By Keith Stillwell, 1DB
Senior Master Abair presents Bronze and Silver Awards to Presidential Champion Grand Master In Ho Lee at Songahm International Headquarters, September 2011.
Grand Master is taking the challenge – personally and literally. He is a passionate advocate for daily exercise and balanced nutrition. Now he's inviting everyone to learn why Martial Arts training is one of America's most fun and most effective ways to get and stay healthy and fit.
As a young boy practicing martial arts in late 1960's South Korea, Grand Master In Ho Lee never dreamed he would one day guide the world's largest centrally-organized martial arts system of Songahm Taekwondo as its third leader. In those hungry times, he would not have believed that he would someday live in a land where one in five grown-ups, many children and even pets could be obese. Inaugurated in June 2011, Grand Master In Ho Lee, 9DB, Dae Sah Boo Nim of WTTU/ATA/STF, earned his esteemed rank and honorable distinction following a path of rigorous challenge and sacrifice, a tradition established by late martial arts pioneer Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee, 10DB, the system's founder. That struggle stands in stark contrast to America's unbridled "convenience culture" which promotes bad habits like disrespectful attitudes, sleep deprivation, short attention spans, high fat diets and poor nutrition. The dangerous, costly consequences of obesity, such as shorter life spans and lower quality of life, are becoming the grim reality for increasing numbers in every state.
"This is simply not acceptable," says Grand Master Lee. "Thirty-five percent of pets? You're kidding me."
At 57, Grand Master Lee is an ideal spokesman for life-renewing change through a healthier lifestyle. Years ago he was surprised to learn he had diabetes, but today the condition does not trouble him. He credits balanced nutrition and daily exercise that includes stretching and vigorous Taekwondo and Warrior X-fit workouts. Like his predecessor, Grand Master Emeritus Soon Ho Lee, 9DB, Grand Master In Ho Lee stays in the 99th percentile of physical condition for men his age and much younger. In August when Senior Master Rick Abair, 7DB, ATA's International Director of Leadership Development, described the President's Challenge in detail, Grand Master's face lit up with enthusiasm at the possibilities. The program encourages children, teens and adults of all fitness levels to set goals, get active and earn awards for their healthy habits.
"I tell people, you've got to change yourself first. Be the example," he says. "If you're going to talk the talk you better walk the walk. You know what you have to do – just do it!"
There and then Grand Master Lee determined that he would urge everyone in the American Taekwondo Association and martial artists of other disciplines to take the President's Challenge with him. He determined to win each level of the program and join the elite list of Platinum Award Winners on the President's Challenge website. He balked at the #8 position of "martial arts" in the President's Challenge "Top 10" Activities (Jan. 2011 PCFSN 'Fitness Is Fun' Newsletter), and pledged to improve its showing in due time; the goal, naturally: #1 most popular activity. Grand Master has chosen to wield his power making a stand against the declining state of the nation's physical fitness, by inviting everyone to learn why martial arts is one of America's most fun and most effective ways to get and stay healthy and fit.
With support of the Founder's Council, Grand Master Lee instructed a reliable staff member to enroll him in the program and begin "logging in" the durations of his daily workouts. Activities recorded earn points (similar to expended calories) toward the program goals. At the earliest possible date, Grand Master Lee earned his Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA), the "timed" (6-8 weeks) type of Challenge. His points rolled over into the other "untimed" type, instantly qualifying him as winner of a Bronze level award as Presidential Champion (Bronze = 40K points, Silver = 90K points, Gold = 160K, Platinum = 1M points per guidelines). At press time he had earned his Gold level award and was climbing steadily for Platinum! Amidst his hectic schedule, he has recorded video promotions and expert training tips for upcoming release on the ATA Leadership program's official website, ATALeadershipNOW.com, where Challenge winners can have their names and awards published. He is communicating with licensees, Masters, certified instructors and others throughout the association in person and by phone and correspondence to introduce the President's Challenge to their independently owned and operated schools and clubs. With maximum participation, martial artists and their families can have an enormous impact on American culture by modeling the life-changing benefits we earn being active and focused on healthy living and self-improvement.
"Martial artists are already ahead in the game," says Grand Master Lee. "White belts even have decided to do something, to get active and change their lives. Once they start seeing the weight come off, their muscles pump up, the energy levels increase, and they get confident and want even more of that good feeling. Everyone should do Taekwondo! We're going to prove that and show them why."
The President's Challenge appears to have great support in the national and international news media, with help from the First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" initiative and from powerful advocates like Nickelodeon, which is promoting the PALA challenge on its cable network and website Nick.com/thebighelp. The American Taekwondo Association became an official advocate of the President's Challenge in November 2010. ATA is proud to support the on-going efforts of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition to reduce obesity nationwide so that everyone can live to his and her highest potential.
"Like I said, you just have to do it. That's it," says Grand Master Lee, glancing at his PALA and Presidential Champion awards. "Every goal has rewards. Martial arts can train you to make a healthy body and mind, and to lead a good, long life. What's better than that?"