MAHONING VALLEY Instructor of tae kwon do adds a new notch to his belt: a book
The author says martial-arts training relieves stress while teaching self-defense.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Charles A. Stepan of Boardman was a court reporter for 35 years for the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court and has been a martial-arts instructor for 30 years.
You can now add author to that list of accomplishments.
In mid-December, Stepan's first book, a 95-page primer on the martial art tae kwon do, will hit the bookstands.
The title is still being worked on, but the publishers told Stepan the book will sell for about $18 in hardback and $12 for a paperback edition.
Stepan says the book "takes a beginner through the initial phases of training while explaining the purpose of each phase."
The book emphasizes tae kwon do training as a way to change your life along with the side benefits of learning how to protect yourself, said Stepan, who teaches tae kwon do black belts at Family Martial Arts on U.S. Route 224 in Boardman.
"Tae kwon do is a great stress reliever, which improves your mental and physical health, and it also teaches you discipline," Stepan added.
He said the martial art has become more popular than ever after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. Stepan said tae kwon do is the most sought-after martial-art training today.
Meaning: Literally translated, tae kwon do means foot fist way. The do relates to the state of harmony with yourself, Stepan says in the introduction of his book. The principle is that when you have harmony with yourself, it is generally not difficult to be in harmony with nature and your adversaries, he continued.
There are subtle, yet distinctive, differences between some of the major martial arts.
Karate, which originated in Japan, is a method of self-defense involving a variety of techniques, including blocks, strikes, evasions, throws and joint manipulations.
Judo, which is translated as the gentle way, and which also comes from Japan, is the flexible or efficient use of balance, leverage and movement in the performance of throws and other skills. Skill, technique and timing, rather than the use of brute strength, are the essential ingredients for success in judo.
The Korean art of tae kwon do, on the other hand, is a flashy, spinning, powerful kicking art that bears little resemblance to the ground-rooted, reverse-punching art in Okinawa and Japan, from which it blossomed, Stepan said.
Though its roots are ancient, modern tae kwon do has evolved greatly in the past 50 years. This was accomplished by throwing out the old and less-useful parts of the various martial arts that were studied and redesigned, he added.
Stepan estimates that there are probably 100 tae kwon do styles in use today.
Expertise: The book features illustrations from photographer James Evans of Youngstown that show students in various poses. Stepan also uses the expertise of Sam Naples, a local tae kwon do teacher, in the book, and makes a special mention to Stepan's teacher, Kae Bae Chun, a tae kwon do grand master.
Stepan, 70, said he was approached to write the book by Simon Pooley, an assignment editor for New Holland Publishers, a member of Cornelis Struik Publishers, with offices in London, Cape Town and Sydney, Australia, and Auckland, New Zealand.
He was given several months to write the book, but Stepan said he did it in about two weeks.
Stepan is a sixth-degree black belt in the martial art's Ji Do Kwan style. In 1979 and 1981, he was the North American Open Senior Champion; the National Open Senior Champion in 1981; and the All American Open Senior Champion in 1979 and 1982 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Since 1986, he's been the contributing editor to Taekwondo Times Magazine, and also has written articles for Traditional Taekwondo magazine and World Taekwondo magazine.
He and his wife, Mary Claire, have seven children.