Health Principles

Soo Shim Kwan Health Principles

The Soo Shim Kwan Health Principles used to be a separate page on this blog, but in order to streamline and free up some space on the menu bar I've decided to make it a post instead. 

These health principles are one of the unique contributions of the Soo Shim Kwan to our Taekwon-Do training. The Soo Shim Kwan assumes health to be three-fold, involving physiological health, psychological health, and spiritual health, like the martial journey that is technical, moral, and spiritual (moosool, mooye, moodo). When these principles become a way of life, i.e. "Do" , for the Taekwon-Do practitioner, he or she will grow healthy and powerful in the martial arts, as well as in other aspects of their life.

There are seven basic principles for a healthy life. The martial artist should continuously try to align himself with these principles. This post is intended for all Soo Shim Kwan students (and in the case of children, their parents, who are the main contributing factor in the child's development).

Fresh Air

The respiratory system is not only responsible for nourishing the whole body with oxygen, but it is also one of the main ways for the body to get rid of toxins. On the one hand, the body can not optimally function with a deficient supply of oxygen and on the other hand, ineffective breathing results in toxins staying in the body for longer.

Children are forced to sit in school chairs for hours at a time. Practically no time is spent in teaching them correct posture and so they tend to slouch, which is an unsuitable position for effective breathing. The abdominal muscles are crunched and the diaphragm which is the biggest muscle in the respiratory system can not effectively do its work and so the breathing becomes a burden for the (much smaller) inter-rib muscles to carry. After years of bad posture, adults do not even recognise their wrong breathing habits.

The optimal way of breathing is like that of a baby. The baby includes its tummy in it's breathing and not only its chest. This is called abdominal breathing. The lungs are filled to the maximum and the optimal exchange of gasses can take place. This way of breathing requires that the individual will clench the abdominal muscles when breathing out and relax the abdomen when breathing in. The abdomen goes in when breathing out and out when breathing in.

It is expected of the Taekwon-Do student to learn the most efficient way of breathing so that the organs can be nourished with a good supply of oxygen and toxins can effectively be rid off. This will strengthen the internal organs and muscles. Abdominal breathing is not just applicable to the dojang ("practice hall"), but ought to be the way of breathing throughout the day. Proper breathing will undoubtedly have health benefits for everyone.

For the Taekwon-Do student there is also another special way of breathing which is most effective in the fighting scenario. The focus on basic technique breathing also known as the “short sharp breath” is chiefly on breathing out with each technique. With every technique breathing out must be strong, quick and shortened at the end, clenching the abdomen muscles. There is hardly a conscious in-breath. The sudden force of air out of the lungs causes a vacuum in the lungs. The moment the student relaxes the lungs are automatically filled with air again. Basic technique breathing is the most effective manner to achieve optimal focus in each technique and is one of the unique original teachings of ITF Taekwon-Do.

Exercising outside in the fresh air is most beneficial.
Image Source: Brighton & Hove Taekwon-Do
There are also other breathing exercises which the student can learn to do everyday, early in the morning and preferably outside, to vitalize the body for the new day. Such gi-focussed breathing has a quickening effect on both mind-and-body.

It is additionally important that the student should choose his or her daily wardrobe that it does not impair the body and the respiratory system. Clothes should be comfortable and loose fitting. The student must further try to keep the work-, living- and practice area effectively supplied with fresh air. Closed musty rooms are unhealthy. Exercising outside in the open air, in parks and other natural surroundings are most beneficial.


The sun can be very dangerous. In the short term the loss of too much water and salt can result in overheating and dehydration. In the long run, the sun is yearly the main cause of skin damage and related skin cancer. Therefore it is of utmost importance that the needed protection against sunburn is taken. The medical world suggests that nobody should ever go into the sun without sun block - Factor 15 being the minimum.

However, the sun is not only our enemy. People that have totally deprived themselves of sunlight have been found to be more prone to depression. The sun makes one feel good and is also relaxing as exposure to sunlight improves the production of health producing hormones such as endorphins and melatonin. It is also a cheap way to get your daily dose of Vitamin D which is responsible for the effective use of calcium and potassium for strong teeth and bones. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that training in the sun promotes muscle growth – recent studies suggest that there may be truth to this.

Daily (protected) exposure to the sun for a few minutes and thoroughly illuminated rooms are highly recommended. More and more research is showing that sunlight has various health benefits.


Enough rest is of utmost importance. Rest not only refers to resting after a Taekwon-Do practice session, but also rest from the pressures of daily life.

To be well rested you must get enough and good sleep. It is during sleep that the body repairs itself. Insufficient rest leads to stress, depression and other ailments. Most researchers agree that six hours of sleep is the minimum. Recommended hours of sleep range between six and ten hours and vary from person to person. Food and drink before bedtime should be avoided so that the digestive system also gets time to rest and it will be found that one wakes up much clearer if your digestive system was not overburdened during the sleeping hours. Other positive contributors to good sleep are effective breathing and exercise.

