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Incheon Taekwondo “Grandmas” Unleash Powerful Punches and Kicks

Incheon Taekwondo “Grandmas” Unleash Powerful Punches and Kicks

Posted April. 27, 2007 07:30,   


On Thursday morning, the sounds of elderly women wearing Taekwondo uniforms and chanting rang out in a community gymnasium in Bupyeong, Incheon.

Breaking boards with their bare hands and feet, as well as smashing piles of five roof tiles are a piece of cake for these powerful grannies. Their punches are precise and their kicks are graceful and fierce.

The elderly women are members of the one and only Korean elderly Taekwondo demonstrator’s group, called the Incheon Grandma Taekwondo demonstrators. Compared to a vast majority of elderly who fail in their attempts to seek jobs after retirement, these grandmothers are enjoying themselves.

The group consists of people as ‘young’ as 63 to the oldest, who is 78. However, age is not a problem when it comes to Taekwondo. Among the group’s 25 members, an amazing 20 have acquired nine or ten black belt ranks, which are the top two ranks in Taekwondo. The incredible performance is attributed to two-hour daily practices every day except on Sundays.

The group was formed in 1989 when the group’s Taekwondo master Yoon Yeo-ho, a 64-year-old who used be a trainer at a learning institution for the elderly, suggested Taekwondo as a more active exercise than traditional dance or aerobics. Yoon says, “Taekwondo is just the right kind of exercise for both mind and body. At first, participants were worried about their joints. But after learning Taekwondo, they became more healthy and lively.”

The grandmas each have a different story on how they became a huge fan of Taekwondo. As for the group leader Ji Bok-yeon, she joined the club nine years ago when a doctor told her she had stage III rectal cancer. The 72-year-old, who earned black belt rank, told Dong-A, “The doctor recommended regular exercise to help me fight cancer. I took antibiotics and I never stopped Taekwondo. The chanting gives me strength in my stomach. Now, I no longer go to the hospital. Taekwondo has been the cure.”

Baek Seong-suk, aged 72, is the most active among the group. Just seven years ago, however, she was always in pain with all sorts of sicknesses, including a degenerative cervical disc and knee pain that hindered her walking. She said with a big smile, “After learning Taekwondo, I feel like a new person. I think I can now win over young people in a Taekwondo match.”

In the case of another 72-year-old, Park Yeong-ja, who has eight-years’ experience with the sport, said, “My weight went down from 80kg to 67kg and I got rid of my chronic diabetes! Even my grandchildren admire my transformation.”

Cho Geum-joon, the oldest member of the group, found new meaning in her life through Taekwondo. “In the past, I used to lie in my bed all day with nothing to do. But now with Taekwondo in my life, it feels good to have something to do and somewhere to go. Sometimes I even put on makeup for the occasion.”

The group is also passionate about promoting Taekwondo outside Korea. It went on a demonstration tour in countries such as Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines. In August, the group will hold its next tour in Qingdao, China. “Age is nothing but a number,” said the demonstrators, and their happy faces proved that it was indeed true.