Sun Soo Geungang (Health) #4 – Breathe

Dear all,

Ever experience a sudden adverse unwanted situation? You may have found yourself holding your breath!  This common automatic reaction actually heightens the sympathetic nervous system’s “fight/ flight/freeze” reaction, stimulates our limbic or “primitive brain”, and decreases our ability to think clearly and effectively.  This is the reason why we focus so much on breathing in and out while doing basics or practicing our forms in tae kwon do.

When we train our breathing at the same time we are physically practicing tae kwon do, we increase the likelihood that we will be able to respond effectively using our whole brain and body if suddenly confronted with an unwanted situation.

One of the quickest ways to affect our nervous system and decrease stress and anxiety is to use something we have vitally available to us all the time: our breath.

Breathing techniques have been around for thousands of years as part of physical, spiritual and mental practices such as yoga.  Even though breathwork seems like a simple tool, it is one of the most effective ways to create a calming, focused and energy conserving state in our brain and body.

Breathing techniques affect multiple systems in the body in a synchronized way.  Breathwork shifts our brainwaves and heartbeat patterns, activating our internal “relaxation response”, resulting in decreased anxiety and feelings of improved ease, comfort and emotional control. Other benefits include increased oxygenation and activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is the  executive function part of our brain responsible for self-regulation, problem solving, self-control and creativity.  Other brain benefits include improved hypothalamus and pons function, which regulate several hormones and a number of automatic body functions.  Even our brainwaves are positively affected- EEG studies demonstrate more alpha waves, which are predominant when humans are in a focused meditative state.  Because breathing practices affect the calming parasympathetic part of our autonomic nervous system, lower heart rate and blood pressure also occur.

The powerful combination of heart, brain and hormonal effects contribute to indirectly decreasing inflammation in the body and improving immune system function.  That’s good news during this time of COVID-19!  One person who recovered from COVID-19 remarked on the power of breathwork and movement as a meditative approach and as ways to exercise and expand their lungs during the illness:

“Focused breathing is something I really feel helped me a lot. Taking deep breaths and holding it. Long meditations helped. For this, I kept a yoga mat open beside my bed so I could lie completely flat and my chest wasn’t compressed in any way.

Sitting up. I made myself sit upright in a chair for most of the day. The more time I spent in bed, the worse my chest felt and I had to cough much harder to expel what was trying to settle.

Movement. If I had the energy, I walked around the property with a mask on and talked to my spouse, the dog, or myself, to make my lungs work a little more.

Healthcare providers have also noted benefits with  periodic “prone” positioning (laying on your stomach) as a way to increase oxygen and to expand more areas of the lungs.


Here are two of my favorite breathing techniques:

The 4-7-8 Breath

Sitting in a comfortable position with your back straight, place the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth.

Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.

Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.

Hold your breath for a count of seven.

Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.  This is one cycle.

For a beginning practice, repeat the cycle for 3-4 times.  Keep the time spent at each count comfortable for your own individual needs by adjusting the total speed of your breathing as needed, keeping exhalation time twice as long as your inhalation time.

If any dizziness or lightheadedness, decrease the amount of time spent at each count, but maintain the ratio of 4:7:8.


Straw Breath (or Beak Breath)

Bring your lips together to form an “O” as if sipping through a straw.  Allow your tongue and jaw to be relaxed and your lips soft.

Slowly inhale through your nose and pause holding your breath for a second or two if comfortable.

Exhale slowly through your pursed lips, as if you were gently blowing on a candle, keeping the flame flickering but not going out,  until all the air is expelled.

If it is comfortable for you, you can take a natural slight pause here until you are ready for your in-breath.

Gently allow the in-breath to fill your lungs as comfortably as possible, breathing in through your nose.

Repeat the cycle of exhaling slowly through your pursed lips, as if you were blowing slowly out through a straw, keeping the stream of out-going air calm and smooth.

It is important to follow your body and not create strain, so adjust the speed of your in-breath and out-breath for what feels right to you.  Follow your body and only hold your breath for as long as it is comfortable for you.  If any strain, dizziness or lightheadedness, stop.