Rest is also very important after sport injuries, so that the body can recover efficiently. If possible, the Taekwon-Do practitioner is still invited to attend martial art classes to keep the mind in practice. Many advanced techniques which are not in the syllabus may be addressed in class, and the student that is absent may found him- or herself that much poorer.


The advantages of fitness and exercise include the reduction of stress, better coping with pressure and better relaxation and rest. Exercise improves power and stamina and help control weight. The respiratory and cardiovascular systems improve, which fight chances of cardiac arrest. It relieves depression. It firms the body, improves flexibility and counters signs of aging, as well as back- and menstrual pains. Exercise helps improve general health and strengthens the immune system. For best results at least 30 minutes of daily aerobic exercise is advised.

The only way to really get good at something and especially in Taekwon-Do is through continuous practice. Taekwon-Do offers an array of exercises, including cardiovascular exercise which is regarded as the most important type of exercise for healthy living.

Exercise in martial arts, unlike exercise in most other sport, does not only mean exercising the body, but also the mind. Students should regularly study the techniques in order to thoroughly understand them. The diligent study of Taekwon-Do patterns gives a good frame in which body and mind can work together as a unit. Patterns and basic techniques need to be practised regularly in order to achieve mastery in Taekwond-Do.


A healthy diet is probably one of the most important aspects for the martial arts, although it is often neglected. A healthy diet is not only a bonus physically, but the mental and spiritual benefits are wonderful too. A healthy diet will give the student a better comprehension of the more difficult techniques. A wrongful diet is one of the biggest reasons for the body's inadequacy to handle life's daily stresses and so a contributing factor to weak concentration – leading to poor focus. No martial art can be effective without good focus!

Image Source
The diet of the martial artist ought to include mainly vegetables, fruit, grains and nuts. Meat and animal products must be used sparingly. A chiefly plant based diet has a calming effect on the individual. Refined sugars and too much salt should be avoided.

Due to poor agricultural methods many produce are lacking in vitamins and minerals. Supplementation with a general or sports’ multivitamin is therefore advised.

Taekwon-Do students ought to refrain from any substances that can lead to dependency. This not only include all drugs, alcoholic drinks and cigarettes, but also soft drinks and numerous coffee's and tea's that are malignant for the body.

The best liquid for consumption is water and a lot of it! Many students are prone to grab for soft drinks after a Taekwon-Do practice. Rather go for water, diluted fruit juice or a sports drink. Herbal teas may also be beneficial.

Water can not be substituted. Water is such an important part of a healthy lifestyle that it should be considered as a health principle on its own. Students who fear pollution must not make this an excuse for not drinking water; instead they should invest in a water filter or buy trusted bottled water. Except for its consumption importance, hydrotherapy (cold or lukewarm baths and showers or hot baths as a detox-method) is one of the best ways to rejuvenate stressed muscles and improve circulation. Many authorities on stretching also claim that stretching during or directly after a hot shower can be beneficial.


In everything in life moderation is a chief principle. You should live a balanced life in everything. Even healthy things like frequent exercise can be harmful if done in excess.

Almost all good martial arts have an emphasis on balance. This is not only the physical balance that keeps you on your feet; it goes much further, encompassing all aspects of Taekwon-Do and life. When the sport aspect of Taekwon-Do gets more attention then the self-defence part will suffer as a result. When the self-defence gets too much attention then the patterns and basic techniques will suffer. Taekwon-Do is a complete style, i.e. balanced style; therefore equilibrium in all must be aimed for. This principle of balance in everything or moderation in everything can be utilized in every aspect of the Taekwon-Do students' life – to ensure a healthy and well defined individual. A healthy balance means moderation in all good things, and avoidance of all bad things.

Faith in a Higher Power and Respect for Life

Like everything in life, the martial arts can also be an addiction. Although the eager student will quickly realise that Taekwon-Do becomes a way of life, as it should, it ought not be the centre of your life. That position is reserved for God only. In fact, the discipline and perseverance that the student learns in Taekwon-Do ought to be an aid that the practitioner can also apply in his or her spiritual life. Through the ages, many martial artists have used their martial discipline as an ascetic tool to help them in their spiritual growth. Note, however, that the martial arts can be a tool on ones journey, it is not the goal of the journey.

The martial arts tread on that thin line between life and death. It is important that the student should realise that all life have its source in God. Life should therefore be respected as it has a divine origin. In the martial arts we learn how to hurt and, yes, even kill. For this reason, while the martial arts can be a fun recreation, it is requires serious contemplation and responsible practise.

Through the martial arts we get to contemplate death and also the value and preciousness of life. Such thoughts inevitably lead us to God; for without the sustaining life force that has its source in God, the practitioner will not be able to do Taekwon-Do or any other daily task.

"Blessed are the Lord, my rock,
that teach my hands to fight,
my fingers to make war..." Psalm 144:1