ANDREWS AFB, Md. --
Earning a third-degree black belt in Tang Soo Do, which is a Korean martial art, May 12, marked a milestone for Maj. (Dr.) Demetrio J. Aguila III, 79th Surgical Operations Squadron acting deputy commander.
With the third-degree black belt, Major Aguila can begin preparing to become a master in Tang Soo Do. Major Aguila is also the 79th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Flight Medicine Flight surgeon and a 79 MSGS eyes, ears and throat surgeon.
A master is permitted to operate a school to train others in Tang Soo Do, he said. If a person holds a rank under master, they may operate a school, but it must be under the auspices of a master or a grand master. A grand master holds an eighth- to 10th-degree black belt, which are the highest ranks in Tang Soo Do.
Major Aguila said he prefers working in Tang Soo Do rather other forms of the marital arts. "Tang Soo Do is physically demanding and fulfilling, as well as mentally and spiritually challenging to me," he said.
Tang Soo Do combines the styles of Tae Kwon Do and Aikido, both of which the major has also studied over the last 22 years. Tae Kwon Do, another Korean martial art, involves kicking, punching and striking techniques. Throwing techniques, takedowns and joint manipulation are taught in Aikido, a Japanese martial art.
Major Aguila said he was clumsy growing up. After watching the movie, "The Karate Kid," he thought martial arts would help him improve his coordination.
The major started studying Tae Kwon Do at age 13. He continued his training in Tae Kwon Do through high school in Kingston, N.Y., where he and his family lived.
After he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force Reserves in 1992, Major Aguila enrolled in a combined medical degree program at Boston University. He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Medical Sciences and a medical degree in 1997.
"When I went to college, I couldn't find a decent Tae Kwon Do instructor," he said. "I started studying Aikido instead."
Major Aguila was placed on Active Duty with the rank of captain in 1997. He studied surgery for a year at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He also returned to training in Tae Kwon Do.
While the major was assigned as the 8th Medical Group flight surgeon at Kunsan Air Force, South Korea, 1998 to 1999, he began studying Tang Soo Do. He earned his first-degree black belt in 1999, and his second-degree black belt the next year.
Grand Master Hwang Kee founded Tang Soo Do in 1945, said the major. Hwang Kee had already achieved the rank of black belt in Soo Bahk Do, an old Korean martial art, at age 21.
Grand Master Hwang spent 10 years studying Kung Fu in China, said the major. The master returned to Korea, where he combined Kung Fu with Soo Bahk Do to create Tang Soo Do.
Major Aguila said the actual name of the martial arts Hwang Kee formed is called Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan.
Tang refers to the Chinese influence Grand Master Hwang brought from China, he said. Soo means the Korean word for hand. Do means the way. Moo means martial. Duk means virtue. Kwan means school or brotherhood.
"Moo Duk Kwan is more accurately translated 'brotherhood of martial virtue,'" said the major.
The formation of Tang Soo Do came about in 1947, when the Korean government decided to put all the martial arts into one martial art, which was Tae Kwon Do, he said. This was an effort to unify the country, which had been ruled by the Japanese Empire from 1910 until its surrender in 1945, ending World War II.
"Many of the masters agreed to change the name of the martial art to Tae Kwon Do," said Major Aguila. "Some of the grand masters didn't want to do that and branched off into their own direction."
Grand Master Hwang was one of the grand masters who didn't go along with the unification of the martial arts in Korea, he said.
The major said Hwang Kee took the scientific approach when he created Tang Soo Do. Many of the other martial arts, especially the older ones in China, involved mysticism.
Grand Master Hwang believed understanding the martial arts is simply a matter of understanding how the human body works and learning how to apply the forces a person's body can generate in a way that's efficient, said Major Aguila.
"He looked at the physics and biomechanics of the relationships between the way in which different body parts move to achieve certain goals," said the major. "This a very scientific approach to the teaching and understanding of this particular martial art."
Major Aguila continues his interest in Tang Soo Do by teaching other people the Korean marital art when he's off duty. He is the senior instructor at Tiger Do Jang in Waldorf, Md.
One of Major Aguilas's students is his wife, Jennifer, who has a green belt. "It's a great way for the two of us to spend time together," he said.
The major also teaches Capt. Cristina M. Moore Urrutia, the Air Force Band's Singing Sergeants coordinator, and Staff Sgt. Stephanie N. Cates, 79th Medical Operations Squadron Neurology Clinic medical technician.
Now that he has a third-degree belt in Tang Soo Do, Major Aguila isn't about to rest on his laurels. He wants to share the benefits of Tang Soo Do with as many people as possible.