A good starting point is to do 4 to 5 cycles of this.  At the end, take a moment to return to your natural regular breathing pattern and notice how you feel.

Breathing practices can be used anytime, anywhere when more calm, focus and inner attention is desired.  Adding your own personalized quiet or silent positive statement to each in-breath is another option to use the power of the mind-body connection, such as: “I am well” or “I am calm in my body and my mind.”  See what you think!




About Danna:

Dr. Danna Park specializes in Integrative Medicine, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics.  She received her M.D. degree from Tufts University, completed a combined residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and is a graduate of the Residential Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.  She is Board-certified in all three specialties.  Dr. Park provides integrative consultations for adults and children with a variety of medical conditions and also works with people who want to take an active approach in maintaining their wellness.  Dr. Park has specialized training in mind-body medicine, vitamins and supplements, nutritional approaches for brain-based disorders and integrative cancer care.  For more information, call 828-333-3339 or go to .

Zaccaro A, Piarulli A, Laurino M, et al. How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing. Front Hum Neurosci. 2018;12:353.


Sun Soo Geungang (Health) #2 – Nutrition

Dear all,

Do you have a computer or any technological gadget that starts with the letter i?  Could you ever visualize treating that expensive piece of equipment less than gently?  Imagine what would happen if you smacked your computer lid closed every time you used it, or dropped your iPad or smartphone from 4 feet in the air onto the kitchen counter multiple times a day.  How effective would your technology be if you forgot to plug it in at night?  One instructor I had in school called an iPad “a very expensive holder for dead batteries” when I showed up to class one day with a nonfunctioning gizmo.

Our bodies are incredibly complex, beautiful technological wonders.  How we “fuel” our bodies makes a huge difference in performance.   Ever show up to tae kwan do class without having eaten anything?  I have…and I was fuzzy-headed, couldn’t remember forms very well and couldn’t push my body or brain to get the maximum benefit from class.

Thinking about “food as medicine” is a great idea right now.  Studies are showing immune system support and antiviral benefits of a variety of nutrients, which we can get from what we eat. Three of these nutrients, vitamin C, quercetin and zinc, are particularly beneficial right now.

I recommend incorporating a variety of vegetables/ fruits in your diet daily- 5-7 servings/day is optimal.  Although that sounds like a lot, remember that a serving size is ½ cup.  It is also important to get a variety of colors of vegetables in your meals- these contain compounds, like quercetin,  that decrease inflammation in the body and improve immune system balance and function.

Quercetin is high in onions, apples, tomatoes, berries, parsley, and celery and may prevent COVID-19 virus from binding to human respiratory cells.  The vitamin C in fruits and veggies improves immune system function and even lowers the ability of the COVID-19 virus to create inflammation in the body.

Zinc is an important trace mineral for our bodies and also has antiviral properties.  Good food sources of zinc include beans, nuts, whole grains, red meat and poultry.  Past studies on zinc’s effects on SARS-CoV, a “cousin” to COVID-19 showed interesting viral blocking effects.  Based on that research, it has been suggested that zinc may inhibit COVID-19 virus’ ability to enter into human cells and replicate itself.

Here’s a delicious ratatouille recipe that uses a variety of vegetables to make a delicious and flavorful stew-

Adding beans to this recipe is an easy way to add protein and zinc for even more health benefits!



About Danna:

Dr. Danna Park specializes in Integrative Medicine, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics.  She received her M.D. degree from Tufts University, completed a combined residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and is a graduate of the Residential Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.  She is Board-certified in all three specialties.  Dr. Park provides integrative consultations for adults and children with a variety of medical conditions and also works with people who want to take an active approach in maintaining their wellness.  Dr. Park has specialized training in mind-body medicine, vitamins and supplements, nutritional approaches for brain-based disorders and integrative cancer care.  For more information, call 828-333-3339 or go to


Asheville Sun Soo Martial Arts – COVID-19/Coronavirus update

By now, all Asheville Sun Soo students and their families should have received an e-mail regarding the changes that will be happening at the dojang during this time. Please check your inbox and your spam folders to make certain that you have received the message. If you have not, please contact us at 828-505-4309 and update your contact information so that we can forward the message to you directly and be sure that you receive future updates as they happen. Thank you!

