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Why Tae Kyon Masters Seem To Live Forever

Updated on April 4, 2012

© 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.

Korean Traditional Martial Arts, wall painting of 1846.
Korean Traditional Martial Arts, wall painting of 1846. | Source

Tae Kyon Demonstration

Lifetime Health

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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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Yaazhini - I first began practice for a sprained back and was delighted in 9 months that my blood pressure went down and some other aches and pains completely disappeared, not to mention the increased flexibility.

      Many times, we think that the physical work we do as restaurant manager or construction worker is enough, but that exercise is limited in joint range of motion. I felt much better after 6 months of MA training, with straighter posture already. With many years of training, I was overjoyed to help a few people out of wheelchairs.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Excellent hub. You have presented the article in an inspiring way throwing light on the benefits of practicing martial arts. I am a yoga therapist and my husband is a doctor in acupuncture and a martial artist. He loves being called martial artist and we have experienced the benefits of practicing martial arts and breathing techniques. Once my husband had severe sciatic problem and he cured it only by practicing martial arts as he firmly believed and justly too that martial arts can offer cure. I really loved reading your hub on martial arts and hats off to your experience in the field.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      During the summer, Disney World sponsors a large martial arts tournament and my associates often attend. The Disney World webpage usually puts up advertising about the event in the late spring.

    • donnaisabella profile image

      Isabella Mukanda 

      7 years ago from Fort Myers

      Where do they come in Florida and when.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      donnaisabella - My original classes in TKD were taught by a master that had a Tae Kyon background as well, also jujutsu, so I had quite thorough training early on that helped by health tremendously. I have students and masters in Africa that often come to Florida for tournaments.

    • donnaisabella profile image

      Isabella Mukanda 

      7 years ago from Fort Myers

      Interesting hub, I have for sometime wanted to do one of the martial especially the one we have available here, Tae Kwon do. This hub just confirms why I should really go ahead and do it! I am sure this will be helpful to many and I hope seniors can get such opportunities wherever they may be based. Thanks.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      wordscribe34 - Yoga can work miracles for joints, even after surgery. I've used a few yoga positions with students and even taken an intro course in yoga, but the advanced class seemed to diverse form what I do, and I can live without the headstands.

      Probably the knee snapping kicks would not do you a lot of good at this point, but perhaps a Tai Chi class could combine with your yoga exercises. Watching Tai Chi is like hearing the ocean waves to me.

      tsmog - I wish you every success if you try this activity. It healed my sprained, spasm prone back when I was a restaurant manager. Cheers!

    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 

      7 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Thank you Patty. A co-worker has been prodding me in this direction a few years now. I ventured to watch her pre-teen (son) then at their meeting place (I don't remember the 'real' name used). Latter I went to the event to watch him for his black-belt testing. Yes, it is a thorn I will have to pull soon. Thanks for this inspirational article, which waters a planted seed.

    • wordscribe43 profile image

      Elsie Nelson 

      7 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

      Wow, how fascinating is this! I have hideous problems with osteoarthritis... it started at a pretty young age for me, sadly. I'm just fresh out of my 6th knee surgery, in fact. I've been happy how much yoga has helped me... it's no panacea by any means, however. I continually look for new ways to get better, so this intrigues me. I'm pretty sure I'd kill myself, though. Anyway, very interesting Patty. Might have to do some research here. Thanks for writing this highly informative hub... Laura

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Cardisa - An inspiring testimony you have!

      After my first day class on July 11, 1982 I never stopped practicing, even through grad school and working full time at the same time, through a serious ankle fracture/surgery, or because of anything else. It was my training and my belief that has allowed me to do all I have had to do.

      radhapriestess - Among my patients and clients, these foods did not contribute to their arthritis, which reduced greatly and even went away. In fact, my RA client changed to nearly vegetarian and ate all of them without a trace of her arthritis reappearing!

      Simone - It seems like magic, but is really a good system for longevity and a healthier old age time. The stereotype of an old master is based on some reality. And at tournaments, I am awed by men and women in their 70s also handling weapons as fast as young people.

      sandrabusby - Thanks! Most of what I write about goes together in some way.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      I had stopped training for a long time, while I pursued some other adventures and developed a lower back pain. No medication helped but I remember starting back training with the pain and within a couple of weeks it was gone. I only recently felt a tinge there but I haven't trained in a while either. I keep telling my spouse that the training is the best thing for my aches and pains, but he doesn't fully understand. There are so many other positive experiences I have gained through Martial Arts so I agree with everything you said in this very interesting and informative hub.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      There have been a number of studies which tie exercise and movement to longeity. Diet is very important. Another thing to look is night shade vegetables such as tomatoe, potatoe and eggplant. Arthritis has been connected with to food intolerances to these foods, also.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      This is so inspiring! I've never read about the martial arts as an anti-aging solution. But the discipline, physical awareness, and activity that comes with martial arts training really does work well for promoting health amongst ALL ages.

      The training done at the senior center in Chicago is so cool! I'd love to see more programs like this rolling out. How fantastic would that be???

    • sandrabusby profile image

      Sandra Busby 

      7 years ago from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

      You are just a wealth of information on so many subjects. I'm a fan of breathing exercises myself. Thanks for SHARING.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I am most happy that you have enjoyed and appreciated this Hub, femmeflashpoint and Curiad. Aikido and Tai Chi Sword techniques, along with many Wushu/Kung Fu exercises are magnificent; I love to go to demonstrations and see them.

      The awesome things that martial arts can do through exercise and breathing concentration are vital to me and are almost unparalleled; religion need not enter in. But if one has a faith, the physical discipline can make that faith stronger as well.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very interesting and well written article Patty. I studied Ninjutsu, Aikido, Kenjutsu. I found many of the things you talk of to be absolutely true. We worked on breath control, the study of anatomy, the control of energy, fire walks and a few other things as well and if incorporated into one's lifestyle, the changes and or accomplishments are amazing.

    • profile image


      7 years ago


      Loved this Hub!!!

      Sharing it too!



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