Grandmaster Brenda J. Sell
9th Degree Black Belt
A Pioneer in modern day Taekwondo
A forerunner for women in Taekwondo on an international level
Grandmaster Sell has spent a lifetime in the pursuit and promotion of Taekwondo. She began her training at age 14 in Michigan, USA. There she realized her love for the sport. Within two years, she was awarded her 1st Dan. Since then, has been a professional teacher of Taekwondo, an accomplished tournament competitor, an international referee, a Taekwondo performer, an ordained minister, and President of the U.S. Chung Do Kwan Association.
Grandmaster Sell has been teaching Taekwondo for more than 40 years. She taught initially, as in instructor at Senior Grandmaster Edward B. Sell’s school in Michigan, to providing training in Taekwondo seminars and conferences in schools and cities throughout the United States. She continues to teach at her own local school, The Sell Team Academy, each week.
Even though retired from competition in the late 1970s, she set the groundwork for women in Taekwondo competition. She competed and placed in many tournaments, many of them against both males and females. In 1983, she was honored for her accomplishments, and was asked by the Secretary General of the WTF to come to Korea for a demonstration of women’s competition at the Pre-World Championships. Her greatest accomplishment was becoming the first international female referee.
She was the first woman to pass the WTF International Referee Exam in 1977. Even though she successfully passed the exam, there was not a female division for competition. Female competition was a demonstration event only, and female referees were not accepted as official referees. It took ten years before women would be accepted and would be recognized in her position as an international referee. In 1988, , along with two other female referees became the first women to referee an international event, in Barcelona, Spain.
In 1981, Grandmaster Brenda J. Sell and her husband, Sr. Grandmaster Edward B. Sell created the Evangelistic Taekwondo Exhibitions. This non-profit organization is the framework for “The Sell Team.” This Taekwondo demonstration team uses their talents to present the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world. They have performed in military bases, schools, churches, West Point Academy and Air Force Academy.
Sr. Grandmaster formed the Korea Taekwondo Association of America, renamed to the U.S. Chung Do Kwan Association, Inc. in 1967. Since their marriage, she has worked along side her husband, supporting and promoting their association and Taekwondo. She oversees the daily operations of the organization, and in 2004, was appointed to President of the U. S. Chung Do Kwan Association. She restructured the organization and implemented a committee system that drew in many members of the organization. This restructuring has had a positive effect on the growth of the organization, and has brought in talents of many of the school owners and other members.
Grandmaster Sell would go on to take the position of Kwan Jang of the USCDKA in 2013. She has since dedicated her time to expanding and developing fellow leaders to create more trained eyes and ears effectively expanding the reach of the USCDKA, and ensuring a closer connection between her, and the school owners under her.
Taekwondo Black Belt rank structure:
There are 9 degrees (dan) of black belt in Taekwondo. The 9th degree is awarded to those who have committed their lives to the teaching and spreading of Taekwondo. Out of 55 million black belts, there are approximately 500 ninth degree black belts who are internationally certified in the entire world. Originally, the 9th Dan was awarded to heads of organizations who were at least in their 60’s. In the Dan Ranks, a person must actively be training and contributing (time in grade) the same number of years as the next rank they are waiting for. For example, a person who is a 6th Degree Black Belt must have 7 years time in grade before being considered for their next rank.
There are three levels of rank certification:
1. National: U.S. Chung Do Kwan Association, Inc.
2. Kwan (International Taekwondo System): Chung Do Kwan
3. Kukkiwon (also known as WTF)
In 2003, Grandmaster Sell tested for the National and Chung Do Kwan 8th Degree Black Belt. Sr. Grandmaster Edward B. Sell and Sr. Grandmaster Hae Man Park as her Instructors and mentors. She was the 1st female in these systems to accomplish this goal.
In 2005 she accomplished another World Title by testing for the 8th Degree Black Belt at the World Takewondo Federation Headquarters, Kukkiwon in Seoul, Korea. She was the first female to test at the Kukkiwon for this rank and the only non-Korean to achieve this level of excellence. She will be eligible to test for her final rank, the 9th Degree Black Belt in 2014 – another world record, leading the way for both females and Christians.
Grandmaster Sell and her son, Master Robby Sell opened the Headquarters School at the Lakeland Square Mall in Lakeland, Florida in 2011. Students from all over the country come to this location to upgrade their credentials and teaching skills.
In 2012, Grandmaster Sell tested for the National and Chung Do Kwan 9th Degree Black Belt. Presiding at the testing board were Sr. Grandmaster Hae Man Park and Sr. Grandmaster Edward B. Sell.
