I have talked with many of you in person about this announcement.

First, I want to tell all my students and fellow instructors again how much I have enjoyed training with all of you or your children, and how very much I have appreciated all of your support along the way.

After over twenty years of Taekwon-do in Bozeman and in Three Forks, I have decided that it is time to make a change in my life and to close the Three Forks Kim’s Taekwon-do School.

Closing the Taekwon-do school will provide me with a more flexible schedule to pursue other business and personal interests both here in Montana and abroad, which has been difficult over the last nine years while I was running the Three Forks school on a daily basis.

This change will also enable me to fully support Joe Diaz’s Top Level Boxing Gym to grow and to provide training opportunities for professional fighters and for people interested in boxing for health and fitness.

I will continue to provide self-defense and personal safety workshops by appointment for individuals and groups.

All Three Forks students will be able to continue their Taekwon-do training at the Bozeman school located at 2430 N 7th Street. As we discussed at our last class, please let me know if you want to continue in Bozeman so that we can facilitate a smooth transition.

I will miss the Taekwon-do School and training with you, and I will always treasure the time we spent together.

Again, thank you for your friendship and support over the years. I wish all of you the best on your journeys!

Brigitte Tuller
– three rivers defense –


Non – Contact Taekwon-do

Why do you practice non-­contact?  How can you know that you can defend yourself in a “real fight” if you practice non-­contact? What are the benefits of non-­contact training? These are a few of the questions that I was often asked in personal protection and self-­defense communities and sometimes by our students when I taught Taekwon-do.

I’ve trained both non-­contact at our Kim’s Taekwon-­do School and full-­contact at Grand Master Jung Sae Park’s Chung Do Kwan Karate school in Indianapolis. I’ve also trained with self-­defense instructors outside the martial arts in Nevada, Washington, and New Mexico, both non-­contact and full-­contact with padded aggressors. Non-­contact training combined with board breaking, if practiced thoughtfully and with appreciation for its benefits and limits, balances various training goals and benefits. I practiced Taekwon-­do for several purposes, including physical and mental fitness, health, and fun to name a few.

1st Dans learn their new hyung

1st Dans learn their new hyung

Many students seek self-­defense skills but list recreation, health, and fitness as well as self-­control and self-discipline as additional reasons for joining a martial arts school. Many train with family members. Parents often first enroll their children and later decide to join themselves.

Non-­contact training minimizes the risk of injury. Many families join martial arts schools to enjoy a physical activity together without much risk of injury. Many schools have more family members as students than individual students. Mothers and fathers with sons and daughters, brothers, and husbands and wives train together. Occasionally, students are divided into adult and children sparring groups. But most often, they spar together. Such family-­focused training might be harder with full-­contact training.

Board Breaking

Board Breaking

Of course, we don’t engage in non-­contact sparring just to make Taekwon-­do family-­friendly. What, then is the reason behind non-­contact training? In my opinion, one of its main benefits is its focus on accurate targeting of vulnerable points of the body – for example, the temple, eyes, throat, occipital protuberance, or solar plexus. Because techniques are pulled, accurate targeting of vital points is possible without major risk of injury.

So-­called “full-­contact” sparring, just like full-­contact self-­defense with padded aggressors, is still not full-­contact. Padding and shielding, such as boxing gloves, shin guards, chest protectors, helmets, and other protective gear prevent truly “full” contact. There are also rules regarding forbidden targets. Since “full-­contact” is not really “full-­contact” it cannot realistically simulate criminal attacks in the street or in the home. Even in boxing, some targets are not allowed and the boxers wear wraps and boxing gloves.



Full-­contact Taekwon-­do is not, and as a sport, should not, be the same as a full-­contact criminal attack. One is consensual activity; the other is criminal violence with no rules and no referees. In “full-­contact” Chung Do Kwan Taekwon-­do, students use helmets, chest protectors, arm protectors, gloves, shin and instep protectors, cups, and mouth guards. In self-­defense training with R.A.D. Systems and other similar training systems, the students use helmets, eye protection, chest protectors, gloves, and knee protectors. The attacker uses a full-­body armor suit.

