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Master Gagel began his martial arts training in 1972, with Master Chang Young Che, at Chang's Tae Kwon Do Academy in London, Ontario. The legacy of Master Chang' s Moo Do Kwon teachings are still to be found in many of the self defence techniques contained in the present Seikido curriculum, particularly the bone crushing strikes which can be employed in serious life threatening close combat situations.
After obtaining the rank of green belt, Mr. Gagel went on to study under Master Park Jung Tae in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Master Park imparted an understanding of sophisticated tournament sparring strategies and tactics. Returning to London in 1976, Mr. Gagel enrolled in Master Hong Sung In' s Tae Kwon Do Institute. There he received his First Dan Black Belt in 1979 from General Choi Hong Hi, the founder of modern Tae Kwon Do.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, many of the martial arts schools within a region stretching roughly from Montreal to Chicago had formed an informal and friendly association, so that there was a tournament somewhere in the region almost every weekend. Competition was an excellent opportunity to travel, meet people, share information, and learn competition techniques and strategies. Mr. Gagel participated in dozens of competitions, winning many trophies and medals, including a regional (Ontario Championship) title in 1981. Part of his success was due to the coaching and inspiration provided by Master Hong and his two sons, James and Daniel, both of whom were excellent instructors and fierce tournament competitors. After winning first place in Second Dan and Above Pattern at a regional tournament in Toronto , Canada in 1982, when he was thirty six years old, Mr. Gagel decided it was time to leave competition to younger practitioners. He continued to attend tournaments as a judge or referee, and helped coach many of the younger students.
Competition sparring and patterns are still an integral part of the Seikido curriculum. The friendships made on the tournament circuit have lasted decades and are still invaluable today.
Mr. Gagel and Mr. Petkovic met at Master Hong's Academy. As is the case with many martial arts practitioners who train and compete together, they formed a strong friendship. It is in the nature of martial arts training to foster lasting allegiance and comradeship between practitioners, which can be carried on as lifelong friendship even outside the gym.
Mr. Petkovic began his martial arts training in his native Yugoslavia, where at the early age of fifteen he enrolled in a Sanshin Do Karate school in Belgrade. He went on to study under Master Milosh Pavlovich for several years, eventually becoming a "Shodan" (First Degree Black Belt) in Hombu style Aikido, another martial art whose origins were then relatively recent.
Mr. Petkovic's journey to Aikido came as a result of his witnessing a young woman defuse a potentially serious attack by two large male aggressors on a public beach on the Adriatic coast of Yugoslavia. She was able to completely negate all attempts by her tormentors to subdue her, almost without effort. The two males may have been motivated by nothing more serious than macho bravado, and may have been testing their mastery over a seemingly powerless defender; nevertheless, Mr. Petkovic was so impressed with the ease with which such a small person could effectively defend herself against much larger and stronger assailants that he immediately joined the local Aikido school. Fate had intervened to provide Mr. Petkovic with the opportunity to recognize the purity of technique which was presented. That purity is a criteria for evaluating defensive techniques in the Seikido curriculum to this day.
These early years of martial arts training not only provided an excellent foundation in self defence techniques, but instilled in Mr. Petkovic an enduring love for the philosophical basis of martial arts, the perseverance of spirit and harmony of mind essential to learning. Mr. Petkovic brought this devotion to martial arts as well as his considerable expertise with him when he emigrated to Canada in 1975. He received his First Dan Black Belt from General Choi Hong Hi in 1980. He was now a Black Belt proficient in two separate martial arts, each of which carried their own set of skills and obligations.
Mr. Gagel and Mr. Petkovic continued to train and compete in local tournaments until they received their Second Dan in 1982 from Master Un Yong Kim, President of the Kuk-Ki-Won, World Tae Kwon Do Federation Headquarters, which is located in Seoul, Korea. Eventually they both received their Third Dan through Hong' s Tae Kwon Do Institute in 1986. During these years they founded branch schools in Strathroy, Watford, Fanshawe College, and the University of Western Ontario, teaching thousands of students and helping to produce dozens of Black Belts.
