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Remembering Master Michael E. Kaye

As Master Scott Homschek recently asked, "How do you write a short article on a man who has accomplished so much?"

What is shared below cannot begin to do justice to what Master Kaye meant to so many of us, and to the growth and development of the WTSDA.

Master Michael Kaye, Yuk Dan, had more than 50 years of training experience in the Asian martial arts - his passion for the martial arts began early in his life, and never waivered. Master Kaye was the most senior Master in Region 22, and taught at his dojang, the Penn State Martial Arts Group, for the past 37 years.

Master Kaye played a principle role in the growth and development of the World Tang Soo Do Association since its founding in 1982. Having contributed much to the Association, he had been scheduled to be promoted to Chil Dan, 7th Degree Black Belt, at the 2020 World Tang Soo Do Association's World Championship. Master Kaye was a highly skilled martial artist, with a wide range of knowledge. Some of his areas of expertise included knife fighting, long knife, sword, spear, knife making, and cutting techniques; T’ai Chi and Ki Gong; meditation, and breaking. In addition to teaching at the dojang, Master Kaye also taught T'ai Chi, at the Moshannon Valley YMCA in Philipsburg, PA.

Master Kaye was an invited instructor and an invited lecturer at Regional Black Belt clinics where he taught lethal weapons programs, knife and sword cutting techniques, advanced forms, knife fighting and knife defense, meditation, and Ki Gong. He was also an invited instructor at the World Tang Soo Do Association Master’s Clinics in the USA, U.K., Netherlands, and Argentina, where he taught sword and knife cutting technique, advanced forms, knife fighting, and knife defense. Master Kaye was known for the swords and knives he made, sometimes giving them as treasured gifts. As Grandmaster Strong recalls:

I have so many memories of training, traveling, and talking with Master Kaye. What stands out as beneficial to me personally was his depth of knowledge and skills with bladed weapons. He taught these skills at many Masters’ Clinics – sword, test cutting, knife attack and defense, throwing knife, and shock knife. Most memorable to me was my participation in a Silk and Steel Clinic presented by Master Kaye and Master Homschek. Almost two days of training under his guidance engendered a greater sense of the skills required for practicing and using these weapons. At the conclusion of one very active session when I was his partner, he said to me, “I enjoy training with you especially in the face-to-face drills.” In the years since, we made time to practice together whenever we met.
Master Kaye generously gave me many knives, as he has done for other martial artists. It began with a Spyderco Cricket, which I still carry, and continued with many folders over the years and importantly a beautiful Tai Chi sword. He even gave a few very sharp kitchen knives to my wife Rachel.
I am grateful for the attention he gave to me and I will miss him dearly. The World Tang Soo Do Association was enriched by his love, support and loyalty to our traditional martial art. He will be missed, but never forgotten.
Tang Soo my good friend!

-Grandmaster William Strong

Early in his training, at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Master Kaye was a nationally ranked collegiate level fencer and later became the head coach of the SUNY at Buffalo fencing team. He had training qualifications in T’ai Chi and Northern Shaolin Longfist Style Kung Fu. With the permission of Grandmaster Shin, Master Kaye trained with Master-at-Arms James Keating on various forms of knife fighting, long weapons and handguns. He became certified by Master-at-Arms Keating as an instructor in the Combat Technologies (COMTECH) method of Bowie Knife Fighting. He was also certified by the Pennsylvania State Police as a Lethal Weapons Skills Instructor (PA. Code, Title 37, Chapter 21).

Master Kaye's Tang Soo Do training was primarily under the instruction of Master Michael White of Appalachia Tang Soo Do, although he trained with numerous other instructors as well. Following the lessons from his instructor, Master White, Master Kaye was an active contributor to the WTSDA over his long career, and was instrumental in many of the WTSDA's pivotal projects and events. This record of service started early in his martial arts life, when Master Kaye, then a Cho Dan Bo, gave up the historic opportunity to attend the WTSDA Charter Convention as one of the 164 Charter Members - he stepped aside and made it possible for others to attend by covering classes at Shin Karate instead.

Throughout his martial arts life, Master Kaye led by example, and encouraged his students to use their energies and talents in service to the WTSDA. As a result, Grandmaster Shin often leaned on him, and his students, to take on projects that needed to be done. If you have enjoyed or participated in any of the following, then tip your hat to Master Kaye because he played a part in bringing them to fruition.

Master Kaye was instrumental in writing many of the WTSDA publications central to our training, including the Tang Soo Do Student's Manual (Gup Manual), the Tang Soo Do Black Belt Manual (Dan Manual), and the volumes in the Traditional Tang Soo Do series of books written by Grandmaster Jae C. Shin.

Over the past several decades, the WTSDA has produced many videos for its members. Master Kaye served as a creative guide and cameraman for many of these projects, including a dozen WTSDA Championship Videos, the "Children in Tang Soo Do" video, the "WTSDA 25th Anniversary" video, the WTSDA Hyung and Il Soo Sik (one-step) videos and the WTSDA Ki Gong video.

