Grisamore: You don’t mess around with Ahn

February 27, 2014 

You don’t tug on Superman’s cape.

You don’t spit into the wind.

You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger.

And you don’t mess around with ... Ahn.

Jim Croce wrote that song -- I added the Ahn part -- two years before Edward Ahn came to the U.S. from Korea and later opened the first martial arts school in Macon.

That was 40 years ago. Grand Master Ahn is now 72. The man still has his moves, though. He has been a ninth degree black belt, the highest rank in the world, since 1994. His teacher almost 60 years ago was Gen. Choi Hong Hi, the modern-day founder of tae kwon do.

There might be bigger, stronger and faster folks than Ahn, but none more disciplined and dedicated to fitness. His body is so fine-tuned you could strike a match on it.

Since 1979, he has run more than 50,000 miles, more than twice the circumference of the Earth. There are so many moving parts to his exercise regimen -- he rises at 4 every morning -- it would make your head spin. (If only that counted as aerobics.)

He can take down a person with one finger.

Do not, I repeat, do not ask for a demonstration.

He has trained more than 4,000 black belts in Macon and Middle Georgia since introducing tae kwon do here in 1974. A number of them will gather to honor him on Saturday afternoon at Ahn’s Fitness Center on Vineville Avenue.

E.C. Ahn talks about how he came from South Korea to Macon in the 1970s.

The anniversary will be a celebration of Ahn’s endurance and dedication, although certainly not a retirement party, because the master is unstoppable.

Still, there will be deeper meaning upon reflection.

It has been a tough year.

Last June, Ahn was diagnosed with colon cancer. The man who takes so much pride in his diet and health was knocked to the ground. It was in his genes, and no way to deflect it with a forearm or snap kick. His two brothers died of the disease.

It has not been lost on anyone that this amazing man, with all those survival skills, was put to the ultimate survival test.

His friends and family claim he has come back with more zest than ever. On Tuesday, he will teach his first class in nine months. It will come on the March 4 anniversary of his first class in Macon in 1974.

His 40 years are another mile marker on a road well-traveled and a life well-lived. He said he is excited about No. 41, but taking ’em one sunrise at a time.

Of all the times I have been around Grand Master Ahn, my lasting image of his wide-reaching influence on our community came the night of April 17, 2008, when he was inducted in the Macon Sports Hall of Fame. There were more than 400 people in the Monument Room at the Macon Coliseum, and more than one-third of them belonged to his side of the room. They rose to their feet with reverence each time his name was called.

In his acceptance speech, Ahn talked about bringing his wife, Tae -- yes, her name really is Tae (meaning kick) -- and his two children (Wendy and Johnny) to Macon.

“Tae kwon do has been more than just a business for me,” he said that night. “It has been my life for over 50 years. This is (affirmation) for me that I have chosen the greatest place in the world to live.”

His English is still heavy with the accent of his homeland, although considerably more polished than when he arrived here and could only communicate by pointing to words on a piece of paper.

Until 1945, when he was 4 years old, there was no North and South Korea. With Soviet forces in the north, and American forces in the south, his family fled to Seoul across the 38th parallel.

When he was 12, he began training under Choi Hong Hi, who later hand-picked him to become an instructor in the U.S. At the time, America was experiencing a surge in popularity in the martial arts with the release of five Bruce Lee movies.

In 1960, Ahn became the first person to demonstrate the art of tae kwon do on Korean television. He later trained members of the Korean Army in self defense, then went to Vietnam to instruct the American Green Berets. He came to the U.S. in 1973, first to Los Angeles and then to Chicago to learn from the instructors at the schools there.

He was encouraged to look for a location in the South, either in Georgia or in the Charlotte area of North Carolina. He pulled out a map, and placed his finger on Macon. It was in the center of the state and next to an interstate.

He came not knowing what to expect or that he would be embraced by so many for so long. His first studio was located downtown on Second Street before moving out to midtown in a former car wash and car audio store on Vineville Avenue. His son, Johnny, has followed in his father’s capable footsteps, and has been an instructor for the past 25 years.

When Ahn was so sick last year, the doctors marveled at his comeback and attributed it to his exercise regimen, strict diet and stress-free lifestyle.

He is a disciple of daily exercise -- never an excuse for taking a day off. He eats oatmeal every morning and only one other meal, usually a rice dish and Korean cabbage at 4 in the afternoon. Occasionally, he and his family will splurge and drive to Buckner’s Family Restaurant at Exit 201 to chow down on fried chicken and all things Southern.

It’s like a vacation. Live it up. The master deserves it.

