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Tae kwon do teacher takes trip to its roots

Detroit Lakes' Lucas Holzhueter in North Korea next to a South Korean guard, who stands on the edge of South Korea in the Diplomatic Building at Panmunjeom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).1 / 2
SUBMITTED PHOTOS At Bulguksa Temple, the former capital temple of Korea (also in Gyungju), are (left to right) Ben Thompson (Eagan). Shane Hylton (Grand Forks), Tina Hylton (Grand Forks), Rob Yuretich (Bemidji), Melanie Bloberger (Bemidji), Lucas Holzhueter (Detroit Lakes), Nick Bertz (Park Rapids), Adam Johnson (Bemidji), Lotia Meyers (Wadena/Perham), Michael Hinz (St. Cloud), Sandy Kurtzenberger (Wadena), Nancy McLaughlin (St. Cloud), Trevor Augustus (San Diego), Michelle Graves (Red Lake), James N...2 / 2

It's one thing to practice the art of tae kwon do in Detroit Lakes; it's another to visit its roots.

Master Lucas Holzhue-ter, owner and head instructor of Detroit Lakes Tae Kwon Do & Kumdo, just returned from a week and a half long venture to South Korea to get "more up to date training and experience Korean culture."

Invited by his instructor, Grand Master Spencer Brandt of Bemidji, Holzhueter traveled to South Korea Nov. 13-24. It was his third trip to the country, but the first of its magnitude.

For one, there were 22 people on the trip. Two, they got to experience the culture and attractions more than on past trips.

Like his trips to South Korea in 2003 and 2006, Holzhueter also did some testing while there. In 2003, he tested for his second degree in kumdo and first degree in hapkido. In 2006, he tested in second degree hapkido. Last month, he tested for his third degree and "passed all tests on the first try."

"It was a very historic trip. I learned around 40 new techniques in 10 days, a lot of downloading with your brain," he said.

Each day, the group would visit a temple and then go out back to the grassy area and practice their techniques.

Holzhueter, who also has a teaching degree, said the experience was similar to keeping up to date on teaching licenses.

"Just like you need to continue your education as a teacher, doing realistic training is more important" than watching a film on what to do.

But besides the testing, it was the venues and sites that made this trip more special.

"We got to visit more historical" spots than just training, he said. For instance, they visited a grotto where figurines were carved, demonstrating the moves and techniques Holzhueter has learned through tae kwon do.

"The historical significance in what we do here each day," put him in awe.

The United States group also had the opportunity to meet with the Korean Olympic coach, which was an honor, he said.

They watched the junior Olympic team train, which will be those competing in the 2012 Olympics. The high school aged students were "mind blowing" with their skills, he added.

Another major spot Holzhueter and the group visited was the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, between the two Koreas.

"It was an eye-opening experience -- in more ways than one."

The DMZ is still a war zone. There are barbed wire fences with tanks, and visitors are told not to even look or point at the North Korean guards. He said he could just see that the North Korean guards hated them.

One building in that area they got to tour was interesting because half was on the North Korean side and half on the South Korean side.

"At all times, there was 20 yards between us (and the North Koreans). It was an intimidating atmosphere. I didn't know what to expect."

Across the border in North Korea, he said, there was a propaganda village, Kijungdong, which was built to promote a positive image of the country. Instead, he said, it looked vacant.

The food was a welcome difference.

"We ate American style breakfast every morning, but every night we had everything from octopus, squid, sea cucumber, kimchi to kalbi and bulgogi (traditional cooked pork and beef)," he said.

"Korean food is wonderful; I cook my own here in the U.S.A., but you can't beat it in Korea."

Now that he's back, Holzhueter's eager to share his story and his new techniques.

"I'm happy to be back because it was really tiring. You always have your guard up because you don't know what would happen next," he said. "It was one of those things where your knee hurts and your back hurts but you just had fun climbing that mountain."

He will be teaching his students some of the new moves he learned and some of the phrases used in Korea. Not that he's fluent or anything.

"They (the South Koreans) thought our Korean was bad, but were happy we tried."

He also brought back some candy to literally give his students a taste of South Korea.

Holzhueter said he hopes to continue taking trips to South Korea in the future.

"Every time I go to Korea, I learn something new, so I hope to continue on that path."

After recuperating from the 14-hour time difference -- and waking at some early morning hours -- Holzhueter is ready to get back into his routine and teach what he loves -- tae kwon do.

"It's not just a sport, but a part of life," he said.