He has been teaching martial arts, specifically original Taekwon-Do, to those in the central Kentucky area for more than 25 years. He created a program through the Jessamine County adult-education system in 1988 and enrolled more than 125 students by his second term.
Kirschbaum organized other masters from Taekwon-Do around the world and formed an association called the International Original Taekwon-Do Federation (IOTF). The IOTF conferred and granted the title of grand master to Kirschbaum.
The recognitions now coming to Kirschbaum after a lifetime of work are especially meaningful after all the years he has waited.
“All of the years that you struggle, you want to get the recognition and you don’t; it comes to you in the later years when you least expect it,” he said.
And now, since opening his school in April, Kirschbaum is focused on spreading the art of Original Taekwon-Do that he learned from its founder, Choi Hong Hi.
A famous quote from Choi says that his dream had been realized — “the ultimate fantasy of spreading and teaching Taekwon-Do with no regard to considerations of religion, ideology, national boundaries or race.” Kirschbaum said his work is to continue that dream, including developing curriculum to teach young children as well as elderly students.
While visiting a martial-arts school in Prestonsburg last year, Kirschbaum was inspired to make training available for handicapped students when he saw a boy in a wheelchair sitting on the sidelines watching his siblings learn.
“I said, ‘Why aren’t you out there?’” Kirschbaum said. “He looked at me and said, ‘I’m in a wheelchair.’ And I said, ‘So?’ And I grabbed him by the shirt, took him out of his wheelchair and threw him down on the floor, and started rolling around with him — ‘Come on; hit me; do this; do that.’ We rolled around for an hour and a half; he had a blast.”
Kirschbaum said teaching and sharing his art is the culmination of his years of work.
“What my life has been about is sharing what I have,” he said. “You don’t get where I am today by doing this for yourself; as a matter of fact, you are denied master level because you don’t want to share it ... you have to be able to want and share with not only just a small group but large groups, and that’s what my life has been about over all these years, being able to share it with people all over the world.”