special for Murphy as he was inducted alongside Grandmaster Ji Han Jae, with Ji not only being well known as a high-ranking hapkido instructor, but also for acting in the movie, “Game of Death” (1973) with the late Bruce Lee.
The honor also meant a lot to Murphy, a Royse City resident, because it recognized his three decades of teaching martial arts, his work as Texas regional director for the World Kido Federation, and his hosting of the first-ever U.S. based Korean Martial Arts International Championship in 2011 – which was held in Forney, Texas.
“Yes. It’s very unusual for an American to be the head of a kwan – or organization,” Murphy said.
Over the years, Murphy has seen more than 50 of his students promoted to black belt level, has won more than 30 grand championship competition titles himself, and has taught at least 14 world champions in hapkido.
According to Murphy, one of the challenges of hapkido is its versatility.
“A lot of martial arts focus on pugilistic things, like in boxing or taekwondo, where you punch and kick, and with other martial arts, they’re very selective and you just learn weaponry or you just learn grappling and wrestling,” Murphy said.
“Hapkido is a culmination of all the martial arts of the Korean Peninsula,” he continued to explain. “You learn everything, from punching and kicking to grappling to pressure points to weapons and forms.
“It’s a really, really big curriculum, and we cover a lot of ground.”
While Murphy has been teaching hapkido since he was still in high school, it wasn’t until 1999 or 2000 that he opened his first dojang, Progressive Martial Arts, in Bonham and to teach it full-time.
“I worked in law enforcement when I lived in Oklahoma and later as security supervisor for the FDIC in Dallas,” Murphy told the Herald-Banner. “While I was working in security, I was teaching out of my garage and had a lot of students. When scheduling lessons got more and more difficult, since I was still working another job, someone told me it was a sign and that’s when I went into teaching full-time.”
One of the reasons Murphy has taught for so long is the reward of seeing how the learning of martial arts has helped shape some of his students’ lives.
“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned lately is that sometimes we get so busy thinking about what we’re doing instead of what it does,” Murphy said.
“Years ago, I had a kid at the dojang I used to have in Bonham. He’s a man now, but he was a little, wispy kid when he took lessons from me,” Murphy recalled. “This young man later went off into the Marine Corps – and he left a review on Google for our new school here in Greenville and said, ‘This man is like a second father to me. I love him and his program changed my life.’
“It was good for me to see that, to remind me of the result of what we’re doing here, and why we’re doing it,” he said.
In addition to teaching hapkido, Murphy also enjoys playing the guitar, reading sci-fi novels and spending time with his family.
About two months ago, he began teaching his six-year-old daughter hapkido shortly after opening his new school in Greenville.