Founded over 40 years ago by internationally recognized Grand Master Chae Sun Yi, our academies have expanded across the U.S. – in Minnesota, Texas, North Carolina and California – where Grand Master Yi regularly travels to lead classes and attend promotional testings.
Grand Master Yi
From the start of his Tae Kwon Do education in South Korea in the late 1950s, Sun Yi eventually began teaching – eventually going on to become Captain of the National Republic of Korea (ROK) Army Tae Kwon Do team, which won the South Korea National President’s Cup during his tenure. During this time he also trained U.S. Army officers and instructors for service in Vietnam.
In 1973, Sun Yi traveled to the United States with the desire to expand the knowledge of Tae Kwon Do outside his native Korea. In 1973 and 1974 he taught at Iowa State University before opening one of the first Tae Kwon Do schools in Topeka, Kansas, in 1975. In that same year, Grand Master Yi began teaching at Kansas State University. His instructors continue to teach there to this day.
Grand Master Yi went on to serve as director of the 1988 AAU National Junior Olympics for Tae Kwon Do and has been director of the American Invitational National Tournament for the last 33 years. He is the Founder and Chief Instructor of Sun Yi's Academy and President of the Traditional Tae Kwon Do Association.
After teaching for 50 years, Grand Master Yi continues to educate, inspire, and practice.
Senior Master Randy Berger, 7th Dan
Senior Master Randy Berger received his 1st degree Black Belt in 1981.
After receiving his 1st degree Black Belt in 1981, Master Berger moved to North Carolina to help Master Follick start the state’s first Sun Yi’s Academy. With help from Dr. E. Knowles as NCSU faculty adviser, Master Berger taught the Tae Kwon Do Club at NCSU from 1987 to 1994 before turning it over to his Assistant Instructors. In 1995, heopened the first traditional Tae Kwon Do school in Wake Forest, where he still teaches when not instructing in Raleigh.
As a Black Belt competitor Master Berger has won many gold, silver and bronze medals. He was the director for the NC AAU Championships. He was the Assistant Director of the North Carolina State Games from 1989 to 1991.
In December 2017, Grand Master Yi promoted him to the rank of 8th Dan, Jr. Grand Master.
Throughout his instructing career, his proudest accomplishment has been to watch the growth of his students as they learn and develop into martial artists and Tae Kwon Do Masters.
North Carolina Instructors
At Sun Yi’s Academy, we do not hire instructors from other schools to teach for us. All of our instructors started as beginners at Sun Yi’s Academy and have worked hard to obtain their black belt degrees leading to the Master level. They are nationally certified Instructors under the Traditional Tae Kwon Do Association and have a minimum of 8 years of experience. We have the highest-ranking instructors of any schools in the United States. They are committed to maintaining the teaching standards of our system. As a new student you will benefit from their dedication and experience as they pass on the tradition to you.
If you would like to become part of this history, please contact us today.
Master Christopher Shireman, 6th Dan
Master Shireman started studying Tae Kwon Do in 1980 as one of Grand Master Yi’s earliest students, along with Randy Berger. He received his 1st Dan in 1982 at the National Headquarters in Topeka, Kansas, where he subsequently taught for 20 years.
In 2011, Master Shireman relocated to North Carolina to pursue executive-level career opportunities in the field of healthcare/administration. Shortly thereafter in October 2012 he was awarded his 6th Dan and now regularly teaches classes in Raleigh. His daughter Kristen, a college student, is a 2nd degree black belt.
Master Mounib Aoun, 5th Dan
A native of Lebanon, Master Aoun is the epitome of a self-made businessperson. – exuding a great outlook for the future combined with winning attitude, all of which, he says, are derived from Tae Kwon Do spirit. As a young man, he came to the U.S. in early 1985 with almost no money, not a word of English, but with a heart full of dreams to achieve and succeed. While a student at NCSU in 1988 he joined the Tae Kwon Do Intramural Club with a desire to learn self-defense and has never looked back.
Master Aoun says that Tae Kwon Do – the tenets of perseverance and indomitable spirit – brought him through a life-threatening health crisis, and subsequently endowed him with great health and success. Asserting that “my whole life, survival, and all my accomplishments” result from his practice, Master Aoun tested for his current rank in October 2014. His three children are all Sun Yi’s black belts as well. When not traveling on business, he teaches part-time at the Raleigh branch.
Junior Master Ryan Lockett, 5th Dan
Like many others, Ryan Lockett started Tae Kwon Do at NCSU in 1991. He had always been interested in martial arts and had friends who had practiced, but the Club at NCSU was “the first school I found with excellent instructors that was affordable”. He says that “only later, once I understood what it meant to be in a traditional school, did I realize what a great opportunity I had.” He practiced with Master Berger while teaching at NCSU for about six years, and eventually tested for his current rank about 10 years ago. He then took a break to start a family and build his practice as an Architect and partner in his firm. Now recently returned to regular practice, Mr. Lockett fills in where needed at the Raleigh school.