He was also part of starting the WTSDA's first website ( For many years, he served as the Chairman of the WTSDA's Building Fund, helping to make a reality Grandmaster Shin's dream of a permanent home for the WTSDA and its members. And he organized many of the celebration dinners for the WTSDA's 30-Year Masters, including Grandmaster Shin's 9th Dan Promotion celebration. Beginning in 1984, Master Kaye organized or helped organize several annual Regional activities including tournaments and clinics.

Master Kaye's knowledge of the martial arts was broad and deep, and he shared his knowledge both in and out of the dojang. He was a voracious reader, and opened his students' eyes to important works on topics such as martial arts history and philosophy, Ki Gong, anatomy and healing, self-defense, hyung applications, and swordsmanship.

Master Kaye had a life-long love of learning. He earned his Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from Penn State University in 1987, and was a psychologist in private practice until his retirement several years ago. He brought his professional training to his martial arts instruction to the benefit of his students; more than an instructor, he was a teacher and mentor. As Master Ken Peterman explains:

I walked in to my first class at Penn State Martial Arts Group and met Master Kaye in 1990. Over the next 30 years, there have been too many life lessons to share in a short article. He was always willing to talk, and listen. He was constantly amazing me with his insights and inspiring me to push forward, reminding me that there is no end in the search for knowledge and understanding. The lesson was never straightforward, it was more a challenge to think differently and discover. He walked that talk, too. Conversations often took longer than planned - but you always went away with something learned and would find the other seeds of knowledge he had planted at some point in the future. He was an excellent teacher and model martial artist. He will be greatly missed.

-Master Ken Peterman

Many of Master Kaye's students reached the rank of Black Belt under him - and regardless of rank, all of his students' lives were impacted by him. The following Masters and 4th Dan Instructors were fortunate enough to have been members of the Penn State Martial Arts Group and call him instructor at some point in their martial arts training:

  • Master Scott Homschek - 6th Dan
  • Master Mark Jorgensen - 5th Dan
  • Master Scott Merrill - 5th Dan
  • Master Ken Peterman - 5th Dan
  • Master Nicole Peterman - 5th Dan
  • Master Yen Touysinhthiponexay - 4th Dan
  • Master Rikki Jorgensen - 4th Dan
  • Master Susan Strohm - 4th Dan
  • Master Roy Donaldson - 4th Dan
  • Mr. Rashaud Olson - Sah Dan Instructor
  • Mr. Scott Dible - Sah Dan Instructor
  • Ms. Leslie Flaum - Sah Dan Instructor
  • Ms. Kelly Kemper - Sah Dan Candidate (deceased)

Looking at the journey to Master rank, Master Nicole Peterman recalled how Master Kaye "had a way of knowing more about a situation than was said out loud. He had an uncanny way of "just knowing" things, and more importantly how we individually reacted to things/circumstances." She shared this story about her experience at the Master's Clinic:

It was 2013 and my 2nd year at the Master's Clinic. On Saturday, the day we were going to test, we candidates were training hard all day, preparing for our exam that night. Certain events had occurred during our daytime training that were extremely frustrating to me. When I reach a certain point of frustration I tend to cry. I had reached that point in the afternoon before dinner. During dinner, it was clear by my red swollen eyes that I had cried earlier. Master Kaye walked up to me after I finished eating and said, "tired of being a candidate?" to which I replied, "yes Sir". He looked me in the eyes and stated, "then you know what to do tonight." and walked away. He didn't allow me to respond. Again, he knew exactly what I needed. I didn't need to be coddled or told everything would be okay. I just needed to be reminded of who I was and why I was there. That exchange with Master Kaye was exactly the reboot that I needed.
In 2019 when I was "tapped" to test for 5th Dan, Master Kaye was testing for his 7th Dan. I was ecstatic to know that we would share the testing floor, something that I never dreamed would happen. Ultimately the 7th Dan candidates were moved to a different area, but just know that we were testing together was monumental and very special.
-Master Nicole Peterman

Master Kaye's love of martial arts inspired his family to train as well. His wife, Joyce Illfelder-Kaye, earned the rank of Cho Dan under Master Michael White. His son Aaron is a Sam Dan and had his own studio for several years while in college - his son Josh also trained.

Master Scott Homschek, Region 22 Regional Director, trained with Master Kaye for more than 30 years. They had an early connection through Master Charles Irwin - Master Kaye regularly attended class at WTSDA World Headquarters, Shin Karate - Philadelphia where he trained with both Grandmaster Shin and Master Irwin; Master Homschek was training at Shin Karate - Trenton, NJ where Master Irwin was the Chief Instructor. Later, Master Homschek left for college at Penn State and joined the PSMAG, where he was welcomed "with open arms" by Master Kaye and Master White. Over the years, Master Kaye and Master Homschek became very good friends and "shared countless training adventures." Thinking about Master Kaye's legacy, Master Homschek summed it up this way:

Grandmaster Shin once said, "When assessing the quality of an instructor, look to the accomplishments of their students." Master Kaye was a great instructor whose legacy will endure through the lessons that he shared with us and that we will continue to share with our students.

Respectfully Submitted,

Master Susan Strohm
A Mountain Wind Martial Arts

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