On Thursday, December 1, 2011 Master Michael Friello, National Chairman for the AAU Taekwondo Program and Grandmaster Won-Sik Kang, President of the Kukkiwon-World Taekwondo Headquarters together signed an M.O.A. (memorandum of understanding) at the Kukkiwon Headquarters in Seoul, Korea recognizing AAU Taekwondo as a Special Member of Kukkiwon Membership System.

AAU Taekwondo and Kukkiwon had been in discussions for several months leading up to this historic signing, said Mike Friello. All of which culminated this past week when Mr. Friello traveled personally to Seoul to officially meet with all the key figures at Kukkiwon and formally sign the agreement.

The day began first with a personal meeting with Jae-Won Kang, Section Chief for Overseas Strategy Team, whose primary focus is with the PATU countries. From there it was on to meet with Seong-Hoon Oh an Acting General Director of the Strategy Planning Bureau followed by a one-on-one with Dae-Young Oh, General Director of World Taekwondo Academy at the Kukkiwon.

This series of meetings progressed with Choon-Kil Lim Vice President of Kukkiwon and finally a formal sit down with Won-Sik Kang Kukkiwon President. Immediately following this series of discussions all relevant parties were ushered into a ‘ceremony’ room complete with a formal dais set for Master Friello and Grandmaster Kang and a beautiful Kukkiwon-AAU Taekwondo Banner in the background where the actual double signing of the documents took place and formal pictures taken.

“It was one of the most inspirational and significant experiences in my 43 yearlong Taekwondo career”, said Master Friello. Every single Taekwondo practitioner dreams of someday ‘visiting’ Korea and the Kukkiwon. However, to do so under these kinds of extraordinary circumstances was truly beyond my wildest dreams or ambitions”.

For more than 20 years now, AAU Taekwondo has worked diligently and sincerely to establish itself as one of the premier Taekwondo organizations in the United States. From its’ humble beginnings in 1991 with some 400 member- athletes competing in four or five AAU Districts/States to where we are today with some 14,000 member athletes in practically all 50 states, the AAU Taekwondo Program has remained true to its initial goal—to simply do a better job for our students than any other organization out there.

And now, thanks to all of the hard work of so many people—instructors, coaches, officials, parents of our athletes and the athletes alike–our efforts and success are being recognized not just nationally, but Internationally at the highest level. It truly seems like the culmination of a life’s work said Master Friello. I’m truly overwhelmed by the shear magnitude of what this means for AAU Taekwondo.

At the same time, I know full well that I cannot rest now, that it is simply another beginning. Just as a Black Belt begins another new course of training and responsibility with each new promotion through the ranks, so too must I personally, and AAU Taekwondo generally, take on these new responsibilities with a renewed vigor to work even harder and help shape our Program to become even more responsible and successful.”

Under the guidelines of this MOA, AAU Taekwondo will now serve as an Official Poom/Dan Certifying Body of the Kukkiwon as well as offer Special Educational benefits and training to its members such as Master Instructor Certification, and Poomsae Training.

With this benefit comes extreme responsibility to nurture and strengthen ALL that Taekwondo stands for. Not just the more competitive aspects of the sport of Taekwondo, but the more esoteric and character building nature of the ART of Taekwondo—the real reason why so many of us got involved with Taekwondo in the first place and what has kept us involved with Taekwondo throughout our lives.

I look forward to this new partnership with Kukkiwon and take on these new responsibilities with a most humble heart and thanks for all that Taekwondo has given me said Master Friello