Mr. Lockett’s son, a middle-schooler, is following in his father’s path. “Having my son in class with me now is a source of pride for me,” he says.
Junior Master Will Leaming, 5th Dan
After having taken Judo and Karate previously, Will Leaming knew Sun Yi's TKD was “something different” when he stepped onto the mat at the Tae Kwon Do Club at NCSU in 1988. After becoming an Instructor, a career move led him to Florida, where he started a Sun Yi’s school – something he considers one of his proudest accomplishments. “It was very difficult, but very rewarding. The impact on the students was obvious as I saw them grow and mature.” More career changes brought him back to North Carolina where, after testing for his current rank in September 2013, he helps teach at the Raleigh branch.
A veteran of the Banking industry for over 20 years, Mr. Leaming has held many different roles including CEO of a savings bank in Florida. He is a self-described “avid car nut” and enjoys autocross racing with his two sons.
Junior Master Carlos Feaster, 4th Dan
“TKD came in a crossroads in my life.” While playing football with NCSU as a walk-on, Mr. Feaster realized he “had to make one of those mature decisions and think of my future.” As a Junior majoring in Computer Engineering, his grades were suffering. So he decided to quit football – which left him “aching for something physical to do” that next semester. One day in May 1992 he spotted some black belts working out in the fencing room at school. After talking to Master Follick and Ryan Lockett, he joined the next class session and has never second-guessed his decision. He received his 1st Dan in March 1994, and was promoted to his current rank in October 2012.
Currently a high-school Coach and Realtor – both jobs a pleasant switch after being in the corporate world for 15 years as a Network Engineer – his interests are taking care of his family and raising his young son, who has inspired new challenges.
Junior Master Kevin Ray, 4th Dan
When Master Berger opened the doors to his school in Wake Forest in January 1996, Kevin Ray was the first to walk through them. Eventually he went on to lead that school when Master Berger transitioned to the Raleigh school. Mr. Ray – an “occasional gym rat and father of four” – earned his current rank in October 2012.
The specific Tae Kwon Do accomplishment he’s particularly proud of is having become an Instructor. “I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to teach and share it with others,” citing as particularly rewarding “that moment when a student matures and begins to understand all the intangible benefits the art brings” that is “far more than punching and kicking”. After leading the Wake Forest branch for nine years, Mr. Ray stepped aside to focus on increased work responsibilities as a Software Development Manager, but will be teaching as an Assistant whenever needed.
Junior Master Dawn Felton, 4th Dan
Dawn Felton is the highest-ranking woman in the North Carolina Sun Yi’s system. She reached her current rank in October 2014, but, she says, “it wasn’t easy”.
Health issues in the mid-1980s led her doctor to tell her she “had no choice but to start an exercise program” – so in 1987 she chose Tae Kwon Do because her son was already practicing. “I really fell in love with it – and I love doing it now more than ever.”
Though she earned a Master’s degree in Engineering, she says she is personally more proud of achieving her black belt. “It was much harder” than her academic and professional achievements in Information Technology (specializing in databases and business intelligence). “I’m not naturally athletic and it took a LOT of dedication and hard work.”
Ms. Felton’s current teaching responsibilities are to help out in the Wake Forest class and substitute teach when needed.
Junior Master Max Matthews, 4th Dan
At age 48, after years of inactivity during his children’s early years, Mr. Matthews sought something new through which to again get and stay fit. “I couldn’t run any more; swimming laps was boring to me. Aerobics even more.” So he checked out a notice for a Sun Yi’s class then offered through the City of Raleigh’s rec program. “I found the physical and mental benefits to be enormous – plus I found a second family.”
A technical writer and editor, Mr. Matthews looks forward to each class after hours of sitting at the keyboard. His proudest achievement – next to being promoted for his current rank in October 2014, just a few months before his 60th birthday – was practicing the art with his daughter (1st Dan) and his son (Blue Belt).
His current teaching responsibilities are assisting and substitute teaching for Master Berger and Master Shireman in the Raleigh class, when needed.
Steven Urena, 3rd Dan
After turning 43 and no longer able to play soccer because of knee problems, a friend suggested that Mr. Urena come try a Sun Yi’s class at the YMCA. “I was always interested in martial arts,” he says. “That was about 10 years ago and I have been working out ever since.”
Mr. Urena considers his most memorable achievement breaking boards with a turning-jump-spin-sidekick during testing. He enjoys working with all belt ranks and age groups in class to show proper technique and help self-improvement. In helping as an Instructor, Awarded his current rank in October 2014, Mr. Urena demonstrates that “a black belt must teach by example every day in class for the lower ranks to see what it is like to be a good student.” A registered Architect, Mr. Urena likes to cook and travel with his family in his spare time.