Governor Larry Hogan, dressed for taekwondo, breaks a board. He received an honorary Taekwondo black belt on a visit to Korea. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun video)
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan had changed into his doh-bok, put on his honorary ninth-degree Taekwondo black belt and planted his dress-shoed feet.
He stared at the four boards he planned to break with his bare hand, a stunt celebrating Maryland's first Taekwondo Day honoring a martial art developed in the home country of Hogan's wife, Yumi. He steadied the boards with a hand and stared down the planks for another 11 seconds.
That black belt might have been awarded on a trip to Korea and sanctioned by a prominent Taekwondo organization, but it had not come with instructions.
"I want to make it clear: It's only honorary," Hogan had said earlier, before his costume change, to a crowd of more than 200 people gathered in Annapolis. "So please, I don't want any eighth-degree people trying to challenge me. I don't really have the skills."
The Republican governor had started rehearsals at least a week earlier, chopping boards in a suit and tie while his staff looked on.
"He's been practicing in his office," Hogan aide Keiffer Mitchell recalled Tuesday while waiting for the show. Mitchell pantomimed slamming a fist into a board. "He broke it. I thought it had been weakened or something first, but he did it."
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The staff had discussed at length what message to write on the boards and settled on "partisan gridlock."
Hogan's special secretary for minority affairs, Jimmy H. Rhee, comes from a prominent Taekwondo family. His grandfather, Jhoon Rhee, is widely considered by the Korean media to be the father of American Taekwondo.
Maryland residents born before the early 1980s may recall Rhee's younger brother, Chunoo Rhee, from ubiquitous television ads for martial arts studios that proclaimed "Nobody bothers me!"
As cameras flashed, the governor sliced his hand through the air and shouted a "Yah!"
All four boards splintered. Hogan raised both hands in the air like a triumphant boxer.