Charles Maurone (Charlie) was born in 1950 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. He spent his young years growing up in the area. Upon graduating from high school he joined the United States Marine Corps during the height of the war in Viet Nam. During his service in the Corp he received his basic training at the infamous Parris Island and joined the Infantry Training Regiment at Camp Geiger in Stone Bay just outside of Jacksonville North Carolina. He was assigned to the Advanced Infantry Training Regiment at Camp Le June. It was during these days of training day in and day out that he began to understand what being a combat Marine was all about.
Long before Guantanamo Bay Cuba became a household name after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11th 2011, he was assigned there as part of the garrison guard protecting the base from the communist military of Fidel Castro. During the time spent there he went through long hours of jungle warfare and special tactics training. He also began his training in the martial arts and unarmed combat. As his tour of duty on the island base came to an end he received orders for Westpac. The military acronym stood for Western Pacific. If the orders were for Westpac, nine times out of ten the destination was to the combat zone of Southeast Asia’s war torn Viet Nam.
After a short leave he arrived at camp Pendleton, California for staging to the war Zone. Upon arrival while awaiting assignment he was selected to test for entry into the USMC Recon Training School in San Diego. During the course of that training the skills needed for a squad to engage in close combat and to survive despite overwhelming odds, were drummed in to the trainees at the Second Infantry Training Regiment's Reconnaissance School. They would be sharpened in the jungles of the Peoples Republic of Viet Nam. That was the next stop. His tour duty was cut short during a fire fight with North Vietnamese combat forces. He was seriously wounded and flown out of country for surgery in a US Naval Hospital in Yokosuka Japan.
After six weeks in the hospital in Yokosuka he returned to the US and spent another month recovering at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital. Once recovered he was cut new orders to Quantico, Virginia where he served out the rest of his enlistment as an instructor at the Officer Candidates School and The Marine Basics School. With an honorable separation in hand he remained a Marine reserve until he was given his Honorable discharge.
From the time Charlie first became a Marine he had trained and fought as a martial artist, both inside the ring as sport and outside the ring in combat. He was searching for a place to continue his training. He was back once again home in Philadelphia and had visited many gyms in the area. None of them were impressive. He started training with another martial artist, working hard on advancing his skills. After many months of training together, a tragic accident took the life of his friend. Charlie mourned the loss of his friend as he had so many others.
He knew he still needed to train. He remembered a Karate school that was located not far from where he lived. He had met Jong Sae Lee back when he was looking for a uniform to train in. He had stopped in one afternoon and asked if they sold black Gi’s there. This is the traditional Japanese name for the martial arts uniform. The short Asian man sitting behind the desk, said Gi? What is Gi? Little did Charlie know that this was JS Lee and he was making fun of him. Having fought Asians in Viet Nam during the civil rights era and the rise of the Black Panther Party, his opinion of harmony between the races was not very high to say the least.
Now that his training partner was gone he needed to find someone to work with. He stopped in at the JS Lee Tae Kwon Do School this time to watch a class. While sitting on a bench waiting for the class to begin a powerful looking man wearing a black belt was punching a building support beam wrapped in rope. The building was vibrating with each strike. He saw Charlie sitting there and approached. His name was Phil Muscella. They talked a bit and Phil was full of praise for the school and the training methods used in the gym. Charles told Phil what he was looking for and what his experiences were. That was when he was told that Master Lee had been an instructor with the ROC Marines (Republic of Korea). Having worked with the ROC Marines in Viet Nam his interest in this school picked up.
By this time there were a number of students in white uniforms wearing different color belts lining up. The thing he noticed more so than the belt color were the different races mingling together. Separation was by rank not skin color. At that point a young Black Belt named Taro Landis called the room to attention.
Master Instructor Jong Sae Lee walked into the room. The students were in what could be described as a military inspection formation. Master Lee walked down the ranks speaking or hitting students playfully it appeared in the chest. Then he took his place front and center. A formal ritual began the class. As Charlie watched the students train under the direction of JS Lee, the discipline and effort was obvious. For two Hours he put them through nonstop exercises basic movements and form drills ending the session with similar ranked students free style fighting. He was more than impressed and wanted in.
That was the beginning of his life in Tae Kwon Do. He knew already how to fight, but there he learned control. He had Marine Corp discipline but there he learned tolerance. He had developed a racial intolerance but there through the blood sweat and tears he developed a love and respect for people based on who they were not what they were.
The J.S. Lee alumni became a school that caused panic as they entered into a tournament arena. They fought up and down the Northeast and Mid Atlantic. They competed in high school and university gymnasiums, convention centers, and sports arenas including Madison Square Garden in New York City, at the H.S. Cho annual championship winning top awards year after year.. After training with Master Lee for nine years Charlie went out to travel the world again, having developed a brotherhood with his fellow black belts that was destined to last a life time.
He traveled to and trained in many different countries around the world. But his real martial arts home has been and remains the school that JS Lee built. Although the building no longer houses the training facilities it once did, the school continues on through the alumni of which he is proud to be a member.
More than forty years after walking into that old building on Old York road in Philadelphia when asked where he learned the martial arts his answer is always, “under JS Lee”.
Today Charles still maintains his conditioning by running, swimming, biking and strength training for the occasional Sprit Triathlon, and he still throws a pretty powerful side kick.
Things I remember about Charlie:
steve: Fri nights was Black Belt class (i think), and Phil brings a student of his that he was training for only 2 years. This guy, a stocky firefighter, only did Phils breathing patterns, punch the candle, and take Phil's pain. Charlie objected and Phil said "If he can take your punch in the gut, he can stay".....So Charlie does, what's he to do, knock the guy down? So we all got along after that....