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The Real Story on Obama's Schooling

So he never attended a madrassah when he was living in Indonesia as a child. But there's no debunking this one: Barack Obama studied taekwondo in Chicago.

Sen. Barack Obama
Is that a taekwondo chop Sen. Obama is laying down on that podium? (Reuters File Photo)

The Illinois senator, who is set this weekend to announce his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, took taekwondo classes in the early 2000s at the schwanky East Bank Club, whose membership includes everyone who's anyone in the Windy City.

We tracked down Obama's former instructor, David Posner, a financial capital planner who taught taekwondo at East Bank for eight years and still practices and teaches classes at another "dojang." He remembers his famous student as "very disciplined, very diligent."

Posner said Obama "has phenomenal balance, very good foot work" and "really good solid stances."

But because the senator, who is now 45, started studying the Korean martial art at an older age than most, he "was not the best kicker, not the best puncher," Posner said.

Posner couldn't remember exactly which color belt Obama attained, but said it was a mid-level ranking -- either white, yellow, purple or green. High enough, in other words, to pull the old beakya chagi (slap kick) on Hillary Rodham Clinton, or the gotjang chirugi (fist punch) on John Edwards, or maybe the doo bun chirugi (double punch) on Joe Biden.

Posner said Obama was so disciplined and punctual that he was surprised when his star student, who was then a professor and part-time state senator, began skipping classes. That was toward the end of 2002, when Obama entered the race for U.S. Senate.

After Obama was elected in 2004, Posner says he ran into the senator on a street in Chicago. Obama did what all students do when they address their teachers: He bowed and called Posner "sir." Posner's colleagues who were walking with him were amazed. "My colleagues go, 'Who the hell are you? You got the senator calling you sir?"

"I hope he becomes president so when I go to Washington and visit him, he can still call me sir," Posner daydreamed. Plus, he said, "It'd be nice to have a president who can kick some ass."

Obama aides said their boss was too busy getting ready for his grand announcement scheduled for Saturday morning to be bothered with silly questions about the presidential aspirant's Taekwondo prowess.

Let's just hope the White House hopeful, should he choose to resume taekwondo classes, doesn't get tripped up by the rules
of the martial art, which include (ah-hem, senator) a ban on smoking in the dojang.

Doubly brutal, the rules also prohibit gum chewing in the dojang. That could be tough given that Obama, a longtime closet smoker who is trying to kick the habit, recently said, "Actually, Nicorette works pretty well."

This is where having learned self-control, one of the five tenets of taekwondo may come in handy.

Good luck, Sen. Obama!

By Mary Ann Akers  |  February 8, 2007; 5:09 PM ET
 
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Comments

ALL WE NEED IS A RAG$$HEAD AS PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

Posted by: Plemnah | February 8, 2007 7:30 PM | Report abuse

More puff on Obamarama. The campaign to make obama hussein president continues by the Post.

Posted by: paladin | February 8, 2007 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Mary, I really enjoy your articles. Keep them coming!

Posted by: Robert* | February 9, 2007 2:42 AM | Report abuse

paladin --- so informing us that obama studied karate is part of a "campaign" by the post to make him president? this is a gossip column. don't take it so seriously. i doubt people are basing their presidential decisions on martial arts.

Posted by: dh | February 9, 2007 9:36 AM | Report abuse

It's clear by the last poster that light-hearted fun is not an experience in their lexicon of life's enjoyment. Lighten up - it's meant to be a fun piece, not the Gettysburg Address!

Posted by: sharpinchi-town | February 9, 2007 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Why does this even merit a column in the Washington Post? Doesn't the SLEUTH have anything better to dig into? Is Obama's history so bland that we've descended into puff pieces, no matter how "light" the fare? The WaPo should either get onto another line of research, or get another SLEUTH.

Posted by: L.Sterling | February 9, 2007 12:11 PM | Report abuse

In defense of the W-Post, I have to say that in reporting the validity of claims of Obama reportedly, "having been schooled in a so-called madras in Indonesia" as actually being "FALSE"; is in-fact newsworthy! Fabricated "Gossip" such as these rumors about Senator Obama's background should be confirmed!

It is to say, however, that the context of the Senator's karate lessons in Chicago is no doubt mere sarcasm. It is warranted and is at the discretion of this "EDITORIAL", to express opinion about the laughable tactics of right-wing pundits who cry outrage over issues like this!

