Updated: Nov 17
Q&A with “The man you may never see on the Cover of Black Belt Magazine”
George Chung far right
Chung is no stranger to martial arts. He is a Tae Kwon Do Master, a former five-time World Karate Champion, and two-time Black Belt Hall of Fame inductee. As an instructor, he owned and operated a martial arts school chain and taught over 20,000 students. He spent 14 years as a coaching specialist for the San Francisco 49ers, earning a Super Bowl ring for the 1994 season.
From teaching to a successful media career, he promoted the first ever professional televised boxing match in the People's Republic of China and went on to produce the first MMA league in India with the Super Fight League.
Throughout his career, Chung has pioneered multicultural sports and entertainment on a global level. Today wears the hat of CEO of JungoTV, the online streaming network seen around the world and serves as publisher for Black Belt Magazine.
We sat down with George to get his thoughts and vision for Black Belt Magazine
What was your motivation to acquire Black Belt Magazine?
As a lifelong martial artist, Black Belt Magazine has been an integral part of my life and a treasured part of the martial arts community. Growing up I never dreamed of owning or running the magazine, only to contribute to the martial arts as a teacher, coach, and performer.
The recent turn of events that led to the purchase was the opportunity presented to us by Century Martial Arts, the former owner. My company has had a long and successful relationship managing much of their digital content over the past few years, so it was a natural transition for us to take on the responsibilities of the entire magazine and its digital future.
What can we expect under new leadership?
As a digital media company, we will lean into our expertise of global digital distribution, this means content will reach our viewers faster and wider. From an editorial perspective it's our vision to diversify the coverage of the magazine and bring back the original mission of being the number one authority on self-defense.
What this means is an emphasis on traditional arts, tactical, and combative training along with features of the top martial arts champions, masters and influencers who are disrupting and growing the martial arts industry.
We also want to introduce new talent from around the world and expose them to the martial arts community. Black Belt Magazine will be for everyone who loves martial arts and appreciates the modern training to the legacy of its past.
Our future may be digital but we definitely will continue to distribute across all mediums including television, web, streaming, social, and soon print-on-demand.
As a martial artist what insights will you bring in the editorial look and coverage?
Although I've spent my lifetime in martial arts, I consider myself a student of the arts and always am curious and fascinated to learn and explore all aspects of martial arts. This perspective and point of view allows me to have a very open mind and heart when it comes to different martial arts and different martial artists. There is no agenda that affects the editorial direction of the magazine. With so many styles and so many amazing martial artists the coverage and editorial is literally endless and that's what is so exciting.
"I consider myself a student of the arts and always am curious and fascinated to learn and explore all aspects of martial arts"
You mentioned print on demand does that mean the magazine will no longer be a quarterly printed issue?
It's no secret that there's been a steady decline of readership for printed magazines around the world, not just Black Belt but all magazines. With the adoption of digital content availability and voracious consumption via streaming and social platforms, Black Belt is no different with its evolution as a digital property.
That being said, we will be offering print on demand issues of past issues. For new printed magazines and will focus on the print issues as collector style editions with every magazine being a masterpiece, thoughtful, meaningful and filled with original insights as our readers deserve.
You have been in the martial arts a long time, reflect on your experience, what do you see as the most positive changes now and forward.
I'm going on nearly 50 years being in the martial arts, and I feel very grateful that my journey has availed the opportunity to meet some of the greatest martial artists of our lifetime.
This is the one time that name dropping makes me so proud. I am so fortunate to have personally met the greatest legends that have passed like Ed Parker, Leo Fong, Remy Presas, Jhoon Rhee, Fumio Demura and living legends like Chuck Norris, Bill Wallace, Benny the Jet Urquidez and contemporary stars like Michael Jai White. Training with the greatest masters like Ernie Reyes, Remy Presas, Anthony Chan, and Hee Il Cho. And competing side by side and in the peer group with some of the greatest champions of our lifetime, like John Chung, Cynthia Rothrock, Keith Vitali, Linda Denley, and Steve “Nasty” Anderson and many more. This gives me an interesting perspective.
The new generation of talent has brought martial arts to a level that it is now enjoyed, appreciated and respected on a worldwide level especially through films and television.
From tournament Karate with the amazing advancements of CMX to Tricking, all the way up to professional MMA, the interest in fighting is at a level we never imagined!
Today we are so proud to feature new talent to spark a new generation of masters.
Do you see the martial arts industry growing from a practitioner level?
Coming from a background where I once ran martial arts schools, I can also appreciate the explosive growth and mainstream appeal of martial arts schools across so many arts including a renaissance of traditional training as well as tactical training for pure self-defense purposes. There has never been a better time to learn martial arts.
As a reader what's your favorite Black Belt Magazine issue(s)
I actually have a few and they go from generations. Of course the original 1967 Bruce Lee cover–we call the “green cover with Kato and Bruce” before he was 'Bruce Lee' as we know him.
Then in 1968, Thomas La Puppet was the first black man to be featured on the cover at a time of the Civil Rights movements in the United States. I love the 1974 movie poster yearbook and the 1976 Chong Lee Dynamic Kicks still one of my all-time favorites. Others that stand out are Remy Presas yellow cover in 81; 93 yearbook with Seagal, Norris, VanDame, and Bruce Lee; Jim Kelly 2014 black and white cover.
Most recently, the 2019 Carlos Machado and 2021 Cris Cyborg (purple cover) are highlights for me. Every magazine edition is special. Every issue is a masterpiece. I consider Black Belt both art and history.
Growing up was being on the cover of Black Belt Magazine a dream?
So here is where the story gets really interesting: I have actually never been on the cover of Black Belt Magazine. I have been on Karate Illustrated and Fighting Stars sister publications, but never Black Belt.
Now as the publisher could put myself on the cover, yes but it's an honor to have this position and I will not take advantage of it.
The tenets of martial arts are simple and yet pure respect, honor and discipline. This is the code of Black Belt Magazine and I am proud to lead an amazing team to pave a new era!