SINGAPORE - For more than four decades, Ms Lynn Soh climbed the corporate ladder.
Now, at the age of 77, she has set her sights instead on rising up the taekwondo black belt ranks.
A retired senior travel executive, she enrolled in taekwondo classes three years ago to find relief from aches and pain.
She used to suffer from pain in the legs and sciatica, a form of back pain, and had to go for physiotherapy.
Once, she could not even feel her legs. "My whole world fell apart," she recalls. "I almost got myself a wheelchair."
When she chanced upon students at Ildo Taekwondo Academy in Bukit Timah doing warm-ups and stretches three years ago, she decided to take her destiny into her own hands.
Convinced that practising taekwondo would strengthen her body, she began going for one-hour-long classes every week and two classes a week when it was closer to competitions.
The grandmother of two has gone from strength to strength.
In 2019, she won the gold medal for her age group at the 13th National Poomsae Championships 2019 organised by Singapore Taekwondo Federation.
She had impressed with her poomsae - a sequence of movements consisting of stances, blocks, punches and kicks.
In April last year, she clinched her first black belt - a 1st Dan Black Belt - through a virtual grading.
"You don't know how powerful you are, you don't know what you can do with the strength in you," says Ms Soh, who did not believe she could do it at first.
Being the oldest student in her academy, she also takes pride in achieving three double promotions - jumping from a colour belt to the next and bypassing the normal requirement of being awarded a coloured tape first. It is usually awarded to those who have demonstrated excellent forms.
After taking up taekwondo, Ms Soh has slowly rid herself of body aches and become more flexible. While she used to have difficulty squatting in the past, now she can not only squat, but also split and break wood boards by kicking.
Besides training physically, she also works out mentally by memorising the moves and generating moves during sparring, she says.
"A poomsae can have as many movements as 27 to 30, so I must memorise all the patterns and I have to think fast," she adds.
To her, taekwondo is not just about keeping fit and staying active, but also about instilling discipline in her lifestyle. Besides attending classes, she also practises her moves at home.
"We must remember to be humble, respectful and willing to take up challenges. Taekwondo has given me a lot of fulfilment."
While her family was initially concerned about her taking up martial arts at her age, they are now very supportive of her pursuit. Her biggest fan is her 74-year-old husband Max Koh, who accompanies her for training, rain or shine.
"They always say he is my bodyguard, but now I'm his bodyguard," she says with a laugh.
Her younger grandson, 11, used to attend taekwondo classes with her, but is taking a break to study for his Primary School Leaving Examination this year.
Ms Soh, who feels empowered and more confident after mastering martial arts, is now training to move up the ranks to 2nd Dan Black Belt. The top level is the 9th Dan. She hopes to eventually get the 3rd Dan Black Belt.
"If we believe in ourselves that we can do it, we can," she says.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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