-------------------------------------------
I have to say, I was starting to "flip-flop" a bit over the last few weeks. Hilary Clinton had gone to Iowa and made a convincing argument; rallying the crowd as she took "Q & A" from the throngs of bright-eyed and hopeful teenagers. It was around 11:30am this morning (2/10), that I realized that Senator Obama was the right candidate for me to back in 08'.
The Senator's speech, "hit the ball out of the park" , in terms of talking about issues that matter; taking a strong stance on ending the War in Iraq, and uniting a divided nation as we move into a new age of globalization. As I recount the Senator's speech, I'm reminded of the humanistic elements found in many of RFK's latter-known speeches and hope to see more of this kind of blunt un-political crasis in months to come!

Posted by: Engineer Mike | February 10, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse

If in his last moments Saddam showed contrition, or remorse or asked forgiveness we can never know ;only a knowing God can know and adjudicate. But what can one say of his executioners - if they believed in a hell need they have taunted and goaded him - he was in their urgings going there anyway but and if they believed in deliverance through a Devine mercy by any deity ; Allah ; God - any supreme being - how could they torment him even as the trapdoor opened.


Now consider the paradox that would surely have been if the British had captured Saddam and he immediately sought asylum in the UK because of his perceived fears of a trial culminating in the death sentence - a system which is not countenanced in the UK, I believe in these circumstances Saddam would have argued for such protection and have succeeded as did Pinochet.
The problem is that now are exposed the fault lines between the allies in the ethics of warfare and its sequellae. There is already an evidential wish for the British to distance themselves from what was a dark, brutal, gruesome and unseeingly hasty execution.
A new hatred between Arab cultures has been fomented by the invasion of Iraq - that between Sunni and Sheite ; it has been exacerbated by this trial and execution to an untold degree.
As the Bush administration seek to justify a new surge of troops in a country already in a state of civil war, where the Houses on record at least should oppose such a venture Bush seems destined to sink to depths of unpopularity not even known to Nixon.

Posted by: donkykemore | February 10, 2007 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Bush 's yearning for war with Iran.
As a social theorist rather than a historian the academic of tomorrow will look and wonder how America went blindly into Iran.
It is searingly obvious that as each day passes their president is pulling more demonic rabbits from the hat; yesterday is was that Iran had nuclear arsenal ; today it is that Iran supplied the insurgents in Iraq with weaponary to shoot down US soldiers.
The irony is probabaly thet the weaponary which has thus far slaughtered most US combatants is US made , having been supplied to Saddam when he was the putative puppet , and his was the regeimen thought to cause most menace in the Middle East in the US 's favour.

Future generations will judge us all less kindly as we in the West have presided over this disturbed president and his deluded machinations . It is within the grasp of Congress , one hopes to at least refuse to finance any overt move against Iran; we can only pray that they will be more resolute in their determination and decline to facillitate Bush's latest percieved mission .
But the wory escalates by the day ; Now Bush is turning to Lebanon again to aportion blame for the unrest there on Iran; it may well be that Iran has it's many sympathisersw in the Shiite community ; so much the pity but the Lebonese elected the Hammas party to rule ; and this must be factored in to any political resolution; Even the Saudis appreciate that to take the Bush line and keep taggeting Iran in Lebanon is just tautology .
It is more ; it is tendentious .
It is the mercilless beat of the war drum .
Could Israel be persuaded to carry out a preemptive attack ? It would be convenient for the administration , but with Israel still smarting from its recent debacle in Lebanon it would seem to be an unlikely development .
With a Russian Putin desperately trying to throw up a smoke screen over his alleged involvment in the killing of his former spy Litvinenko with polonium in London it seems probable that he will supply Iran with some hardware ; most likely planes in order to counter US air supremacy in the region.And this in turn may feed in to the president's paranoia , which may for a time seem justifiable.
Again and again we must face that axiom that war is the failure of politics, diplomacy , civilisation.
But this time we are edging closer to a conflict which will spread far beyond the Midddle East , will destabalise oil supplies, and in turn world economics.
It may even be of such a scale as to eclipse the concern about global warming for a generation.
Who said '' I dont know what the next war will be fought with ; but the one after will be fought with bows and arrows.''

