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

March 2014 Masters Profile


Name: Scott E. Merrill

Rank and date of rank: Sah Dan Master (2008)

Region and Studio Name & Location: Region #22
A Mountain Wind Martial Arts and Appalachia Tang Soo Do


Personal Information

Where were you born?

I was born in Muncy, Pa.

Family members involved in Tang Soo Do:

My son, Joe Merrill is an E Dan and my late son Justin Merrill (1984-1997) was a Cho Dan Bo.

Description of profession or trade outside of Tang Soo Do:

I am retired after 38 years in Law Enforcement.

List your academic accomplishments, military service:

I received a Degree from the “School of Hard Knocks”.  I attained the rank of SSgt in the US Air Force (1975-1981) and was stationed in the United States and South Korea.

Martial Arts Career

When, where and why you started Tang Soo Do?

On a late night in the summer of 1983, after a traffic stop, several other officers and I  were involved in a rather large fight.  Even outnumbered, we won - We got to go home that morning, they got to go to jail!  The next day we were all talking and agreed that we had been “LUCKY”.  One of the other officers, who is currently an FBI agent, said that he had met a karate instructor at the new athletic club here in State College, and was going to ask him if he was interested in teaching us some self-defense.  A short time later, a group of us met with Master White in a local school gym.  After a lengthy discussion, we told him that we did not want to learn karate, we wanted to learn self-defense. This was the start of a 30 plus year relationship between me and Master White.  We would train in the local school gyms when they were open, and on other days we would train outside.  Most of the time we would be in our police uniforms.  During this time we were introduced to many “gup” students of Master White’s, some of which would work with us. And some would never come back - I guess you could say that we were hard to deal with.  However, one student, Bill Boswell (Sam Dan) being a “glutton for punishment” kept coming back and became a training partner of mine for many years.

This police class started out with 15-20 officers, and over the next 1 ½ to 2 years, it dwindled down to just 3 of us.  In 1985 we were invited to a gup testing at the White building on the PSU campus to meet Master White’s instructor, Grandmaster Shin. We got there and were introduced to Grandmaster Shin and another very intimidating individual who I would later become friends with, Master John Beam.  There were 30 or more people of all ages there in karate uniforms.  As they started to line up (something that was new to us) Master White came over to the 3 of us and stated, “My instructor would like to see what you guys have learned.  Do you mind getting in line with them and showing him?”  Not wanting to let Master White down, we lined up.  We had no idea until several weeks later that we had tested for orange belt that day, starting a long road to where I am today.  Master White presented us with our orange belts, and a gup ID card that I still have today, Gup #17552.  We were members of Appalachia Tang Soo Do.  For the next several years, we would train under Master White, Master Michael Kaye, Mr. Bill Boswell and a list of other Black Belts at the school in Phillipsburg, Pa and in the small racquetball courts in State College, Pa.  We tested for 2nd Gup in August of 1987. Following a career change for me in January, 1988, I took some time off from training.  For the next year or so, I continued to come up with excuses why I did not have time to train. When my oldest son, Joe (5 years old at the time) indicated he wanted to take karate, I had my wife take him to classes in Phillipsburg every Saturday morning so that he could train under Master White. After some time, I would take him, and watch him train. Never did Master White ask me to start back with my own training. This went on for several months of me watching, when I finally asked Master White if I could start back up. Master White looked at me and said “I knew you would be back sooner or later”, and he shook my hand and welcomed me back. As was the normal for Master White, I would have to wait an equal amount of time till my next test, to that of how long I took off. I trained with both of my sons (Joe and Justin), and I tested for Black Belt in 1992. In 1998, my oldest son, Joe tested for Cho Dan, while I tested for E Dan. We both again tested together in 2001, when I tested for Sam Dan and Joe for E Dan. I was promoted to 4th Dan in 2007 and Master in 2008.

Master Merrill, Grandmaster Shin and Joe Merrill for Master Merrill' promotion to Sah Dan.