At Asheville Sun Soo, our intention has been to stay open as a service to our students and families and to be able to do so with the addition of several risk-reducing measures (greater distance between students during class, multiple hand sanitizers in the space, no student contact, extensive cleaning measures). We had hoped that we would be able to continue to serve our families through daily classes and our after-school-related programing were schools to close. As the week has progressed, however, it has become increasingly apparent that – in order to best serve our families and students, as well as the community at large – we must support as fully as possible, the collective and large-scale efforts being made to minimize the spread or potential spread of the virus.

Given the mandates that have been made on the state level in an effort to slow/minimize the transmission of the coronavirus, and given that Asheville Sun Soo’s mission is to “make the greatest positive difference for the greatest number of people,” we are compelled to stop all in-person programming for all students and families, effective immediately (beginning Monday, March 16th, 2020) – and until these mandates are lifted.

It is our sincere hope that we collectively will only need to be absent from Asheville Sun Soo for these next two weeks – and we also realize that it is possible that the interruption may be required to extend longer. In any case, we want to remind us all of a few things:

  • This will pass… There will be an end to this “season” and we will get to the other side. 🙂
  • We are not alone in this; we are all in this together! We, the Sun Soo family, are a loving and strong and positively-oriented collective – and we will hold space for each other and stay connected, even while we are not able to be physically present with each other.
  • We are martial artists! And real martial artists are strong!

Please know that we will have everyone in thoughts and hold a space for the greatest possibilities for us all. To this end, we are currently in the process of developing a means by which our students can practice at home (in addition to the resources that are already available). We will be sending additional details by Tuesday.

Please feel free to contact us by email or phone if you have any questions. Let’s all stay safe and make the best of this. We look forward to us all being together again soon!

Schedule Changes for the Week of July 29 – August 3rd

We are excited about travelling to Boot Camp on Friday, August 2nd! In order to facilitate our primary instructor staff attending this awesome training opportunity, we are amending our schedule for this upcoming weekend – August 2nd and August 3rd.

On Friday, August 2nd, our 8:30am Adult/Family Mixed Rank class will be replaced wit an open mat session. This will be an awesome opportunity for all ranks to practice curriculum on their own, facilitated by some of our adult students in the Black Belt ranks. Class credit will be granted for all students who attend this open mat session, so please pull your card upon arrival!

There will not be an Adult BBC class on Friday evening. However, the Adult Beginner class will still be held as is usual. Please remember that while this class is open to all adult practitioners, the curriculum covered will be explicitly geared towards our students who are currently white belts.

All other Friday classes will follow their regular schedule.

On Saturday, August 3rd, all classes, except for the Masters class, will follow their regular schedule. The Masters class will, much like Friday morning, be an open mat opportunity for Black Belts of all ranks. Students in the Black Belt ranks are invited to take this opportunity to practice upper belt curriculum.

We will resume our regular schedule on Monday, August 5th. Please remember that our August testing event begins Friday, August 9th (a week from this Friday, August 2nd)!

Thank you!

Asheville Sun Soo Relocating at the Beginning of 2019!

Martial Arts for Kids Special

Asheville Sun Soo Martial Arts Offers End of School Year Special for Kids!

Martial Arts for Kids SpecialAsheville Sun Soo Martial Arts is excited to offer a fantastic special opportunity for any pre-college student (ages 3-18) who would like to begin a martial arts practice before the end of the school year!

This offer makes their first month of practice and their uniform available at an extreme discount to help new students get started in their practice.

This offer is made available through current students who wish to distribute this offer to friends and associates with whom they’d like to practice. See us at the desk for access to the special offer and for more information!

Asheville Sun Soo Martial Arts Holiday Gift Certificate

Two Holiday Special Opportunities!