Posted by: Anonymous | February 11, 2007 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Bush 's yearning for war with Iran.
As a social theorist rather than a historian the academic of tomorrow will look and wonder how America went blindly into Iran.
It is searingly obvious that as each day passes their president is pulling more demonic rabbits from the hat; yesterday is was that Iran had nuclear arsenal ; today it is that Iran supplied the insurgents in Iraq with weaponary to shoot down US soldiers.
The irony is probabaly thet the weaponary which has thus far slaughtered most US combatants is US made , having been supplied to Saddam when he was the putative puppet , and his was the regeimen thought to cause most menace in the Middle East in the US 's favour.

Future generations will judge us all less kindly as we in the West have presided over this disturbed president and his deluded machinations . It is within the grasp of Congress , one hopes to at least refuse to finance any overt move against Iran; we can only pray that they will be more resolute in their determination and decline to facillitate Bush's latest percieved mission .
But the wory escalates by the day ; Now Bush is turning to Lebanon again to aportion blame for the unrest there on Iran; it may well be that Iran has it's many sympathisersw in the Shiite community ; so much the pity but the Lebonese elected the Hammas party to rule ; and this must be factored in to any political resolution; Even the Saudis appreciate that to take the Bush line and keep taggeting Iran in Lebanon is just tautology .
It is more ; it is tendentious .
It is the mercilless beat of the war drum .
Could Israel be persuaded to carry out a preemptive attack ? It would be convenient for the administration , but with Israel still smarting from its recent debacle in Lebanon it would seem to be an unlikely development .
With a Russian Putin desperately trying to throw up a smoke screen over his alleged involvment in the killing of his former spy Litvinenko with polonium in London it seems probable that he will supply Iran with some hardware ; most likely planes in order to counter US air supremacy in the region.And this in turn may feed in to the president's paranoia , which may for a time seem justifiable.
Again and again we must face that axiom that war is the failure of politics, diplomacy , civilisation.
But this time we are edging closer to a conflict which will spread far beyond the Midddle East , will destabalise oil supplies, and in turn world economics.
It may even be of such a scale as to eclipse the concern about global warming for a generation.
Who said '' I dont know what the next war will be fought with ; but the one after will be fought with bows and arrows.''

Posted by: donkykemore | February 11, 2007 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Why is no one picking up on Obama's remarks that the 3000 lives lost in Iraq were lives wasted?

http://desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070212/NEWS09/702120332/-1/ENT06

This is utterally disrespectful to the 3000 families who have made the ULTIMATE sacrifice. Regardless of Obama's elitist beliefs and rhetoric, those lives were not "wasted". Those soldiers died serving their country honorably and that is tragic. To say their lives were wasted is a slap in the face, not only to those families, but all veterans.

Why is no one in the media picking up on this? If Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden said this, the media would SKEWER them -- and rightfully so!

Posted by: 2008blogger | February 12, 2007 7:31 PM | Report abuse

A certain amount of ingenuity is needed in childhood or even adolescence in order to ford the river of life. To continue living in fantasyland after adulthood is simply an act of negation. Why is it that our nation of Peter Pans refuse to see the truth? Super Obama is the best example of what is wrong with this country today. Perhaps we should skip reading the garbage that the Post is now publishing on the Obamarama phenomena. The Washington Post was like America great, once.

Posted by: neophiladelphian | February 12, 2007 8:59 PM | Report abuse

that is so lame to get all uppity about one adjective that obama used; "wasted"? Well,
in fact, if we do pull out of Iraq (which I believe we will), and the situation is not much better in the region then their lives WILL have been wasted. At least, british petroleum, exxon/mobil, haliburton, Kellogg Brown and Root made sure it wasn't in total vein; Since they all got rich on war profiteering!

Yep, guess what, you think Iraq was bad with Saddam? Just wait until Iran swallows up the region and your dealing with the real guys who ACTUALLY FUNDED the 9/11 attacks! Besides the neocon base is delusional if they think that BUSH; who says something stupid every five minutes or so, is a more respectable rep. Of coarse, take a vietnam draft dodger like bush to effectively sympasize with the violent and life altering experience of combat (like the kind our best boys/girls in armed services are dying in)!

Posted by: john q | February 12, 2007 9:42 PM | Report abuse

When you say "the guys who actually funded the 9/11 attacks," do you mean the guys who actually funded the 9/11 attacks, the Saudis? I don't get the reference to Iran.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 14, 2007 9:54 PM | Report abuse

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