Tae Yun Kim overcame a hopeless childhood to become the world's only female taekwondo grandmaster and the founder of a leading-edge tech company.




pprehensive and skeptical, Young-Mi enters the gym for the Thursday evening "energy class." The high-ceiling room hums with serene music. 50 students conduct warm-up exercises, cartwheeling their arms and twisting their torsos. Young-Mi shuffles to the rear and waits for Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim to appear.

     Young-Mi, in early-20s, relocated from Corea a year ago, but has accomplished little. She had planned to find a job to finance her college expenses, and graduate with a teaching credential. So far, she's gotten a job that only finances her food and rent.

     She heard that Kim led self-improvement classes and was impressed by her credentials: Kim's the first Korean female taekwondo grandmaster in over 5,000 years; she has trained numerous olympic athletes; and has authored two self-help books.

     Kim's also a successful entrepreneur, who owns a computer company with $5 million in annual sales.

     As she waits, Young-Mi wonders if Kim can redirect her meandering life. Then as the music fades, Kim bounds into the room.

     Clad in a white taekwondo gown, Kim at 4-11 and with shoulder-length curls looks a decade younger than her 49 years. She greets the class with smiles and upbeat exclamations, then leads them through two hours of song, laughter, stories and exercises.

     At the end, Kim announces, "We have a new student with us tonight. Young-Mi come on up here." Reluctantly, Young-Mi ambles forward. Kim hands her a thick wooden plank and a felt-tip pen, then asks her to write something she wants to achieve or overcome on the board.

     Two assistants then take the board, and Kim commands Young-Mi to break it in two with her fist.
     Coiling her fingers, eyes focused, Young-Mi hits it with what seems like all her energy. Nothing happens. Young-Mi sighs and begins to retreat.

     Kim will have none of that, however. She exclaims to Young-Mi in Korean: "You came here from Korea. You had a dream. Your parents said stay and be a good girl. Your friends said stay with us. But you had a dream. So do it."

     The class cheers. Young-Mi gathers strength and strikes again. Nothing happens. The gym falls silent. Young-Mi slumps with defeat.

     But Kim is getting riled up. She shouts, "He can do, she can do, why not me!" The class echoes, shouting as the gym resounds with the riotous chant.

     Kim grabs Young-Mi's shoulders and looks into her eyes. "Right now," she says, "I want you to go inside yourself where you are one with the life-force, where you are pure energy. This is your energy to use however you desire. You are this energy. Break this board." PAGE 2

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“He can do, she can do, why not me!”

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