Thursday, November 13, 2014

Staying Young With Taekwondo

I recently had the honor of competing in the World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships as a member of the U.S. National Team.  Since I'm 68, I competed in what's known as the Master 4 Division, for athletes 66 and older.  And although I was fortunate enough to come home with a bronze medal, I marveled at the abilities of athletes my age and older whose talents were very much off the chart.  I'm talking about performances that would make your average 25-year-old jealous.
   A case in point in Grandmaster Lee Moon Ho of France, who took the silver medal in the Master 4 Division, finishing just one one-hundredth of a point out of first place.  A 9th-degree black belt, Grandmaster Lee has been a dominant force in Taekwondo for most of his life.  Early in his career he won 12 national titles in his native Korea; he served as coach of the Korean National Team at the 1st World Championships in 1973; and he was coach of the French National Team at the Seoul Olympics in 1988.
   Grandmaster Lee's Taekwondo resume is long and impressive, but what's most important to readers of this blog is that he remains an active and world-class competitor.  At a time when most people his age have retired to the couch and a TV remote, he maintains a level of fitness that goes hand in hand with the Taekwondo Life.  As evidence, I offer this snapshot taken outside the competition hall at the recent World Championships held in Aguascalientes, Mexico.  Grandmaster Lee was just loosening up a bit . . . with jaw-dropping sidekicks that you might expect only of athletes 40 or 50 years his junior.
   Grandmaster Lee Moon Ho practices his sidekick during an outdoor session at the recent World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

   Now ask yourself what accounts for Grandmaster Lee's exceptional capabilities.  Is it luck?  Is it wishful thinking?  Is it a side benefit of getting older?  No, no, and no.  The secret to this athlete's success is no secret: hard work that never stops.  Taekwondo consistently challenges the mind and the body, and if you are faithful to the art, you discover that Taekwondo quite simply helps keep you young.  Yes, exercise in general will help keep you feeling better; but the powerful mind/body connection that Taekwondo emphasizes can have a remarkable influence on senior health.
   By the way, Grandmaster Lee wasn't the only star performer at the recent World Championships.  Numerous athletes aged 50 and older turned in world-class performances.  Some athletes won medals; most did not.  But everyone in attendance was a champion in terms of dedication to Taekwondo, and every senior athlete at the World Championships could serve as an inspiration to you whether you're just beginning to study Taekwondo or are wondering how long you can continue training.
   You should consider hanging Grandmaster Lee's photo where you train.  Let it serve as a reminder that when the mind and body work together, as they do in Taekwondo, you can be far younger than your years.
   You're not too old to begin studying Taekwondo, and it's not too late to "unretire."  Put the power of Taekwondo on your side.
   Good luck, and good training.