NAM, Tae-hi (남태희; 南太熙; 19 March 1929 – 7 November 2013) was a pioneering South Korean master of taekwondo, and is known as the 'Father of Vietnamese Taekwondo.' With Hong Hi Choi, he co-founded the Oh Do Kwan and led the twelve original masters of taekwondo of the Korean Taekwon-Do Association (KTA).
While fighting in the Korean War, Nam gained famed for hand-to-hand combat during the Battle on Yongmun Mountain:
- "In the dark, Nam heard a noise, ran into somebody, and tried to grab the man's hair during the scuffle. The Chinese soldier was trying to do the same. With no light, the only way to distinguish friend from foe was by grabbing at a head, because communists had crew cuts and South Koreans had slightly longer hair. In that trench, Nam felt short hair — almost bald — and he struck. His enemy fell.
- "He heard another soldier. He punched, flailed. Ran on. As the two armies fought in the dark trenches, Nam tapped men's heads when he could. Crew cut meant attack; long hair, pull back. He could not use a bayonet and fought with his hands all night, thinking of nothing — no mind — stumbling through the dark, striking , kneeing, moving. When he fell, he would stand again. The next day, the communists retreated from the trenches and the fighting continued with guns... The next day's battle ended as night fell, but Nam kept fighting. Most of his thirty-one men were dead, and he had not slept for three nights. He had not eaten in how many days? He worked out that he had missed nine meals. He collapsed from exhaustion...
- "That day, during the retreat, Nam wandered to a spot where he had fought during the night before. He found many dead bodies and counted more than two dozen with no bullet or knife wounds. They were the ones he had hit during the night, the ones with broken faces and bones, but there was no time to dwell on these things. Seeing the Chinese divisions weakened , all the South Koreans, including the main line ten kilometres away, counter-attacked and chased the communists over Yongmun Mountain. Thanks to Nam and his battalion, one Korean division backed by an American division defeated three communist divisions. The battle would soon be in Korea's military records: a famous, horrific lesson in how to defend a mountain top against a 360-degree attack.
- "General Choi Hong Hi was impressed. Word had spread that Nam was a Korean Karate expert who had killed communists with his bare hands, and Choi wanted him in his division. With men like Nam, they believed that tiny Korea would banish Chinese communists just as it had Japanese fascists." - Gillis, Alex. A Killing Art: The Untold History of Tae Kwon Do
Nam went on to become Choi's right-hand man and was pivotal to the establishment of early taekwondo. Nam moved to the Chicago area in 1972, opened a dojang in 1973, and then later lived in Los Angeles. In 2007, Nam was inducted into the Taekwondo Hall of Fame.
After being admitted to hospital due to pneumonia, Nam died on 7 November 2013 in Garden Grove, California, USA.
- Nam Tae Hi on Wikipedia
- A Killing Art: The Untold History of Tae Kwon Do
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