Why Tae Kyon Masters Seem To Live Forever
© Grandmaster Patty Inglish, MS; 9th Dan in Ji Do Kwan™ TKD, Jujutsu, Yudo, Hapkido, Combat Self Defense. USA Representative to the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa Zone-3.
Don't miss the American and the Nigerian Tae Kwon Do, Judo, and Boxing Teams in the 2012 London Summer Olympics and Paralympics, with 204 participating nations 27 July-12 Aug 2012 ! Torch Relay throughout the UK begins May 19.
Pine Board or Long Healthy Life - Which is Better?
Late night talk show hosts when through a spate of featuring martial arts students that were Senior Citizens. From time to time, we still seem one or two featured on a late talk show and the the producers of the show focus on how they can break a single pine board. They interest others of all ages in starting martial arts training, but that single board break or a successful sparring match is the least of the accomplishments that martial arts training can provide for a practitioner.
Masters and grandmasters trained in Tae Kwon Do and Tae Kyon went into the Chicago area nursing and retirement homes in the mid-1980s in order to work with arthritis patients. They did not start with flying sidekicks.
Becoming a master or grandmaster in many of the arts means having a knowledge of anatomy and the aging process and what to do to combat the ravages of aging. Perhaps you thought martial arts was all magic and fighting.
The instructors in Chicago began the exercises for Seniors with finger exercises known to many people in Korea: Tough the thumb to the forefinger, to the middle finger, to the ring finger, to the little finger, then to each finger/thumb on the other hand. Now begin again with the forefinger and touch it, one at a time, to the other nine fingers. Move on to the middle finger and continue until each thumb and finger has touched every other one that you possess. This is a good exercise to begin limbering up and loosening stiff joints, but some masters tell us that the exercise helps to control weight as well.
Sun Duk Ki
Grandmaster Sun Duk Ki began studying Tae Kyon (tae kyun, taek'kyun, taekkyon), originating in 57 BC or earlier, in about 1906 at or before age 13. After the WWII Japanese occupation forces in South Korea ordered him to stop, he went to the mountains and continued his practice (Reference: CY Institute; community culture classes).
This grandmaster lived to 94 or 96 years of age and continued to rise at 4:30 AM to practice and teach. This art heavily influenced the style of Taekwondo I originally studied. Tae Kyon became in 1983 the No. 76 Major Intangible Cultural Asset. Its head grandmaster is always named a National Living Treasure (Reference: Ki Do Hae, South Korean Federal Government, 1963 - present).
Grandmaster Kae Byung Yun of Jidokwan style immigrated to California and owned a chain of health food stores. In this old age, late 80s - 90s, he returned to the mountains of Korea to complete his life on Earth, still practicing.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Gone
Even Rheumatoid Arthritis, believed incurable, can be relieved in some patients with lifestyle changes that include exercise and nutrition. One student of mine was diagnosed with RA in her late 20s before she began martial arts training, having been told she would be wheelchair bound soon and dead in two years. She was determined not to be and this is important is fighting chronic and lethal illnesses and conditions.
This woman was successful in staying flexible and increasing flexibility and began combating calcium deposits her physicians had found in x-rays of the hip joints. She added additional exercise programs such as volley ball several times a week. Diet was another option and she began to add supplements and to eliminate some foods. For her, the addition of borage as a supplement and the complete elimination of beef from her diet seemed to lead to the disappearance of every last calcium deposit, confirmed by her doctors. Her RA was in complete remission and has been for over 15 years.
How did the Chicago masters continue their treatment of Senior Citizens?
Tae Kyon Drills
Sun Duk Ki/Song Duk KI
Seniors with Arthritis Gain Relief
After the masters led Seniors through finger exercises for a number of days while sitting in chairs, they began simple sitting leg exercises for these elderly individuals.
Sitting leg exercises included simple leg raises as far as was comfortable and over the course of several days, the legs came up higher. Ankle rotations helped as well, first rather limited and later, easier to do. Wrist rotations were added to the daily regime, then elbow flexing, then shoulder rolls. Finally neck rolls were also added to the arms-and-legs routine. At the end of a few weeks, the Seniors were sitting up straighter and feeling more flexible. It helped that the masters were kind and also made the Seniors laugh!