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

Being a Martial Art student that trained during the transition from “the good old days” to the “now-a-days”. I remember the training was a lot harder then. We spent a lot more time at each rank, learning more of the inner thoughts of the Art.  For me, I was training for “survival” not for show. When there were tournaments, people got hurt as the norm, not the exception. It was just a part of class or training. We would get hurt and laugh it off (most of the time).  We would never ask, “Will I test this time or When will I get promoted?”  We just did what our Instructor told us to do when he or she told us to.  It was much more militaristic back then. As all things, it too has had to change with the times.

Any other martial arts studied?

Hapkido and I have been a certified Law Enforcement defensive tactics instructor, firearms instructor, and weapon retention/disarming instructor. I served as a S.W.A.T. team member and instructor for over 30 years. I also was a Master Instructor for the PA Office of Attorney General.

Master Merrill and his student at a recent gup testing.
Master Merrill with his oldest and youngest Dan students being promoted at the same time.

Master Merrill and Grandmaster Shin during his Sah Dan Master promotion.


Tang Soo Do Career

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

My Master’s thesis was a guide to 'Security Procedures for the WTSDA'.  This was assigned by Grandmaster Shin because at that time I was the chairman of the WTSDA security detail.

What is your favorite part of Tang Soo Do?

I’d have to say teaching children and seeing their changes from their first class until their last.  I love working on foot work and how to use it to your advantage in a fight.

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

It used to be Naihanchi E Dan: This was Master White’s favorite form. This form makes one really pay attention to foot work if you are to do it right.  We worked on being able to do this form slow, but the real training came when we would try and do the form in 5 seconds or less.  At times, it would allow us to almost see ourselves from the outside. Although it is not my favorite, the form currently challenging me is Sei Shan. I have worked on this form from a “ki” developing point of view.  When I do it the entire form with every move involving the generation of Ki, it takes over 30 minutes. What a workout!!

WTSDA committees or positions:

Region 8 Security Director, Board Member and Chairman of the WTSDA Security.  I have provided Security at Regional events and at many World Championships and worked on establishing protocols for all WTSDA events with regards to handling visiting Grandmaster(s) and VIP’s. I worked with Ms. Maggie Gonski with the editing of many of the WTSDA books and manuals. I was a member of the WTSDA Video Committee, under Dr Susan Strohm, assisting in the production, filming and editing of many of the World Championship Videos, Ki Gong video and many other training videos.

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

Grandmaster Shin (who I would of never met had it not been for Master Michael White) and Master White.  These two men had the greatest impact on my Martial Arts Career.  Along with others like Master Beam, Maggie Gonski, Master Kaye and Mr. Bill Boswell, I found the person (Martial Artist) that I hoped to become  and continue to try and be.

My family role models were my father who passed at a very young age of 52.  My sons, Joe and the late Justin Merrill. My best friend in the whole world, my wife Donna, who without her, I would be nothing. She is and will always be one of my strongest role models especially during the hard times this past year helping with my mother, Sheila Merrill, during her illness. I can only hope to be half as strong as she has been. 

The Merril family, Donna, Master Merrill, Sheila, Joe and Hailee.

What are some of your favorite memories of your time in WTSDA?

The many hours providing security with Grandmaster Shin. I can say I was one of the lucky ones as I spent many, many hours alone with him at many different events.  While doing this, I got to train one on one with him.  I got to ask him questions and have conversations with him about many subjects in addition to Tang Soo Do.

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

I hope that the WTSDA survives it’s growing pains of this century.  There will be many ups and downs, but with the help of all, it can survive.

Master Merrill, Master White and Joe Merrill at the April 2011 Central PA Gup Clinic.

Advice/Words of Wisdom

Youth, teen and/or adult martial artist:

Stick with it, even when the times are hard. Pay attention to your Instructors. If they are still with us and teaching, they have something to offer you. Be patient. Today we expect everything to come to us fast. We want immediate gratification, and a lot of us are not willing to wait and invest the time really needed to move ahead in the Martial Arts.

Teaching tips or ways you make classes more exciting:

Try and give each student something to work on at the end of each class. Do your best to keep them interested.

Tang Soo!