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Master Kevin Tolderlund
World Tang Soo Do Association
Master of the Month
November 2004


One of the recurring characteristics of many of our masters is a love for teaching that persists throughout all their years of training. Helping others learn and the joy it brings comes up again and again as you talk with them and hear what’s in their heart regarding the martial arts. Master Kevin Tolderlund is no exception. In fact, his favorite part of Tang Soo Do is teaching and seeing others learn. He has always believed the meaning of life is not about himself but what he can share with others and if he didn’t share, he feels he would be depriving himself.

Perhaps that is why he continues to train and serve in the World Tang Soo Do Association. “Tang Soo Do is part of my life. Without it, I would be lost; I wouldn’t be whole. If I would quit, I would be cheating myself out of the person I have become.”

This love for Tang Soo Do has been passed on to Master Tolderlund’s children, Kadie and Kevin Jr. Both are Cho Dan Bos. Their father first began training in 1978 in Meridan, Connecticut, “mostly due to Bruce Lee.” He and his brother trained together and were quite wild when they were younger. They would go to tournaments and stand at opposite ends of the line, eventually they would eliminate all the competition and end up competing against each other for first place. When Kadie was born, Master Tolderlund stopped training to spend more time with his new family. After two and a half years, his wife Karen knew that something was missing from his life and encouraged him to go back. He hasn’t stopped since. In fact one of the reasons he drew his children into Tang Soo Do was to be able to spend more quality time with them. They now share his love of the martial arts.

Teaching definitely influenced his master’s thesis. “I wrote on teaching and learning throughout life. There is always much more to learn, so don’t waste time. If you decide to do something, do it all the way with your whole heart. Use what you learn to the best of you ability. And most importantly, don’t forget what you learn, it costs a lot to get it back later in life.” His one regret is that he did not take school more seriously when he was young. He took it for granted and did not realize how important it was as preparation for the future, both in allowing a greater choice of occupations and in helping to shape who he would become later on.

Teachers have been Master Tolderlund’s role models. “I credit them for the things they do. Other teachers who have influenced me are Master Khan who is just awesome, he’s not a big man and has shown me you don’t need size to prevail; Master Adams who is fluent and easy-going, his techniques flowing effortlessly from one to the next; and Master Beaudoin for his words of wisdom and his art of talking, having the ability to criticize and teach without being negative.”

With all this emphasis on teaching, you would think Master Tolderlund is a teacher professionally. Actually, he is a self employed construction worker. But it goes to show that no matter what your occupation, you can also be both a teacher and a learner.

In front of his classes Master Tolderlund is a whirlwind of activity and enthusiasm. His attitude is upbeat and he is constantly encouraging and advising. His students know when he’s talking to them even if he never singles them out, but he’s not afraid to call attention to problems as an example to everyone. He expects his students to always try their best and more. “Can’t is a four letter word and shouldn’t be used. Your body is capable of more than you think it is.”

As a teacher Master Tolderlund believes you should look at two sides to every story, always be realistic and tell it like it is. This has sometimes gotten him into trouble but he doesn’t regret it. You shouldn’t coddle your family or the people around you. He expects people to take responsibility for their own actions and not make excuses. He believes everyone chooses who to have as friends and should have the discipline to know the right places to go to stay on a positive track. He says, “Always try to stay positive, don’t waste your time with negative vibes; don’t worry about everyone else’s opinion. Don’t dwell on the negative things. Be happy with what you have and make the best of it. Focus on what you can make of yourself. Always be confident in yourself.” His father taught him that if you don’t like yourself then others won’t like you either, however if you like yourself and think good of yourself then others will like and think good of you too. He believes his father was a very wise man.

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