Get to Know Russ Johnson, a 2014 USA Taekwondo National Poomsae Team Member

Sept. 02, 2014, 5:39 p.m. (ET)

By Anacleta Thorne (Special Submission to USA Taekwondo)

This year, the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) added a Master 4 division to the poomsae competition. In the male 4th Master division, Russ Johnson will represent Team USA at the upcoming 9th World Poomsae Championships in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

I had a phone conversation with Johnson, and I quickly heard in his voice how proud he was to be on the 2014 USA Taekwondo National Poomsae Team. At 68 years old, he believes he’s the oldest member on the team. After talking to him, I believe it’s best to state that he’s 68 years young, with enough energy to keep competing for many years to come. When I inquired as to what keeps him motivated, he replied, “I enjoy it when someone younger than me says that they admire me for what I’m doing.”  He feels fortunate to be healthy and in a position to motivate others.

I know from our conversation that Johnson truly lives and breathes poomsae. Numerous times, he commented that taekwondo’s a “way of life,” that it’s “forever.” When asked what he enjoys about poomsae he responded, “Poomsae’s really the purest form of respect for taekwondo. It represents the core of taekwondo.”

Johnson’s taekwondo journey started in 1968 while he was in the United States Air Force. He began training seriously under Grandmaster Bobby Kim, who coached the cadet taekwondo club on base. Johnson trained with Grandmaster Kim in Colorado Springs, Colo., as well as at Kim’s dojang in Aurora, Colo. Grandmaster Kim inspires Johnson; to this day, he continues to talk to Kim multiple times during the week and lives by the motto, “Give all that you can give.”

I also asked Johnson about his training for the upcoming World Poomsae Championships and learned that he tends to start training by 6:15 a.m. every day. You read that right: by 6:15 a.m., he’s already at the gym training. His training regimen includes strength training three times a week and poomsae every day, with afternoon sessions dedicated to working on techniques. He also drives from his home in New Jersey to have periodic training sessions with his assigned team coach, Grandmaster David Turgeon, in Connecticut. I heard the competitiveness in Johnson’s voice when he shared that he and his coach were checking out possible competitors who may be in Mexico.

Johnson feels fortunate that there are opportunities for athletes to continue to compete in taekwondo as they get older. He thinks that having the older athlete divisions will help with the continued growth of poomsae. He’s happy that they added a 4th Master division and is encouraged to see older athletes out there competing.

Overall, Johnson is looking forward to representing Team USA in the male 4th Master division in Mexico.

The athletes are self-funding themselves to travel to the World Poomsae Championships. Those interested in donating to the USA Taekwondo National Poomsae Team can use the following link: