If you're looking for the secret to being healthy and happy, regardless of age, look no further than within yourself and recognize the rules of life are all about balance and flexibility.


"In order to be healthy, we have to be happy -- and in order to be happy,we have to be healthy," said Jhoon Rhee, 71, a world-reknown martial arts expert recognized as a national treasure for introducing and popularizing Tae Kwan Do in America, who spoke at the AARP National Convention held here.

Rhee's message is not all about martial arts, but it is about one of the core components of martial arts, self-discipline, which he believes can also lead to other positive human qualities in life.

Apparently this is an ageless issue because not only is Rhee recognized as a role model of health and vitality among his peers, he is also highly regarded among today's youth as well. In fact, his martial arts program and philosophy of discipline, respect, and personal responsibility were developed into a curriculum that was adopted by several District elementary schools in Washington, DC. Additionally, Rhee is a legend on Capitol Hill, where he has trained more than 250 members of Congress in Taekwondo, and celebrities like Muhammed Ali and Bruce Lee were also students.

The martial arts philosophy is about more than just physical fitness. Certainly that is an important component, but it's really only part of the story. Rhee's philosophy is directed toward achieving inner happiness through physical fitness AND a positive mental attitude -- a combination he believes leads to the universal path of freedom, peace, prosperity, and ultimately happiness.

"Everybody wants to be happy," Rhee said during his opening remarks. But it doesn't have anything to do with how old you are, what's most important is keeping everything in balance."

Rhee has established four daily affirmations based on the three basic human qualities he believes are necessary to be healthy and happy. These three qualities represent the epitome of balance: Knowledge in the Mind, Honesty in the Heart, and Strength in the Body.

The four affirmations are as follows: 1. I am wise because I always learn something good every day; 2. I am humanly perfect because I never make a mistake knowingly; 3. I like myself because I always take actions to make good things happen; 4. I am happy that I am me because I always choose to be happy.

There are various paths people take on the road to happiness, or "happyism," as Rhee calls it. Whether it's doing for others through volunteerism, contributing in some meaningful way through spiritual service, or pursuing our own various goals -- be it training for a gold medal, raising grandchildren, traveling, learning new things -- it is the combination of all these things that creates balance in our lives, and therefore enables us to be healthy and happy.

Perhaps the most detrimental things of all is to do nothing -- to disengage from life where one does little more than just exist. That certainly isn't living. Yet there are too many who seem to complain about all the things they can't do anymore, rather than focus on the things they still can do. You know the story -- those who have nothing are happier than those who seem to have everything and are still miserable. What matters most is what's on the inside of our being -- and that's something we CAN control.

Rhee believes living his life as an example to others is one of the most effective forms of teaching these principles. And certainly by looking closely at his lifestyle -- discipline, balance, and flexibility are at the core. He eats healthily including drinking water, juices and Korean tea and he eats at least five bananas a day as well as grapes, peaches and other fruit. During meals, he piles heaps of vegetables on his plate and only eats fish or chicken on occassion, and beef on rare occassion. Rhee doesn't smoke or drink and does his best to avoid sugar.

But it is Rhee's exercise regimen that is most impressive. He still does 1,000 push-ups a day and he hasn't missed his daily 2-hour workout in 17 years! He has the flexibility of a 10-year old and ha's even been known to take a short nap in his favorite stretching position where he's seated on the floor with each leg extended completely to the side while bending his chest and chin forward, resting them both on the floor infront of him. The result: Rhee says he's in better shape today than he was 20 years ago. Now, that's discipline!

Combined with his continued contributions in teaching his philosophy to people of all ages, his love of music, people, and a desire to always keep learning, it's really no surprise that Rhee claims he is healthy and happy -- because he's flexible, and he keeps life in balance.

Kelly Ferrin is a local gerontologist residing in Carlsbad. She is a certified AARP retirement specialist, motivational speaker, consultant, and author of a nationally released book titled, "What's Age Got To Do With It?" For column ideas contact her at (760)438-2126 or on the internet at ageangel@earthlink.net. Kelly Ferrin, Gerontologist Lifestyles (760)438-2126 web: http://www.ageangel.com

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What's Age Got To Do With It?