Standing with confidence and full of knowledge, Phillip Obregon dons his traditional white gi and sixth degree black belt, leading his Taekwon-Do class through the common stretches preparing their muscles for the rigorous hour and a half of training that follows. This is a daily routine for Obregon, and he takes it seriously, just like he expects his students to. He also teaches a PEAC at Springfield College.
Obregon has trained in Taekwon-Do for 40 years, earning his sixth degree black belt and living a lifestyle that is persuaded by the tenets of Taekwon-Do: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit. Obregon believes in the “way of life” of Taekwon-Do and has spent most of his life keeping true to them. He tries to pass this way of living down to his students, whom he cares for as his own.
Born in Callao, Peru in 1951, Obregon came over to the States at the age of six. He and his family moved to Enfield, Conn. Not knowing a word of English, Obregon struggled in a country that at the time had no bilingual education.
“You jump in the water and start swimming,” described Obregon.
From a young age, soccer had always been very prevalent in Obregon’s life. He played soccer from the time that he could walk, and had always been the athletic type, practicing Kyokushinkai karate as well as indoor and outdoor track.
When it came time for college, Obregon attended Eastern Connecticut State University on a scholarship where he played Division III varsity soccer. It was also at Eastern where Obregon discovered the art of Taekwon-Do.
“They had a martial arts club and you could take it for credit,” said Obregon. “I gravitated to it because I was a soccer player.”
As Obregon continued his learning in Taekwon-Do, he graduated from Eastern in 1974 with his bachelor’s degree with a double major in Applied Social Relations/Community Affairs and Psychology as well. He also earned his Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management from American International College in 1978.
With those degrees, Obregon went to work for the state of Connecticut Department of Children and Families, where he has held several different positions, including working with emotionally disturbed children and human resource manager in charge of recruitment.
Between Taekwon-Do, his full-time job, and even a run at semi-professional soccer, Obregon was enjoying everything that he had earned, but at the age of 29 he experienced something that put him and his younger brother Francisco in immediate danger.
On their way home Obregon and his brother were almost hit by two teenagers who were speeding behind them. Out of anger, Obregon rolled down his window as they passed by, but unfortunately that was enough for the teenagers as they came to a screeching halt and ran out of the car.
“The kid comes out of the car, my brother was with me, and he gets out of the car and they start going at each other. Before I knew it I was in the middle of something I didn’t want to be in,” recalls Obregon. “There were four of them and only me and my brother….unfortunately we put a couple in the hospital.”
Although Obregon and his brother were attacked, they were sued for injuring two of the four teenagers. Luckily an elderly couple witnessed the whole incident and the charges were dropped. Obregon never forgets this experience and never wants to be in a situation like that again.
“I look at the scar (on his hand) and it reminds me every day that is not what I want to do. I was just trying to protect myself,” Obregon said. “It really shook me, and I came in touch with how deadly my art is when it is applied in a survival mode where I could actually hurt somebody really bad or even kill them maybe, and that just humbled me to no end.”
Obregon took that experience as a life lesson and learned from it. Now, he is 62-years-old, although he doesn’t look a year over 50, and is now retired and happily married to his wife Gale, with whom he has a son and daughter.
In addition to teaching a course at SC, he teaches at the Taekwon-Do school that he opened in his town of Enfield, Conn., where he teaches children and adults of all ages. He also offers a 10-week course to women who have suffered from domestic abuse.
“It is amazing, the transformation that they go through,” said Obregon. “There have been times where it has brought tears to my eyes. I feel for them.”
With years of wisdom and accomplishments behind him, Phillip Obregon plans on continuing down the path he is on, and passing down wisdom to his students. Obregon has lived a life he is proud of and continues to learn new things every day from Taekwon-Do and the students he teaches.
When asked if he plans on practicing Taekwon-Do in the later stages of his life, Obregon smiled and simply replied, “I’ll do this until I can’t do this anymore.”
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