On August 19, 2022, Grand Master John Tompkins was officially inducted into the Hall of Fame. Thank you to GM Gerard Robbins, Mr. Michael Cormack, and Mr. Anthony Bigby for bringing this dream to fruition!
GMT HALL OF FAME
Grand Master Johnny Francis Tompkins was born on June 25, 1944 and died on June 23, 2016. To say he had a fiery personality is probably an understatement. He was a passionate man who fiercely defended his loves, his passions, and his beliefs. He spent 59 years studying, protecting, and spreading his passion for the martial arts. He is known, respected, and loved by many all over the world.
When he was 13 he became interested in martial arts. In 1957 he began reading Bruce Tegner’s books and with the help of a Japanese foreign exchange student he began training. From that time onward he never stopped his love and dedication to the martial arts.
In 1962 at the age of 18 he joined the United States army. In 1965 he was sent to Vietnam where he served 2 tours as a Sgt E-5 Door gunner in 119th Assault helicopter Company, 52nd Battalion, and 17th Aviation Group. During that time (Dec. 1965-Aug.1967) he earned the Air Medal for Valor, 2 purple hearts, a bronze star, as well as 23 other air medals for his hours of air time.
His first formal training in the martial arts was in Judo and jujitsu where he learned grappling basics from Rod Sarcharnosky from 1963-1965. He eventually earned brown belts in each of those disciplines but never formally pursued either of those styles after that. Because of his training in Jujitsu he also served as a hand to hand combat trainer while he was in the service.
His first association with the Korea Taekwon-Do Association began in 1965. It was during his time while he was in the Service that he was introduced to Taekwon-Do by Republic of Korea soldiers under the direction of 4th degree Black Belt and later Grand Master Park Jung Tae. He always considered it a great privilege to have trained beside the ROK Marines and under Grand Master Park.
After returning the USA he spent several years recovering from his first spinal fusion.
He then continued his training under B C Yu and in 1975 he earned his 1st degree black belt. That same year he began to organize Taekwon-Do in Missouri for the ITF.
From 1973 to 1989 he trained consistently in seminars with General Choi, and Grand Master Park. He also made frequent trips to Toronto to study privately with them. He is immortalized in General Choi’s 15 volume encyclopedia set (volume 6) and the condensed encyclopedias from 1983 -1999 as a demonstrator for spot turning.
At General Choi’s direction he joined the USTF in 1979 and was a regional director under Master C.E. Sereff’s USTF from 1979 until 1989. He is responsible for spreading ITF Taekwon-Do in the United States throughout the south, central Midwest, and Alaska.
In 1982 and 1984 he served as assistant coach for the USA Teams. He also hosted the first ITF International Instructor course in the USA.
In 1985 while he was in a Dallas airport on his way to visit one of his schools he was paged by General Choi to come to Toronto to test for his 5th degree. After testing one-on one for 4 ½ hours with Grand Master Park Jung Tae, he earned his 5thdegree. Five years later, he was awarded his 6th degree without testing.
In 1989 when Grand Master Park Jung Tae left the ITF and Grand Master Tompkins’ loyalties were torn. He believed strongly in Taekwon-Do and General Choi. He valued his relationship with General Choi and all he had learned but the importance of loyalty to your instructor was well ingrained in him. Ultimately, he followed his instructor Grand Master Park.
In 2002 after Grand Master Park’s death Grand Master Tompkins returned to his roots in the ITF. He met with President Choi, Jung Hwa and declared that he was planting his feet in his backyard.
President Choi promoted Grand Master Tompkins to 8th degree on September 11, 2002; and to 9th degree July 25, 2014.
Throughout his career he always worked spreading Taekwon-do at the local, State, National, and International levels. He held many positions from instructor to coach, to founder and head of the Phoenix Group, to regional director, to promotional chairman, to ethics chairman, to discipline and reconciliation chairman, to advisor and many more. Sometimes holding more than one position at a time.
Students recognized his dedication and he was known for being the last Master to leave the competition as he remained throughout the day to provide inspiration and guidance for all competitors from all nations.
Known for his teaching ability he could both verbally and in writing, detail minute Taekwon-Do movements and ideas. In 1998 he wrote the 1st edition of the Phoenix Group Student Manual to help the instructors and students of the Phoenix Group teach and train in a system that created sound martial artist. The 2nd edition was published in 2007.
Grand Master Tompkins believed that Taekwon-Do reflects a way of living that must be rooted in integrity and self-discipline. He believed that developing kicking and punching was simply a benefit of studying the art but that the most important part was the self-discipline.
His commitment to excellence and legacy of leadership is exemplified in the following statement:
“Today more than ever, the art of Taekwon-Do must be dealt with from a moral as well as a physical perspective. The attitudes that are exhibited at open tournaments by both students and instructors alike continue to convince me that while the open style of martial arts has spawned a lot of excitement and creativitiy, the loss of discipline and self-contro…..has adversely affected the evolution of good martial arts. We all need to renew ourselves to the commitment to a life of Do” (Grand Master Tompkins, 2015) He spent his life pursuing excellence and leading others to excel in the art of Taekwon-Do.
Even though he has now been promoted to a higher place in another world Grand Master Tompkins Taekwon-Do legacy lives on here among us today. Through his students through written works, through the continued sharing of his teachings and love of Taekwon-Do. We are the Phoenix Group and we are his Legacy.
He use to always tell us when we are young we teach with our bodies, when we are old we teach with our mind and when we are gone we teach through our legacy. His legacy is strong and continues today! He may be gone but he is not forgotten. He continues to teach and inspire us each and every day. Phoenix Group continues! He lives in each one of us!