  1. For this month only, in recognition of the holiday season, Asheville Sun Soo Martial Arts is offering $100 off the first month – for new students who enroll during the month of December 2017! This offer is open to the public.  So feel free to share with your friends and family members and remind them to mention this holiday offer when they call or come in the studio.
  2. In addition, please remember that we have a totally separate, special holiday gift idea and offer – available to EXISTING SUN SOO STUDENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES. For more information about this holiday season’s coolest gift offer, please call us or come and see us at the front desk!  We’ll help you give the best gift of the 2017 season!

Q: What is the Philosophy of Tae Kwon Do?

A:  When we learn philosophy from a book, we tend to quickly forget it because it is not related to our actual lives. However, since Taekwondo is connected with every physical movement of our lives, we may never forget its philosophy. Since we experience life through the movements of daily living and we experience Taekwondo through its movements, we begin to understand the philosophy of Taekwondo by practicing Taekwondo and relating it to our daily movements.

Taekwondo is not just training in kicking, punching, and self-defense. It has roots in the many tenets held by spiritual masters and martial artists throughout history. Buddhism, introduced to the Koguryo kingdom from China in 347 AD, contributed greatly to the growth of the Korean martial arts through its aim of the “Mastery of Self.” Taekwondo provides a way to rid oneself of the ego, or what Zen-Buddhists call the “discriminating mind.”

To fully appreciate and understand the philosophy or spirit of Taekwondo, it is important to know something of Korean history, since the traditional values of the Korean people are an integral part of the philosophy of Taekwondo. Although not based on any one religion, the philosophy of Taekwondo was influenced by the many religious beliefs of the Korean (Han) people.

The philosophy of Taekwondo has evolved over time in the same way that its physical aspects have evolved. The original philosophical aspects were based on the need for survival and defense of the homeland. Ancient Koreans, in learning to deal with natural disasters and the hardships of life, relied spiritually on the movements of nature’s power, such as heaven, rain, cloud, sun, moon, trees, rocks, etc., for their consolation. As the tribal and agricultural community of the Korean people became established, so did their spirit of national unity. This developed into the principle of Seon (impeccable virtuousness), which became the basis of Korean philosophical thoughts. The idea of Seon is a very profound philosophy, it is the core of Oriental thoughts. In Seon, movements embody the spirit physically and the spirit is the inner working of the movements.

Taekwondo philosophy is based upon the beliefs that Han people developed throughout their history. It is related to the ancient principles of Hongik-Ingan and Jaese-Ihwa, and to the spirit of Hwarangdo. During the development of the Korean nation, particularly during the Three Kingdoms era, Taekwondo’s predecessor, Taekkyon, developed into a systematized martial art. The Korean warriors (Hwarang) of the Silla Kingdom adopted Seon as their martial spirit. Based on this, they professed loyalty to their country and filial piety, and believed in the virtues of courage and of having a strong ethical code.

Ancient Times

Taekwondo philosophy developed from the traditional national thought of the Korean (Han) people. In the myth of Korean foundation, in the early age, Hwan-Wung, the son of Heaven established a nation called Baedal (earliest name of Korea). He then announced the purpose of the national foundation as Jaese-Ihwa (educate with the reason of heaven) and Hongik-Ingan (universal welfare of mankind).

According to Korean legend, Tangun, the legendary founder of the Korean nation, advocated the idealism of Hongik-Ingan, Jaese-Ihwa, or Hwarangdo spirit. Hongik-Ingan and Jaese-Ihwa were a fundamental thought of Han people. Hongik-Ingan and Jaese-Ihwa appear clearly in the myth of Korea’s foundation. According to it, “In the early age, Hwan-Wung, the son of Heaven established a nation called Baedal (earliest name of Korea), and then announced the purpose of the national foundation as Jaese-Ihwa and Hongik-Ingan.” With time, these ideas developed into the Hwarangdo spirit and the Taekwondo philosophy of today.

These thoughts became the basis for the Korean traditional national philosophy, and later, the basis of Taekwondo philosophy. Hongik-Ingan  (universal benefits of humanism) means universal welfare of mankind. Taekwondo also embodies the idea of Hongik-Ingan since its purpose is to suppress fighting and induce peace. Jaese-Ihwa means that the world is educated in accordance with the reason of heaven. Since Taekwondo is characterized by the trinity of body, mind, it relates to Jaese-Ihwa since we may be educated in accordance with the reason of heaven through correct training in Taekwondo.