Padded Aggressor

Padded Aggressor

“Full-­contact” is a misnomer for any martial art or self-­defense training, because none of these training modes realistically simulate “full contact.” If they did, these programs wouldn’t be in business for very long. Participants would be injured and possibly killed on a regular basis if the techniques were practiced effectively with full force and without rules or referees. Even Mixed Martial Arts or cage fighting has rules to prevent injury. For example, the following movements—all potentially valuable for truly incapacitating self-­defense—are not allowed: eye gouging, eye clawing, strikes to the throat, elbow strikes to the spine, stomping an opponent on the ground, etc.

Non-­contact Taekwon-­do acknowledges that we practice in a controlled environment with rules and referees. Targeting, striking, and pulling techniques right before impact allow the student to practice accurate targeting while minimizing the risk of injury. When practiced together with breaking boards, with static bag work, as well as with dynamic, moving target work, a student should be able to maximize power and targeting, including striking moving targets, with minimal risk of injury.

Board breaking also serves to test proper body alignment for maximum power generation.

Broken Boards

Broken Boards

It should complement non-­contact training. So should body bag, heavy bag, and dynamic target practice. In self-­defense, we also include non-­contact training, with accurate, slow-­motion targeting of vulnerable body parts on a non-­padded training partner. We add power and speed with body bag work and training with dynamic hand-­held shields and targets. Practicing your targeting on an unpadded human body, however, is crucial for zeroing in on vulnerable body parts in an actual attack, with its extreme stress and fear-­induced adrenal stress reactions

Non-­contact Taekwon-­do strikes a balance between self-­defense skill development and training safety, maximizing each student’s opportunity for accurate targeting of vital points and range finding.


Taekwon-Do Philosophy

Taekwondo Tournament

When practiced seriously, Taekwon-do develops fitness and self-defense skills. But that’s not all. Great Grandmaster Kim, Hong Sik describes the ultimate philosophy of Taekwon-do as striving for progress, peace, and love. Lofty goals – what do they mean to us as Taekwon-do instructors and students?

The Zen of Taekwon-do

According to the thesaurus, philosophy denotes values, ideas, thinking, attitudes, or a way of life. Intensive Taekwon-­do practice can shape a person physically as well as mentally and spiritually. As GGM Kim describes, the zen of Taekwon-­do is a crucial part of Taekwon-­do philosophy that applies to life in general.


It starts with the bow when we enter the dojang. At first, bowing seemed strange to me. It was only over time that I began to grasp the message of bowing. The bow denotes respect and reminds us to start Taekwon-­do practice by shedding all thoughts of the past and the future and concentrating fully on the present moment. This wasn’t always easy. It still isn’t. But when we succeed in being more in the moment, it can tremendously enrich our lives. It can also result in some simple pleasures like winning a breaking competition.

When my husband and I left for our 2013 tournament in Boise, I didn’t pack any wooden boards for breaking because I hadn’t practiced any particular break and wasn’t sure whether I would even enter the breaking competition. As we were leaving for Boise, however, I grabbed some boards from our garage that I had just bought. Since I didn’t aspire to win a trophy, I decided to have fun with a continuous break of hand-­held boards using a side-­kick, a front-­kick, a round-­house-­kick, and a knife-­hand break.

Thinking of self-­defense, I wanted to simulate being surrounded by four attackers and reacting with simple kicks and strikes. In the past, I had won breaking competitions with jump spinning kicks, done blind-folded. This sequence didn’t include any fancy jumping or spinning kicks.  Another  instructor told me this probably wouldn’t be a good break to get a high score. It didn’t matter; I didn’t aspire to a trophy.

I enjoyed watching other women break without wondering how their performance compared to mine. When my turn came, I didn’t care about what the judges or the other Black- belts thought or whether I had a chance of winning a trophy; instead I concentrated fully on each break. I ended up winning first place. Not that the trophy mattered (though winning it did make me happy), but the zen of the experience taught me a valuable lesson.


In The Naked Presenter, after emphasizing the importance of thorough preparation, Garr Reynolds says,

“Presence is about recognizing the importance of now. It’s a frame of mind that says, in effect, there is no past and there is no future. There is only this moment and this presentation and this audience. …When you dwell on techniques for winning over someone, worry about what others may think, or fret over whether or not you said the right thing, your mind is not in the present. You are not free. You’re in the future or in the past, but you are not there with your audience. Sometimes, you just have to take a risk and be your natural self. Amazing connections happen when you take a chance and throw yourself into your presentation without concern for failure or success.”