Reach Gris at 744-4275 or egrisamore@macon.com.

You don’t tug on Superman’s cape.

You don’t spit into the wind.

You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger.

And you don’t mess around with ... Ahn.

Jim Croce wrote that song -- I added the Ahn part -- two years before Edward Ahn came to the U.S. from Korea and later opened the first martial arts school in Macon.

That was 40 years ago. Grand Master Ahn is now 72. The man still has his moves, though. He has been a ninth degree black belt, the highest rank in the world, since 1994. His teacher almost 60 years ago was Gen. Choi Hong Hi, the modern-day founder of tae kwon do.

There might be bigger, stronger and faster folks than Ahn, but none more disciplined and dedicated to fitness. His body is so fine-tuned you could strike a match on it.

Since 1979, he has run more than 50,000 miles, more than twice the circumference of the earth. There are so many moving parts to his exercise regimen -- he rises at 4 every morning -- it would make your head spin. (If only that counted as aerobics.)

He can take down a person with one finger.

Do not, I repeat, do not ask for a demonstration.

He has trained more than 4,000 black belts in Macon and Middle Georgia since introducing tae kwon do here in 1974. A number of them will gather to honor him on Saturday afternoon at Ahn’s Fitness Center on Vineville Avenue.

The anniversary will be a celebration of Ahn’s endurance and dedication, although certainly not a retirement party, because the master is unstoppable.

Still, there will be deeper meaning upon reflection.

It has been a tough year.

Last June, Ahn was diagnosed with colon cancer. The man who takes so much pride in his diet and health was knocked to the ground. It was in his genes, and no way to deflect it with a forearm or snap kick. His two brothers died of the disease.

It has not been lost on anyone that this amazing man, with all those survival skills, was put to the ultimate survival test.

His friends and family claim he has come back with more zest than ever. On Tuesday, he will teach his first class in nine months. It will come on the March 4 anniversary of his first class in Macon in 1974.

His 40 years are another mile marker on a road well-traveled and a life well-lived. He said he is excited about No. 41, but taking ’em one sunrise at a time.

Of all the times I have been around Grand Master Ahn, my lasting image of his wide-reaching influence on our community came the night of April 17, 2008, when he was inducted in the Macon Sports Hall of Fame. There were more than 400 people in the Monument Room at the Macon Coliseum, and more than one-third of them belonged to his side of the room. They rose to their feet with reverence each time his name was called.

In his acceptance speech, Ahn talked about bringing his wife, Tae -- yes, her name really is Tae (meaning kick) -- and his two children (Wendy and Johnny) to Macon.

“Tae kwon do has been more than just a business for me,” he said that night. “It has been my life for over 50 years. This is (affirmation) for me that I have chosen the greatest place in the world to live.”

His English is still heavy with the accent of his homeland, although considerably more polished than when he arrived here and could only communicate by pointing to words on a piece of paper.

Until 1945, when he was 4 years old, there was no North and South Korea. With Soviet forces in the north, and American forces in the south, his family fled to Seoul across the 38th parallel.

When he was 12, he began training under Choi Hong Hi, who later hand-picked him to become an instructor in the U.S. At the time, America was experiencing a surge in popularity in the martial arts with the release of five Bruce Lee movies.

In 1960, Ahn became the first person to demonstrate the art of tae kwon do on Korean television. He later trained members of the Korean Army in self defense, then went to Vietnam to instruct the American Green Berets. He came to the U.S. in 1973, first to Los Angeles and then to Chicago to learn from the instructors at the schools there.

He was encouraged to look for a location in the South, either in Georgia or in the Charlotte area of North Carolina. He pulled out a map, and placed his finger on Macon. It was in the center of the state and next to an interstate.

He came not knowing what to expect or that he would be embraced by so many for so long. His first studio was located downtown on Second Street before moving out to midtown in a former car wash and car audio store on Vineville Avenue. His son, Johnny, has followed in his father’s capable footsteps, and has been an instructor for the past 25 years.

When Ahn was so sick last year, the doctors marveled at his comeback and attributed it to his exercise regimen, strict diet and stress-free lifestyle.

He is a disciple of daily exercise -- never an excuse for taking a day off. He eats oatmeal every morning and only one other meal, usually a rice dish and Korean cabbage at 4 in the afternoon. Occasionally, he and his family will splurge and drive to Buckner’s Family Restaurant at Exit 201 to chow down on fried chicken and all things Southern.

It’s like a vacation. Live it up. The master deserves it.

Reach Gris at 744-4275 or egrisamore@macon.com.

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