Three Kingdoms Period

During the Three Kingdoms period, Koreans were having to defend themselves from foreign aggressions from China and Japan. Due to this, the kingdoms tried to consolidate national unity, stressing the spirit of national defense among the people. Buddhism and Confucianism were widely practiced. The idealism of Hongik-Ingan, represented by the philosophy of Seon, was expanded by the Hwarang warriors with the integration of Buddhist and Confucian ideas into the Hwarangdo spirit. The Hwarangdo spirit is characterized by the three virtues of loyalty, filial piety, and trust, and three virtuous conducts of modesty, frugality, and restraint.

Koryo and Chosun Dynasties

Hongik-Ingan stresses respect for all human beings. The Korean people throughout the Koryo and Chosun periods were taught in their daily life to respect their superiors and treat their inferiors kindly. During this time, scholars were expressing various philosophical theories. One of the scholars, Great Scholar Yi Toe Gye, favored the theory of dualistic spiritual energy, which is represented by the four moral minds of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom and the seven sentiments of joy, anger, sorrow, pleasure, love, vice, and avarice. Another scholar, Great Scholar Yi Yul-Kok, said in his writings, “I endeavored incessantly to achieve self-restraint until I could reach a realm of a saintly life,” “I do what is to be done with all sincerity,” and “Cultivation of the mind and learning should be continued without slowing down the tempo.” These sayings partly reflect the spirit of Taekwondo. One of the most significant ideals of the time was that of Chon-do (doing the right thing or following the right way), which has become an integral part of Taekwondo philosophy.

Spirit of Hwarangdo

The Hwarangdo spirit was based on the idea of Seon along with the integration of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. It contained the three virtues, the five principles of the world; and the three virtuous conducts.

Three Virtues

  • Chung (loyalty): refers to loyalty to the nation.
  • Hyo (Filial piety): means the filial piety to the parents.
  • Shin (Trust): means to have trust among human beings.

Five Principles of the World (Sye-sok-oh-kye)

  • Sa-kun-lee-chung: means to follow a nation and a king with loyalty.
  • Sa-chin-lee-hyo: means to respect parents with filial piety.
  • Kyo-u-lee-shin: means to make friends with trust.
  • Lim-cheon-mu-t’wi: means to not withdraw on the battle field.
  • Sal-saeng-yu-taek: means to not take another life, unless an unavoidable situation requires it.

Three Virtuous Conducts or Three kinds of beauty (Sam-mi)

  • Modesty: means the virtue to know courteous refusal. That is, it refers to services done for society without personal interests or gains. Also, it refers to the idea of contributing to social development rather than to that of an individual.
  • Frugality: means not to waste. If we live with the abundant materials without extravagance or waste, we will not suffer in difficult times. Also, such frugality generates the ability to help needy people in society.
  • Restraint: refers to self-denial. It means to win over one’s self or ego. Through restraint, people do not fight each other, rather, they live together in harmony.

Sam Jae and Eum/Yang

The philosophy of Taekwondo also is related to the principles of Sam Jae and of Eum/Yang. Sam Jae (Three Elements) refers to Cheon (the Heaven), Ji (the Earth), and In (the Man) and the principles uniting them. In oriental philosophy, these principles explain the changes of everything in the world.

In the orient, Sam Jae is central principle that explains the changes of everything in the world. Sam Jae and the changes of Eum/Yang constitute the Eight Trigrams for Divination in the Book of Changes The principle of Eum/Yang maintains that everything has an good and bad side. Taegeuk (the Great Absolute) represents the ultimate claim that Eum/Yang are actually one and the same.

At the core of this philosophy is the concept of duality in nature. Duality refers to the interaction of opposing forces, the Eum/Yang. The principle of Eum (the negative or darkness) and Yang (the positive or the brightness) maintains that everything has an opposite side and that the two work in harmony with opposing forces distributed equally. If one force dominates, the result is discord. For example, to defend against an aggressive hard attack, one should use a yielding soft defense to bring the situation into harmony. Taekwondo students learn to coordinate their actions and reactions with the forces of nature so they can overcome anything they encounter in life. By centering oneself and balancing the dual forces, students may begin to achieve the true goal of the aspiration to and application of perfection.

