Campus Club Cultivates Strength, Confidence Through Ten Years of Tang Soo Do

Left to right: Stephanie Dragotto, Professor Ch
Left to right: Stephanie Dragotto, Professor Charlie Phillips and Lynn Dragotto pose during Tang Soo Do practice. (Photo by William Thweatt)

Professor Charlie Phillips began studying martial arts at the age of 17. In 2004, he started The American Tang Soo Do club at South Campus, part of the National American Tang Soo Do Association.

Tang Soo Do is a Korean blended style of martial arts that incorporates Shotokan karate, Subak, Taekkyon and Northern Chinese kung fu. Phillips first learned the martial art at Flagler College in 1973 as the protégée of Dr. John Kistler, founder of the National American Tang Soo Do Association, and tenth-degree black belt holder.

Phillips, a sixth-degree black belt holder, has been advising the Tang Soo Do club for ten years now, making it one of the longest continually running clubs on campus. Throughout the years, seven of Phillips’s protégées have obtained a black belt ranking. The club’s current president, Stephanie Dragotto, is currently the highest ranked pupil in attendance, with a third-degree black belt.

Dragotto first joined the club in 2009 after hearing about it at one of FSCJ’s Campus Awareness Days. “I saw the Tang Soo Do table, talked to Professor Phillips, and I’ve been a member ever since,” she said.

Dragotto says that her desire to teach the class came as a result of the self-confidence she’s acquired, and the friendships she’s made while practicing Tang Soo Do. “I want to give other people that same opportunity,” Dragotto said. “I also want them to grow and become stronger in themselves.”

The club meets in room R207 every Tuesday and Thursday from 1:00pm to 3:00pm. Classes are free to all FSCJ students, faculty, staff and alumni. Newcomers must be at least 18 to participate. Comfortably loose-fitting clothing should be worn. The club asks that modesty be taken into consideration when choosing appropriate attire to wear for the sessions.

Summer is the best time for beginners to receive intensely condensed practice. The class sizes are much smaller and more dedicated to individual advancement. Phillips emphasizes the fact of there being absolutely zero competition–everyone performs at different levels.

“We are all here to help each other out,” Phillips said. “We believe that a strong mind leads to a strong body.”