Ted Fitzsimmons’ service in the United States Armed Forces introduced him to a great many things, but none piqued his interest quite so much as self-defense. That’s why when he was discharged and returned home to North Dakota, he sought out a man who could better train him. Quite serendipitously Ted found Great Grandmaster Moo Yong Yun, founder of the US Chang Moo Kwan Union Taekwondo organization and an influential figure in South Korean martial arts and politics, to take him under his wing. Ted’s new mentor led him to appreciate that the martial arts aren’t only about fists and feet.

“My great grandmaster was formative to my theory of life,” explained Ted. “He taught me not only the techniques and strength it takes to defend myself, but also the discipline I needed to make those skills most effective. More than that, he taught me how to skydive, mountain climb, eat in a fancy restaurant — even how to dance. He showed me that becoming a well-rounded person requires the most expansive view of the world that you can give yourself.”

Under his guide’s tutelage and out of his own determination, Ted developed his skills in Korean martial arts until he became a grandmaster, and has so far earned his eighth degree black belt in taekwondo, sixth degree black belt in hapkido, and fourth degree master in kumdo. He has run the Roughrider Academy in Mandan for three decades now.

“Roughrider Academy is a traditional school, one that seeks to develop our students into good, productive members of society, and not simply athletes,” said Ted. “Our focus here isn’t on competition, although we do excel at it. One of our students won a gold medal at a national event only last year.

“Taekwondo is an artform. By the time you’ve earned your black belt in it you will have become proficient in more than 400 fighting techniques, as well as how to improvise weapons from everyday objects like chopsticks and playing cards. Although you’re not likely to win a fight with a ten of diamonds, being able to stick one in a soft target can give you the couple of precious seconds it takes to turn an ugly situation around in your favor. Beyond that, a taekwondo student learns how to avoid conflicts altogether — which is not to say they can’t take care of business when they have to.

“Hapkido is a creative form of self-defense in which you use your assailant’s own weight and body movements against them. With hapkido’s throws, joint locks, and pressure point manipulation you can nearly effortlessly handle many threats. Because it takes advantage of an attacker’s own violent motives, hapkido is an excellent discipline for the law enforcement professional who would prefer to subdue a suspect without exerting a potentially eyebrow-raising level of force.

“Kumdo is very much similar to Japan’s kendo, where students use bamboo swords to practice offensive and defensive techniques. Kumdo is much more practical for personal defense than you might suspect, because its techniques are easily conveyed through common items like sticks, broom handles, pool cues, or even a rolled up newspaper. The stamina, focus, and concentration that kumdo fosters transfers positively to other facets of life as well.

“Giving members of our community the confidence that martial arts teaches has been very rewarding, a great life’s work,” Ted concluded. “Running Roughrider Academy has never been my official day job, so I’ve been able to conduct its affairs to best benefit my students rather than the school’s profits. I chose not to name the place after myself so that its mission may continue even after I’ve stepped down.”

Hitting the gym is commendable, and there are certain devices available which can make you indisputably formidable in dangerous confrontations. If you would really like to develop your ability to defend yourself while broadening your character, however, then attending Roughrider Academy is a fine investment in your time. Visit roughrideracademy.com to find out more.


David Scheller