Michigan Grand Master Passes
Eugene Humesky, a Ukrainian immigrant who rose to become one of the most decorated martial artists in the world, died of natural causes in his Ann Arbor home Monday. He was 92.
A sportsman from a young age, Humesky was troubled by the political nature of martial arts training and dedicated much of his life to bringing together warring factions within the sport.
After rising through the ranks of both the International Federation of Taekwondo and the World Federation of Taekwondo â he was recognized as a master instructor in both organizations by 1975 â Humesky founded the United Taekwondo Brotherhood.
âHis goal was for the organization to bring everyone together,â Seth Winter, a former student of Humeskyâs at Eastern Michigan University, said.
âHe wanted practitioners of different styles to come together so they could learn from each other and benefit from different types of teaching that were offered. He held rank in both organizations, which is fairly rare.â
Humesky was recognized as a grandmaster in taekwondo and trained in other martial arts as well, receiving high black belts from the United States Karate Association and the World KIDO Federation.
âHe believed that thereâs something to be valued and learned from everything and everyone,â Winter said.
âHe always said the definition of a good tournament is one where you learn something, not whether you win a trophy or not. So he always went to try to learn something himself and to teach something to others.â
Humesky traveled to tournaments well into his 80s and was easy to spot thanks to his distinctive jet-black mustache.
âHe was well-known in taekwondo circles,â Winter said. âAnd there were a number of occasions where people met him once and remembered him years later because of his friendliness, but also the mustache.â
Born in Staryj Sambir â a city on the border of Poland and the Ukraine â in 1921, Humesky was first introduced to martial arts by a high school instructor who taught students jujitsu.
When World War II broke out, Humesky served in the Ukrainian Halychyna Division and fought against the Soviet Russian army. The division eventually surrendered to the allied forces and Humesky served two years in a prisoner of war camp in Northern Italy.
According to a magazine article written by Humeskyâs wife, he joined a chorus in the POW camp and earned the nickname âAristocrat of the Spirit.â
After the war, Humesky immigrated to England where he quit a factory job to join the chorus that former prisoners of war had re-founded in the United Kingdom. It was after a choral performance in London that he met his future wife, Assya.
âHe loved to dance,â Assya Humesky said. âThatâs how we first met, at a dance party for the chorus. He could classical dance very well and his favorite dance was the tango, which happened to be my favorite as well.â
Humesky moved to Canada to be closer to Assya, who was hired as a professor at the University of Michigan in 1953. The two were married in Canada and Humesky moved to to Ann Arbor in 1955.
After taking drafting classes through a correspondence course, Humesky worked for the city of Ann Arbor as a civil engineer for more than 20 years before retiring in 1987. In 1988 he was hired as a taekwondo instructor by EMU.
Master Robert Wheatly, president of the United States International Taekwondo Federation, said that his organization bestowed its highest rank, a 9th-degree black belt, on Humesky approximately one year ago.
âThe ninth-degree belt in an organization is awarded for someoneâs activity after a lifetime of service,â Wheatly said. âThe amount of black belt-students he produced over his time as an instructor was impressive, and even just recently before he passed away he was promoting very senior black belts to master rank.â
In addition to taekwondo, Humesky was an avid dancer, a stamp collector, a reader of science fiction novels and a joke teller.
âHe loved jokes, and often times he would tell jokes with a purpose,â Winter said. âI would talk back sometimes, so he would ask me âDo you know why they donât send donkeys to school?’ Because no one likes a smart ass.â I heard that one a lot.â
Both Humeskyâs students and his family said that his sense of humor and his interest in the lives of others were constants throughout his life.
âEven when he was in the hospital, he wanted to talk to the nurses, hear how their lives were, whether they had children of their own,â Assya Humesky said. âHe always wanted to connect with people.â
Humesky is survived by his wife Assya, two sons Roman and Igor and six grandchildren.