The World Tang Soo Do Association

A True "World" Organization


Grandmaster Jae Chul Shin
(December 20, 1936 - July 9, 2012)

Robert E. Beaudoin

Untitled Document

January 2015 Masters Profile


Name: Rebecca Jane Rupp

Rank and date of rank: Sah Dan Master, 2010

Region and Studio Name & Location: Region #1,
Dragon Heart Tang Soo Do, Garberville, CA

Contact Information:


Personal Information

Where were you born?

I was born in San Francisco, CA.

Family members involved in Tang Soo Do:

Family members who train in Tang Soo Do include Kisa Whipkey (daughter) a Sam Dan, Eli Whipkey (son-in-law) an E Dan (they met in the dojang!), and Leah Thornhill (daughter) a Cho Dan.

Master Rupp and her daughters Kisa and Leah.

Martial Arts Career

When, where and why you started Tang Soo Do?

I started my training at North Coast Tang Soo Do in Fortuna, CA—over an hour from our home in the mountains. The owner/instructor was Joseph Morales, a Cho Dan from San Diego who trained under Master D’Ercole.  I watched my daughters, nine and eleven years old then, for ten months before I got brave enough to step onto the floor. There were no other adults in the classes; the oldest student was fourteen, and I was forty-one. There was a twelve-year-old boy who asked me after my first class, “Are you going to do this?” He sounded incredulous that I would even consider it. He quit two months later to take up bowling.

What were your first impressions when you started and how have they changed?

I thought it looked pretty easy after watching my girls and helping them practice at home for ten months. I grew up active, after all, as a competitive baton twirler and ice skater. However, my first day in class, I thought I was going to die. I did low blocks for forty-five minutes and refused to give up. I still remembered that much from my time as a skater/twirler. You keep going no matter what. Mr. Morales said he had never seen an adult student with so much determination right off the bat. I credit it to just being crazy, but it’s all in the perception, right? I absolutely fell in love with Tang Soo Do. I hadn’t done anything like it for twenty-five years, and it was like coming home. Now, twenty-one years later, I am still in love with training, and it still feels like home!

Any other martial arts studied?

I have trained with Master Wick for about ten years in both his Split Second Survival and R.E.S.P.E.C.T. programs, and started training in Haidong Gumdo a year ago.

Notable accomplishments or future goals in the martial arts field?

Yes, I have been honored with a few accomplishments, though usually, I don’t like to talk about them. I was awarded the WTSDA Hall of Fame Instructor of the Year in 2006, the first female to receive that recognition. But I am more proud that my student, Shyla Sickels, received Student of the Year that same year. Grandmaster Shin said, “The only time an instructor and student from the same studio in the same year so far.”

On a more personal side, I’ve created a women’s self-defense curriculum that I offer to the women in my community for free. I believe that all women should have the ability to defend themselves against domestic violence and wanted to find a way to bring the confidence and strength of the martial arts to those that might not want a traditional experience. So I created what we call the Pink Belt Class, or Myusa Won Hwa, which translates to Warriors of the Original Flowers. I have borrowed aspects of my Tang Soo Do training and Master Wick’s teachings to create a new set of techniques that are tailored specifically for women. I am in contact with and offer my training to our women’s shelter and the county rape crisis program, and I gladly travel to teach at schools and different organizations in the area. I was honored to teach at Master G. Sharpe’s 1st Annual Women’s Weekend Seminar in Houston. This has been an ongoing class twice a week at my studio for over three years now, and I don’t have plans of stopping it anytime soon.

Master Rupp, Master Valentin, Grandmaster Beaudoin, Master Britt and Master Fisher with the 2014 Master candidates at the US Masters Clinic in Florence, AL.

Tang Soo Do Career

What was your Master’s thesis on, why did you choose it, and what did you learn from it?

I wrote my thesis as a guide for first-time tournament hosts, in the style of “Tournaments for Dummies”. Attending tournaments over the years and having to sweat through my own first hosting experience was what prompted me to do this manual. I researched other martial art styles and open tournaments to find ways to make our tournaments better. The ring markers at the World Championship came from that research, actually, and I was honored that Grandmaster Shin recommended it to several first-time hosts.

What is your favorite part of Tang Soo Do?

My favorite part of Tang Soo Do are the hyungs. I absolutely love the nuances of the forms, the rhythms, the feeling of concentration and intent. My next favorite would be weapons, of course, with my background in twirling. As a competitor in twirling/skating you have a “routine” you practice over and over to get the techniques, as well as the emotion and intensity, not unlike hyungs. I also love traveling; however, we never traveled before Tang Soo Do. It’s given my daughters and I the opportunity to go places and meet people we probably wouldn’t have otherwise. Tang Soo Do is a great opportunity to bond within your immediate family and with the greater WTSDA family, and that’s part of why I love it.