As well as participating in tournaments, it was common practice to visit other schools and share knowledge with fellow practitioners and friends from other schools and martial arts styles. They kept increasing their understanding of other martial art techniques and traditions, including Aikijutsu, Jujutsu, Judo, Go Ju Ryu and other Karate-based arts, Kung-Fu, and Kempo. These opportunities permitted Mr. Gagel and Mr. Petkovic to learn many useful self defence techniques and competition sparring strategies, many of which have been incorporated into the current Seikido curriculum.
Master Hong Sung In made a significant contribution to the art that became Seikido, not only by teaching sound foundations for effective sparring and pattern competition techniques, but also by providing a tradition of conduct and etiquette which is carried on by all Seikido instructors. The use of Korean terminology, particularly for the opening and closing class ceremonies of Seikido classes, is carried on out of respect for Master Hongs's contribution. As well, the Hong family imparted in their senior students an enduring understanding and appreciation for Korean culture, history, and traditions.
Mr. Gagel and Mr. Petkovic began to develop defensive techniques whereby smaller persons could effectively defend themselves against larger and stronger assailants, using as a basis Mr. Petkovic's previous Aikido training. These subtle and efficient techniques against grappling attacks were developed and refined until they were the best available anywhere. Eventually Mr. Gagel and Mr. Petkovic decided to form their own style whereby they could teach practical self defence to the many practitioners who were interested in learning self defence techniques in addition to the sport. The founders recognized that they had an opportunity to create something more than just the sum of their foundation arts. The intent was to create a true self defence art, originally through enhancing the most realistic applications of older styles already in existence, but eventually by developing a curriculum which contained techniques unique to their own style.
Master Gagel had established his own school in Strathroy, Ontario in the fall of 1983, and this became the genesis of subsequent Seikido schools. In October 1987 Master Petkovic opened the Victoria School of True Self Defence in London, Ontario, with the assistance of many black belts and friends from the local martial arts community. Both schools continued to teach Tae Kwon Do as the principle core of the curriculum, complemented with Aikido based self defence techniques. The inspirational support and encouragement of Master Philip Rikely and Master Blair Watson helped to launch Seikido during those difficult first few years.
In setting the groundwork for their school, the founders had to address fundamental questions regarding the essence and structure of their particular self defence art, the "do" they were going to teach. This included resolving issues related to organization, federation memberships, affiliation with other schools, patterns and sparring competition styles, approaches to weapons, black belt recognition, class procedures, and teaching philosophy.
They had to overcome considerable obstacles in their quest for recognition, including some scepticism concerning their fledgling school by older established schools. They persevered along their chosen path, encouraged by the loyalty and support of their many students and friends. The enthusiasm with which some of their students grasped Seikido and the diligence with which they adapted to new techniques was an incentive to the founders and a revelation that they were on the right path. The founders committed themselves to teaching the very best self defence techniques available, and vowed that the development and success of their students would always be their primary goal.
Over time they set rigorous evaluation criteria for testing the effectiveness of the myriad self defence techniques already in existence and any future technique that may be developed, to be true to their goal of teaching the best techniques possible. They implemented the best from the established martial arts, including techniques, procedural rules and traditions; and discarded what was considered inferior, ineffective or counter productive, continually building upon that solid foundation. The primary objective was to teach their students the ability to defend themselves and the ethical responsibilities that go along with that ability.
It was Master Petkovic' s idea to call the newly founded style, "Seikido", which is a truly appropriate name for the art. In Japanese the word "Seikido" literally translates as "the Way of the Universal Force". The Seiki is the natural and spiritual energy that enlivens the universe, pervading every aspect of life, everywhere, all the time. The Seiki contributes to the physical and spiritual well being of everyone, unifying and sharing the universal life energy through every living being. It was the founders intention to teach more than just fighting techniques, but also to provide an understanding of the importance of the living force and the value of life, and to provide a beneficial philosophical basis to guide the practitioners along their search for their own enlightenment through martial arts training.