Physicality and Philosophy with Master Jean-Pierre

(Published Feb 1, 2019)

Master Jean-Pierre Decaudin has been teaching Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido for about 37 years, 35 of which have been at the J. With students who range in age from children through seniors, Master Jean-Pierre has accumulated a lot of wisdom over his martial arts instructor tenure and is more than willing to share it.

How You Get to Carnegie Hall (Practice, Practice, Practice)

Adults interested in Master Jean-Pierre’s class often think, “I’m not very flexible. Will I be able to physically do this?” The answer? Absolutely. Not only does the class spend the first 15 minutes warming up and stretching, but in the long term, with patience, you can become more flexible (or balanced, or coordinated, or confident) no matter your age. One woman in Master Jean-Pierre’s class is 83 years old and got her black belt, while at the same time improving her flexibility tremendously. Perseverance pays off!

Inevitably, some first-time students will ask, “How long does it take to get a black belt?” Master Jean-Pierre’s response: As long as it takes. “Martial arts is not about the belt. It is about making progress and becoming efficient with the techniques. Becoming a black belt is not the end, it is actually the beginning. You are at the point where you have learned all the basics, and now you need to take all those techniques and model them to your own advantage.”

Master Jean-Pierre does have his own favorite martial arts moves but declined to share them, as they are just his personal choices. “That is the great thing about martial arts, whether it is Tae Kwon Do or Hapkido: there are so many different techniques that when you are familiar with most of them, you can pick and choose those that work best for you.” Because everyone is built differently and has different abilities, Master Jean-Pierre strongly encourages his students to customize their own style using the techniques that work best for them—it’s not about quantity, but quality.


Lest you think that martial arts are all about techniques, physical abilities and being able to defeat an opponent, Master Jean-Pierre is here to remind you that there is a great deal of mental involvement as well. “You learn to transform your hands and your feet into weapons and to be able to use them as such, but at the same time, as you go up in belt we reinforce the importance of the responsibility that having these abilities requires,” he said. “Especially with children, we tell them, ‘With great power comes great responsibility,’ to keep them from getting in trouble.”

Along with responsibility (and discipline and good citizenship), the main mental focus that Master Jean-Pierre wants to impart to his students is respect. “I like to remind children that they must respect all black belts and bow to them, but black belts must also bow back to them, as respect is a two-way street,” he said. Master Jean-Pierre also noted that there are many other “black belts” in his students’ lives. “Parents are black belts in raising [children], teachers are black belts in education, etc., and they all deserve the same respect.”

Bonus Trivia:

  • Master Jean-Pierre is retired and enjoys working out at the gym and working around the house in his free time. He has also been a member of the Indiana Guard Reserve for the past couple of years and is proud to serve the people of Indiana and the United States.
  • Master Jean-Pierre’s favorite martial arts movie is Enter the Dragon featuring Bruce Lee because, after he saw it at the cinema in 1974, it motivated him to get back into martial arts after three years of practicing judo as a teenager in France.
  • Master Jean-Pierre’s favorite part about teaching martial arts at the J is the trust that the Sports & Leagues director (shout out to Anita!) and management places in him and the relationships he has with fellow J staff, from the people at the Membership Desk to housekeeping and everyone in between.