On June 15, 2017, Grandmaster Sell would go on to test for her 9th dan Kukkiwon in Denver, Colorado. She was the first non-Korean woman to ever test for this rank, and only the 2nd woman in the world to ever attempt such a rank. This officially secures the title of “highest-ranked non-Korean female in Taekwondo,” for Grandmaster Sell. To go along with this historic event, the Kukkiwon itself made history by hosting this high-dan testing in Colorado, which was the first time the Kukkiwon ever held a high-dan testing outside of their facility in Seoul, Korea.
by Master Richard Jipping, updated by Master Chris Courington
Each of us, at some point in our lives was “First”. Maybe “First” to finish your vegetables. “First” in a local, state, or national tournament. Being “First” simply means you did something that positioned you in a real, or even imaginary competition. Recently, the Baltimore Ravens proved they were “First” in the National Football League. But being “First” doesn’t mean that they were “THE First”. As time passes, we will remember to some extent the occasion of being “First”, but it is those individuals that were “THE First” that will be remembered by everyone long after we’ve forgotten who was first on a certain day.
Being “THE First” means that you have accomplished something no one else has ever done. By their achievement it has been proven that such a thing was even possible and now more important than anything else, opens the door to opportunities that never existed before. No one believed it possible to put a man on the moon, until someone was “The First”. No one dreamed you could climb Mount Everest until Sir Edmund Hillary proved it to be possible. Since these “Firsts”, many others have accomplished what was believed impossible because someone proved it could be done.
In the history of the Martial Arts, many accomplishments were only possible for certain individuals. Maybe they had to be of the specific nationality of the art, or maybe of a specific gender. Women, for the most part were never included in the possible advanced ranks or titles of the art. When a woman finally achieves these before unheard of accomplishments, it is monumental, not only for that particular individual, but for every other women in the world.
In 1977, Grandmaster Brenda J. Sell became “THE First” female to be awarded International Referee Certification by the WTF.
In 1990, Grandmaster Brenda J. Sell became “THE First” female to be promoted to the rank of 7th Dan by the WTF.
In 2003, Grandmaster Brenda J. Sell became “THE First” non-Korean Female to be awarded 8th Dan Grandmaster Ranking by the WTF.
It is important to remember, that prior to these accomplishments, no female in the history of WTF has ever achieved these elite certifications. By so doing, Grandmaster Brenda J. Sell opened a door that had been closed to female martial artists around the world. In reading the biography of Grandmaster Brenda J. Sell, it is clearly visible that along with being “THE First” in these areas, her accomplishments as a martial artist, and leader are many.
December 1, 2012, Sr. Grandmaster Hae Man Park, (Vice President of the World Chung Do Kwan Association) made his annual visit to the headquarters school of Sr. Grandmaster E.B. Sell and Grandmaster Brenda J. Sell in Lakeland Florida. After reviewing her record of accomplishments within the art and development of Chung Do Kwan Tae Kwon Do, and a thorough review of her skills within the advanced Black Belt Forms of Chung Do Kwan Tae Kwon Do, Sr. Grandmaster Hae Man Park made the decision to award her the World Chung Do Kwan Association rank of 9th Dan. This also included the United States Chung Do Kwan Association 9th Dan. He then made the official announcement at a more formal exam at her school the following day. This promotion opened the door for her to test in front of the GrandMasters of the world at the Kukkiwon testing in Denver in 2017! Until now, no woman has ever tested for a 9th Dan in the history of Taekwondo. So, to add to the list:
In 2017, Grandmaster Brenda J. Sell became “THE First” non-Korean female to be awarded 9th Dan by the Kukkiwon.
Grandmaster Brenda J. Sell has always dreamed of opening new doors for all women within Tae Kwon Do but when Sr. Grandmaster Park arrived, this was not on her agenda. It has always been her goal to do her best for her own personal development, her art, and the development of her students. It serves to remind us all that when we strive every day to reach a little higher, to try a little harder, that others do see, and recognize all that has been given.
When eagles soar, we can’t help but look up in wonder and awe. We shall forever remember the day we saw “THE First” eagle in our lives. We may see more, but none will hold the special place of “THE First”. Grandmaster Brenda J. Sell has again proven to be “THE First” for such world recognition. I’m not sure what other “Firsts” are in her future but I do know she will continue to lead the way for all women in the art of Tae Kwon Do, and for all members of the United States Chung Do Kwan Association.
Congratulations Grandmaster Brenda J. Sell
C/M R. A. Jipping
USCDKA – Zeeland, Michigan