Musings on a Masters’ Summit; Master Matthew Breen, 7th Dan


In February, Mark Banicevich and I were admitted to the close-knit fraternity of Masters here in New Zealand. But it was not for another month that the implications would fully sink in, when we attended our first Masters’ Summit.


Upon our arrival at a secret location, we donned our cowled robes and took our places in a circle of similarly-garbed figures in the smoke-filled Ritual Chamber. The Head of the Conclave began to speak – his face was masked in shadow, but the voice revealed his identity as Master Davidson – outlining in a few broad strokes the next phase of the Grand Scheme for World Domina—–

… apparently my Oath of Silence forbids me from going into detail about that. I’ll make something up to fill out the article instead.

All ten New Zealand Masters gathered at a venue familiar to many of our fourth dans – the Out in the Styx Guesthouse near Pukeatua in the Waikato. 75 dans, and well over three centuries of accumulated Taekwon-Do experience, all seated around a single table, makes for an impressive collection, but we’re very fortunate in this country that all our seniors are genuinely good and humble people. Mark and I were immediately made welcome… and having known all these gentlemen for nearly thirty years made it an easy transition. (Master Patterson in particular was thrilled when he initially heard the news of our promotion: “Does this mean the others will stop calling me ‘Baby Master’?”)

Naturally, this group of practitioners could not assemble without spending a little time in the dojang. Master McPhail led a session in which he spent a couple of hours passing on revelations, clarifications, or corrections he has picked up in the last year of travelling the world with Grand Master Marano and the ITF Technical Committee to present International Instructor Courses. Of particular interest were his tips for arriving back to one’s initial spot when performing Ul-Ji Tul… a feat that challenges even Masters on occasion!

But while it’s always great to participate in one of Master McPhail’s classes, the primary purpose of the weekend was not the training, but rather the discussions. The bulk of our time together was spent in Lance and Mary’s dining hall, recapping the year just past and looking ahead to the year to come. It’s the job of the Board to formulate and execute policy for our organisation… but the Masters are the custodians of the art and culture of Taekwon-Do, and it’s important to all of us that our values and standards are maintained, and that we never lose the things that make our Taekwon-Do family in New Zealand special.

This was the sixth annual Masters’ Summit – the first was in 2013. It didn’t take long as a newcomer, though, to see that all voices were welcome and all opinions given thoughtful consideration by the table. On a range of topics, some saw unanimous consent, while others drew spirited discussion; on the whole, a consensus was generally attained. These conversations continued well into the evening and resumed after breakfast until the group dispersed around 11 on Sunday morning.

That feeling of consensus and of family has always been one of the greatest strengths of the organisation here in New Zealand – not just a uniformity of standard and technique nationwide, but also that we all work together to move in the same direction, unified and coordinated. It is events that bring people together from around the country – the National Camp, Stripes, or this Masters’ Summit (‘White Stripes’?) – that give us the opportunity to all stay on the same page.

From the new Baby Masters to those who got there before us – thanks for the chance to contribute!

Matthew Breen, (new) 7th Dan.