Reynolds, Garr, The Naked Presenter, pp. 76-­77

Being in the moment involves awareness of our emotions, minds, and bodies, and connecting fully with our environment and the people around us. It is crucial for our happiness as well as for our professional success. It is also essential for our personal safety, and, when risk management has failed, for effective self-­defense. If Taekwon-­do instilled nothing else in its students but the ability to be more fully present, it would already have served the more lofty goals of progress, peace, and love.

The five Tenets of Taekown-do

A more specifically articulated philosophy regarding values is contained in the five tenets of Taekwon-­do:

1. Courtesy,

2. Integrity,

3. Self-­control,

4. Perseverance, and

5. Indomitable spirit.

All are crucial for progress in Taekwon-­do practice. All are also essential for a fulfilling life.

Courtesy includes humility. Embarking on my Taekwon-­do journey at the age of 39 taught me that humility and perseverance were indispensable for progress. Practicing Taekwon-­do required me to adopt a true “beginner’s mind.” Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. I needed to start my training as an elementary school student, a total beginner, with an “empty cup,” as the old Zen koan recommends.


What Taekwon-­do strives for is humility based on strength. Sometimes a little humiliation on the way to building skill and strength precedes humility. I vividly remember trying to learn Chon-­Ji hyung. I was used to learning things quickly and in a relatively effortless manner. Not so with Chon-­Ji. It looked so easy, but my mind couldn’t wrap itself around this simple sequence of movements and changes in direction. Relying on my intellect more than on my body, I Googled “Chon-­ji” for help. A black belt told me, “Don’t think. Just let your body do it.” His advice embodied the zen lesson of Taekwon-­do, to be fully in the moment and to trust my body.

Taekwon-­do reminded me to practice perseverance and indomitable spirit in fighting for civil liberties as a board member of the national American Civil Liberties Union, waging the same fights over and over again. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The fight for civil liberties never stays won.” Perseverance and indomitable spirit are also valuable guides for my board service for the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and in my work as a volunteer for a crisis line that provides emergency support for victims of violence and stalking.

GGM Kim prescribes “daily practice.” Continuous practice becomes even more important as your body ages. Perseverance is crucial, especially for the older practitioner.

Tournament competitors and friends

Perseverance, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that you do the same thing over and over again. Rather, the idea is to persist in pursuing the same goals and to train with perseverance and diligent effort. The goal is progress, and sometimes this goal may require flexibility, adaptation, and change.

When I tried to establish my Taekwon-­do School in a small town in Montana where basketball rules and other physical activities are left in the shadows, I also occasionally had to remind myself of humility, perseverance, and indomitable spirit.

Integrity doesn’t need elaboration. You either have it or you don’t. Running a Taekwon-­do school, I also face certain challenges. Occasionally, a student or a student’s parent will try to pressure me to promote a student even though the student hasn’t attended class regularly or simply isn’t ready for a promotion. In most cases, it is the student’s parent, not the student who requests the promotion. Taekwon-­do integrity requires adherence to our standards as set by GGM Kim and passed down to us by GM Knife and Master Werner. The answer to these parents is, therefore, that I would be saddened to lose the student, but promotion decisions are not commodities to be bargained for.

Demonstration Team

Demonstration Team

GGM Kim reminds us to strive for peace, progress, and love. Some people see a dichotomy between a violent martial art and these values. When Taekwon-­do practitioners honor the five tenets of integrity, courage, perseverance, self-­control, and indomitable spirit, their lifestyles can be harmonious, based on strength and skill and oriented towards peace, progress, and love.

The physical essence of Taekwon-­do is the ability to inflict incapacitating injury.  Accomplished Taekwon-­do students should be able to break a bone, rupture an organ, or damage a physiological system so that a potential attacker can no longer injure them. These destructive powers should be honed to function effectively for self-­defense. Law and moral  integrity require that these powers should be used only when and to the extent reasonably necessary to avoid imminent injury to oneself or another.