This principle explains various forms of changes. It comes from Taegeuk (the Great Absolute), which represents the ultimate claim that Eum and Yang are the one and the same thing. Sam Jae and the changes of Eum and Yang constitute the “Eight Trigrams for Divination” in the “Book of Changes.”

Taekwondo is defined and the way of kicking and punching. Students begin Taekwondo training for various reasons, such as fitness, weight loss, discipline, and self-defense. Many stop their training when they think they have achieved their reason for initially beginning the training and others stop before ever reaching this point. If students continue training until the reach the “do” phase of Taekwondo training, then their initial reason for beginning the training is irrelevant. At this point, they continue training because the basic principles of Taekwondo have become an integral part of their lives. Through kicking and punching, they have achieved the way.

In today’s society, there are relatively fewer chances to encounter a life-threatening situation. To spend several years of your life practicing Taekwondo would seem a high price to pay for the chance to defend yourself in the not-so-likely event of a deadly attack. Therefore, the spiritual part of Taekwondo is what should motivate everyone to practice Taekwondo.

Today’s Taekwondo Philosophy

Today’s Taekwondo Philosophy is best summarized by the tenets of Taekwondo that are recited at the beginning of most Taekwondo classes. Most students recite the tenets by rote without thinking about their meanings. If some thought is given to the tenets while reciting them, students would find many correlations between each tenet and what they have learned during their training and how it has affected their lives. Taekwondo philosophy is not preached at each class, instead, it is something the subtlety affects the thoughts and behavior of students over time and makes them better members of society.

Q: Why Do Martial Artists Bow All the Time?

A: Life is Rich … In the State of Appreciation

As you may know, bowing is common in the culture of an authentic martial arts practice.  Practitioners bow when they first enter the space of practice.  They bow to each other upon greeting and parting.  They bow to the flags, one representing their country of residence and the other representing the country of their art’s origin.  Students bow to their instructors and instructors, in turn bow back to their students.  They bow again upon stepping onto and then again upon exiting the official practice area (“dojang” for Korean arts, dojo for Japanese arts, etc.,.).  Then during practice, they bow again, to each new partner they engage with for part of class.  They seem to be bowing all the time!

So what’s with all the bowing?  On the surface, it would appear to be a simple mechanic of etiquette, – a gesture of respect – that seemingly occurs at every turn in a martial arts setting.  Sometimes, the gesture is misinterpreted – or even actually misused – as some sort of a power trip intended to create an atmosphere of servitude.  The true purpose however, runs deep and is powerfully effective in its original intent.  The true purpose of bowing is to facilitate appreciation – in the form of both 1) “dignified respect” and 2) “gratitude”.

The idea is to remind ourselves of all that is around us that is worthy of respect and for which we are fortunate – and therefore thankful – to be able to experience.  Through engaging the body and dedicating a moment for punctuation, the act of bowing helps the martial artist to “land” all of these moments of awareness.  In accumulating these many moments of appreciation, the martial artist experiences a profound sense of fulfillment and well-being and sense of connection to everything.  This sense of well-being is nurturing and strengthening and creates an inner stability and positive perspective that dwarfs the negativity in the world.

So how will your life be different if you practice appreciating throughout the day?  And while bowing is not part of our western culture, you may substitute whatever mechanic or gesture you are comfortable with.  A gentle nod, a knowing smile, a touch to the shoulder or an extra moment of eye-contact are just a few of the ways we can punctuate a moment of appreciation in our everyday lives.

It has been said by many leaders that we “become what we think about most of the time”.  What if we take that a step further – “we become what we experience most of the time”.  And we experience what we practice.  And we choose what we practice.  It’s all framing!  And we are the framers!  So look for — and then frame — all that is worthy of respect and gratitude.  BE appreciative and you’ll discover a world that is rich in resources and opportunity and all that is necessary to nourish the soul.  And in the process, you’ll discover the martial artist in you…