If you saw Ms Lynn Soh move, you might find it hard to believe that she’s in her late 70s. She moves with the fluidity and confidence of someone half her age. But this wouldn’t be a surprise when you find out that she has a blackbelt in taekwondo — a martial art that requires physical strength and agility.
What’s more surprising is, she wasn’t always this active. Her journey to becoming a fit and active senior began four years ago, when she chanced upon a taekwondo exhibition at ILDO Taekwondo in Bukit Timah Shopping Centre, while shopping with her husband.
“I was drawn to the sport from the start because they were doing warm-up exercises that I thought I could do. They were exactly the kind of exercises that my physiotherapist asked me to do,” she says.
When she was in her late 60s, Ms Soh’s health deteriorated. She started having difficulties moving her legs.
“I woke up one morning and I just couldn’t get up.”
She eventually saw an orthopedic specialist who helped her gain back some mobility. “I could walk eventually, but I couldn’t squat or climb stairs.” To improve her condition, she also saw a physiotherapist once a week to help strengthen her legs.
Benefits Of Taekwondo
It’s one thing to be inspired by a taekwondo warmup session, but it’s quite another to actually push yourself to try the sport. However, Ms Soh was determined.
“I’m very brave. I wanted to try it. I couldn’t let my condition take over my life,” she says.
“Luckily, they accepted me.”
Although she is the oldest in her taekwondo dojang (training hall), Ms Soh fit right in, finding common ground with fellow classmates. “I think I also surprised myself,” she says, laughing about her courage not only to enroll, but also to make friends. “I imagined I’m only 40 years old and approached them with a smile. I have fun with them. They also accepted me and told me that they love my courage.”
Ms Soh is also a diligent student. She took the initiative to research about the sport online, and made sure she attended every lesson. “If you want to be good, you have to not miss a class,” she says. Four months into training, and her persistence paid off — “ I could do squats,” she proudly says.
She later leveled up and now she can not only do squats, but also high kicks and splits. She has regained mobility, is much more limber, and the body pains she used to have are gone.
“Back then, every morning before I got up, I would be in pain. I had sciatica and vertigo. But after six months, they were gone. I don’t even take any medication now.”
What Taekwondo Can Teach Seniors
There’s no doubt that the sport has changed Ms Soh’s life for the better. But what were the lessons that taekwondo taught her about her body, the ageing process, and pushing herself? She lists several things.
Be open to new things. “ I think it’s good to find your own destiny with your new interests,” she says. Taekwondo also taught Ms Soh to be confident in reaching out to people. “I was so shy. But I told myself, ‘No, if you’re shy, you close up on yourself. You must go up and introduce yourself.'”
Have fun, while improving yourself. “You know, I am a fun-loving person. I like to make people happy. When they’re happy, I am happy. I also love the outdoors. I like cycling on my foldable bike, and swimming. There’s a path near my house with 73 steps. Before I did taekwondo, I could not go up, but now, I can run up easily.”
Be hardworking and ask a lot of questions. “I practise at home every day to get ready for class,” she says. Ms Soh also asks a lot of questions. “If you don’t ask, then you’ll never know. And if you don’t try, then how will you know you can’t do it?”
Be confident in what you can do. Ms Soh’s daughter was against her taking up taekwondo. Initially, she would sneak off for classes, knowing that she could cope, despite what her daughter thought. “She was afraid I’d fall. But when I got my first double promotion, she was surprised that I had been going to classes. She eased up after that, knowing that the masters were looking after me.”
Set an example. “I now have the strength to tell all the elderly people to go out and be more active.” As for Ms Soh, she plans to pursue the fourth dan (rank) in taekwondo. “I want to see how far I can go. As long as my body listens to me, then I would love to continue.”