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.
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!
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