WTSDA committees or positions:

I have served on the Region 1 Scholarship committee since 1999 and have been Chair since 2002. This is one of my passions. I developed a scholarship fund for the students at Dragon Heart and gave our first award of $3500.00 last year. I want to help our youth succeed in their dreams. Giving them part of the financial support they need to pursue a career or interest is a way to give back to the next generation. I get to do what I love for a living, and I want to help them achieve that goal. I’ve also been the record keeper for the Ki Gong Club, and then, as it grew and developed a website, I was appointed as the West Coast Director until I resigned in 2012. It was time to pass the torch and I am happy to return to simply practicing Ki Gong. More recently, I was given the honor of being on Master Britt’s team at the Masters Clinic, helping with the candidates for the last four years. I was more nervous that first time helping than I was as a candidate my first year. Seriously, I couldn’t remember how to do anything, and they probably thought, “and this woman teaches?” As I watched the candidates develop and gain strength, I did as well. It has been a rewarding experience!

Master Rupp performing double nunchaku routine during the 2014 World Championship.

What is your favorite Hyung and/or weapon and why?

I have several favorite hyungs: Pyung Ahn Oh Dan was my first favorite. Now, I have Wang Shu and Wun Shu to add to that. Oh, and the Naihanchi hyungs. And really just all of them! Of course, I love the staff and nunchakus. Who doesn’t? I also really enjoy the sword. I gravitate toward the weapons that feel natural to me. A weapon should look like an extension of your body; it’s part of you. It’s painful to watch people fight their own weapon.

Who are some of your role models in and out of WTSDA?

My role models are many. How do you choose among so many people who influence you, whether daily, or once a year? But, I suppose, these are a few that immediately come to mind. Grandmaster Shin will always be a role model for me. He had a dream and a vision and made it come to life. Grandmaster Beaudoin was so warm and welcoming the first time I met him at the inaugural Ki Gong clinic in Philadelphia. Years earlier, he’d actually told me (from across the escalator in Las Vegas) how much he enjoyed my staff work in the creativity. That showed me that kindness is always part of leadership. Grandmaster Strong is another role model who is an encourager. He knows how to make people feel at ease.

My instructor, Master DeBaca, has guided me and pushed me from the moment I started training with him. He is insightful, diplomatic, and hard core in his own training. He inspires me to push myself. I have had the opportunity to watch Master Britt at work and see how he brings the best out of scared, insecure candidates. He has an innate ability to read people and a humor that counters the intimidation. I have learned to watch and listen more. And always keep smiling. Master Wick’s enthusiasm for teaching is infectious. I love how he has you learning deadly techniques and laughing so hard you’re crying. No matter where he is, he’s teaching. You will find him in the hotel hallways, convention center side rooms, hospitality suites and anywhere there is someone asking a question. If there’s a crowd, you can be assured it’s Master Wick teaching. He has taught me to always enjoy what you are doing. Master Clare Marsch was my first introduction to a female martial artist. Because she had trained with my original instructor, she was a person of interest for me. I was spellbound watching her compete. Years later, Master Marsch was at the first tournament I hosted and gave me some sound advice that I will never forget, about how to handle a fellow martial arts instructor in my town. She has such dignity and poise, and her martial arts abilities are amazing. She reminds me that you can be feminine and strong.

My daughters are role models to me, as well. They have such independence and wisdom. Youth doesn’t always mean lack of insight. My student, Shyla Sickels, who never gives up makes the rest of us remember how easy we have it when we try to whine. And anyone who doesn’t give up on their dream is a role model! All of those above have that in common

What are your future goals in WTSDA?

I plan to continue training and teaching for as long as I can. The WTSDA is my home. I can’t imagine not spending the rest of my life doing this. Grandmaster Shin left us a legacy that is being continued by Grandmaster Beaudoin and all the Senior Masters. My goal is to support them in any way I can

As WTSDA celebrates its 30th anniversary, what are your hopes/wishes for WTSDA in the next 30 years?

We need to continue to grow and embrace the changes that time dictates, as we have done over the last thirty years. We are a strong organization where people work together. As instructors we develop our students to be leaders. That doesn’t stop as you progress into the Masters ranks. Grandmasters Beaudoin and Strong, as well as the Senior Masters, continue to train those coming after them to lead the WTSDA. This will ensure the longevity of our Association.

Master Rupp's students during a black light class.

Advice/Words of Wisdom

Youth, teen and/or adult martial artist:

Tang Soo Do training is something you will never forget. Whether you train a short time or a lifetime, you will be changed by it. Listen, learn, enjoy your training. Don’t let injury stop you. There is always a way if there is a will.

Teaching tips or ways you make classes more exciting:

I love to do black light classes when the time changes and it’s dark during class time. We pull out the glow-chucks and whatever else will glow in the dark. And white uniforms, of course, or you won’t be seen. It’s no fun if you can’t be seen! I’m also a big fan of putting on music for combinations. It pumps people up and gets them to perform for a longer period of time. To prepare for the black belt tests, my students do combos for seven to ten minutes of music, and they don’t even realize it’s been that long.

We have a tradition at Dragon Heart—anyone testing for Blue Belt or pre-testing for Black Belt does hand and kick combinations to the Mortal Kombat theme. This is my favorite workout music. I have played this before all of my tests since it came out. I can’t hear it in the car or I end up going way too fast! It’s three and a half minutes of torture that happens after they’ve completed all basic techniques, hand combos, kicks combos, and both together. We clear the floor, and they perform around a circle in the room until the song is over or they pass out—whichever comes first. (Just kidding . . . maybe.) The students look forward to their chance at doing the Mortal Kombat challenge! It’s like a right of passage.

Tang Soo!