I do not know if toe wiggling was added to the exercises, but I know that orthopedists instruct patients to wiggle each toe, all toes together, and then to write each letter of our alphabet with each big toe. That helps, too!
I know that these exercises work, because they are the same as those I used in order to learn to walk again after a compound fracture/swelling/surgery of one ankle. Also important is the proper intake of water or similar fluids, more important as we age.
Living National Treasure #76: Tae Kyon Master Jeong Kyeong Hwa
I Can Stand Up?
Back to Chicago --
After the Seniors became flexible in their extremities, they needed to stand up to continue low-impact exercises and some martial arts drills. The martial arts masters that were working with Seniors gradually got them up from their chairs and some were able to walk much better than in previous years. They began with just a step or two and over the course of days, could walk the length of a hallway. Then they could begin to lean kicking, gradually. Some of the patients still had stiff backs and these could be relieved somewhat, but all were happy to have more movement in their lives. The program required much patience on the part of instructors and patients as well.
The media learned of this program and eventually we saw elders on late night talk shows, breaking boards. However, as one older woman put it, she was glad to have rid herself of the "Institutional Shuffle" and gained the ability to walk again.
These Seniors learned self defense as well. Those still chair bound could use a crutch to slice through a board - it would knock out an attacker.
Politics and Pride
Unfortunately, we still hear bad feelings expressed that the older US National Karate Team never was able to compete in the Olympics, but the newer National Taekwondo Team in America was given that opportunity in the 1980s.The International Taekwondo Federation itself spit into splinter groups a few decades ago, While the World Taekwondo Federation is more connected to the Olympics.
At the same time, even perhaps the oldest martial arts style, Tae Kyon, has seen the advent of splinter groups and new associations across the globe. It is now difficult to distinguish the leader, though. Grandmaster Lee Yong-bok is a researcher and the practitioner most often quoted online. Many martial arts are fraught with ownership and dissension issues, which I feel unnecessary.The most effective instructors so not engage in the fray.
The Korean Ki Do Hae, however, is still the national government governing body of martial arts in Korea and Jidokwan, the style I first learned, has never been certified by that body. However, it has done some of the most good in helping maintain health and productivity into old age.
Instructors used to fight over whose Jidokwan group was best and whose JDK organization was most authentic. Today, since a resurgence in Tae Kyon has occurred, these folks have switched their fight to Tae Kyon authenticity and turf. Many grandmasters "invent" their own style and break away even further. I doubt that they can outshine the accomplishments of Tae Kyon and its descendant arts or of many Japanese and Chinese martial arts.
The health benefits and longevity offered by the practice of the martial arts is much more important than turf battles and potential exploitation for revenue. These arts have helped many people live a healthy life until the oldest cohort of old age. I think that they always will do so.
Tae Kyon Demonstration
July 11, 2012 marks my 30th Anniversary in the martial arts.
This activity healed a locked-up sprained back early on and taught me to walk again after an injury later. Some styles are used in America to aid in the treatment of ADD/ADHD and can help some students with control of related symptoms. It certainly helps Seniors and others with muscle-joint or balance problems, because the first 30 minutes of traditional classes are often all stretching and joint-flexibility work. Following this, flexibility and balance increase as movements are learned and perfected. Many benefits can be extracted from martial arts.
What else can martial arts achieve in the battle against the Diseases of Old Age? They work differently for different people, but hypertension can be controlled with the exercise and deep breathing drills and signs of stress can be reduced. Blood sugar levels can be at least somewhat stabilized with exercise in some patients, but the deep breathing drills are important to this as well. Many people in martial arts have health stories to tell.
One young man in Michigan began martial arts training to help with his crippling developmental disability. After half a dozen years of training, his balance, gait, and flexibility were such that he appeared to be a healthy high school student and his grades were good as well. His class was Tae Kwon Do with an Isshinryu influence. By the way, he is a 1st Dan Black Belt at this writing and passed the same test that every adult takes.
Martial arts in the hands of an effective instructor with enough experience can bring good health to many people for many years. Friends younger and older than myself who do not practice martial arts or exercise in any way already find themselves using walkers, even in their 40s from knee replacements. The ravages of old age can be avoided and a longer, healthier life found through exercise, be it martial arts. swimming, or other effective method.
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