Dr. Rodney T. Hard

This is the certificate of my participation in the joint training exercise.

Rodney Hard receives the rank of Specialist 5 from Major Burdick in Seoul, Korea early 1970.

On the other hand, the Koreans caved.  When my opponent stepped out, I asked the Korean General, "Sir, who is this?"  It was not the champion they had touted.

"Number one could not make it today, this man is number two in Korea." said the General.  He was hedging his bets.  If "number one" fought and somehow lost, Korea would lose face.  So the Koreans sent in a man that they said was second best.

Well, nobody mentioned any rules.  We just took our shoes off and squared off on the rocky terrain.  After respectfully bowing to each other, we went at it.  We threw a lot of kicks and punches and got our feet all cut up and bloody on the gravel, but neither of us came out a clear winner.  We were both cautious, so few strikes or kicks landed squarely.  Fortunately, neither of us was injured seriously from the fight. 

About five minutes into the fight, we were both showing a loss of steam when the Korean General finally called an end to the fight.  Nobody had lost face and all the brass went home happy.

After that incident, all of a sudden I was good buddies with all the Special Forces guys who had teased me a lot and kept me out of their tight circle.  Now, I went with them at night and was in on all their off duty revelry.

                                             SAVING FACE

By:  Dr. Rodney Hard

In 1969, I learned an interesting lesson that I would never forget.  I was sparring with my master and somehow happened to get a clean punch in on him past his guard.  That was the last time I ever did that. 

He beat me mercilessly.  I was thrown repeatedly, kicked across the room repeatedly, and punched very hard numerous times.  He had lost face by having a student best him for a moment.  He was going to make very sure I did not make that mistake again. 

The lesson worked.  After that, even when I thought I had an opening on him, I did not try to actually score on him.  I learned a valuable lesson about losing face that shaped the way I trained and the way I taught from then on.

Another memorable experience reinforced my belief that Koreans are afraid of losing face and will go to great lengths to avoid the embarrassment. 

In late 1970, I was sent to a secret bunker south of Seoul, Korea to act as an interpreter at the Foal Eagle joint training exercises of the US Army Green Beret Special Forces and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army Special Forces.  I was assigned to the HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) parachute teams.  These two teams, though training together, were always trying to out-do each other. 

On the first HALO jump, after the spread-out jumpers had used tracking devices to assemble at one position, one of the Korean soldiers saw a snake on the ground.  He grabbed the snake as he drew his knife, cut the head off of the snake, slit it down the belly, gutted it and skinned it all within seconds.  The skinless snake was still writhing in his hands as he took a big bite and ate the raw snake meat, bones and all.

Not to be out-done, an American soldier grabbed it and took a bite.  It was passed around and everyone got a bite.  Macho men they all were.

A couple of days later, I was interpreting for some visiting big brass observers when the Korean General started bragging about one of his men.  He went on and on about how this soldier was the number one fighter in Korea and that he was some great Dang Soo Do karate champion.

I don’t know why I did it, but I got swept up in this macho competitiveness and challenged their fighter to a fighting match.  The soldier did not look like that tough of a guy to me.  The General was just about putting this out as a challenge which no one present was taking up.  So, having to save face for the American contingent, I spoke up and said, "I'll fight him!"  All eyes turned to me and there was dead silence for a moment. 

The General was taken aback, and all the brass on both sides looked at him as if asking, “Well?”

 After a nervous chuckle, the Korean General smiled and said, "OK, we'll set up a match for tomorrow, right after lunch."

There must have been a lot at stake here, because everyone showed up for the fight the next day.  All the American and Korean officers were there.  I even noticed some higher ranking officers that I had not seen there before during the whole week.

The Americans did not want to look bad, but they already did.  None of their own rough and tough special ops soldiers had stepped up to the plate.  Now, the American officers were probably worried about this young Military Intelligence interpreter, an unknown commodity that was going to be the guy who represented the American side.  But, to their credit, no one approached me about backing down or being replaced.  They just showed up to see what would happen.

Rodney Hard kicking a tree outside barracks at Co A, 502nd MI Battalion in Seoul, Korea in early 1970.