3 Rivers Defense

3 Rivers Defense

Why do we need violence when we strive for peace? Because we also believe in realism. The name of my over-­arching business is Three Rivers Defense. Our logo is an imperfect circle with a Roman III inside. My designer suggested this logo, and I embraced it because it exemplifies what Three Rivers Defense and Kim’s Taekwon-­do School stand for. We strive for perfection, but we realize that the world is not perfect, and that we will never reach perfection. And for our quest to be fulfilling and successful, we need to engage the triad of our mind, body, and spirit. Taekwon-­do has many benefits, such as aerobic fitness, balance, coordination, and so on. But its essence as a martial art is self-­defense.

We live in idyllic places – Montana, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Idaho. I grew up in a small town at the foot of the Bavarian Alps in Germany. When I was a high school student, the parents of one of my best friends were shot in their home. My friend’s mother was killed. His father’s leg almost had to be amputated due to the gunshot wound. In a real attack there are no winners, only survivors.

Personal safety and peace start with getting rid of denial. No community is immune to violence. Hardening ourselves as potential targets of violent crime is our best self-­protection. When we practice with seriousness and realism, combined with a survivor mindset and prudent  risk management, Taekwon-­do can increase our personal safety and our peace of mind and, thus, our ability to live harmoniously. Mental and physical strengths can manifest themselves in body language and demeanor. They can reduce our chances of being selected as potential victims of violence, closing the circle between capacity for inflicting incapacitating violence and peace. Striving for peace, progress, and love in our world remains the goal, but achieving this goal should be based on strength and the ability to defend our lives if necessary.

Congratulations, new Blackbelts

Three Rivers Defense congratulates Montana students, Tina Wambeke (1st Dan) and Christine Wambeke (1st Dan), Bryan Luther and his daughter (1st Dans),  and Linda Kneeland (3rd Dan) and her daughter (1st Dan). They passed their Dan tests in Boise Idaho, conducted by Grandmaster David Knife, under the authority of Great Grandmaster Hong Sik Kim. Congratulations also to all of the Idaho students that promoted on Saturday!

Brigitte Tuller (Montana) and Mark Hutchinson (Idaho) pre-tested for their 4th Dans. All 4th Dan candidates must pass two tests, a pre-test and a second test a few months later. Mark will also perform a 100km (ca 65 miles) ultra-Marathon in New Zealand in the next few months. Good luck, Mark!

Mark and Brigitte, 4th Dan pre-test

Mark and Brigitte sparring






The students’ perseverance and hard work over the years were rewarded this Saturday, June 1, 2013, when they passed tests in board breaking, hyungs, sparring one on one, and sparring simultaneously against three people, in addition to other requirements for blackbelt promotion.













Tina and Christine

Master Perez

Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault and Rape

In connection with our R.A.D. Systems Sexual Assault Prevention workshop on February 23 and 24, 2013, we’ll discuss drug and alcohol facilitated sexual assault. The most common “date rape drug” is alcohol. Here is some information from the womenshealth.gov website on Rohypnol, Ketamine, and GHB:

What are date rape drugs?

These are drugs that are sometimes used to assist a sexual assault. Sexual assault is any type of sexual activity that a person does not agree to. It can include touching that is not okay; putting something into the vagina; sexual intercourse; rape; and attempted rape. These drugs are powerful and dangerous. Read more…

Taekwon-do and Gangnam Style

We had fun with our visitors from Korea. I-Ho Pomeroy brought a group of Korean teachers to Three Rivers Defense for an evening of Taekwon-do and Gangnam Style dancing. Read more…

Meet Korean Teachers at Three Rivers Defense Cultural Exchange

Cultural Exchange Evening at Three Rivers Defense

We invite the public, and especially teachers, principals, school board members, and everyone else interested in Korean culture and education to join us for a Cultural Exchange with I-Ho Pomeroy and Korean High School and Elementary School teachers. Read more…

US Justice Department Investigates Handling of Missoula Sexual Assault Complaints

The U.S. Justice Department announced that it was starting an investigation into complaints that the University of Montana in Missoula,the Missoula Police Department, and the Missoula County Attorney’s Office had inadequately handled complaints of sexual assaults and harassment, Read more…

Three Rivers Defense in the News

3 rivers defense

A Fighting Chance, Three Forks self-defense classes teach protection, safety for women” is the title of a recent article by Jodi Hausen in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Check out “A Fighting Chance”  Read more…

Taekwon-Do or Self Defense – which should I choose?

How does taekwon-do relate to personal safety and self-defense? Read more…