Jaewon Lim started training in Taekwondo in 1975. She is currently a Kukkiwon certified 9th Dan (degree) black belt, Chang Moo Kwan certified 9th Dan. Bit by the teaching bug while she learned from her father, she has been teaching for almost 40 years. Lim is the Deputy Secretary General of the United States Taekwondo Committee (USTC) and the Vice President of Michigan's USTC.
We caught up with Jaewon recently on what inspires her to teach, the range of students she gets and where to start in the sport if you are a beginner.
Q: Thank you so much for joining us! What can you tell us about Lim’s Tae Kwon Do?
A: I teach Taekwondo, which is a Korean martial art. Taekwondo involves lots of kicks. A lot of the kicks you see in movies are Taekwondo-based. Kicks, punches, blocks and more.
My father had black belts in Taekwondo, Hapkaido and Judo. My background is strictly in Taekwondo. Because of my father’s experience and his sharing of knowledge with me, I do incorporate some of those skills into my program. Basically, I just want students to get a well-rounded experience through Taekwondo.
There are a lot of schools these days who teach everything from traditional martial arts to jujitsu, so it can get watered down. I’m very traditional in terms of my curriculum and what my expectations are.
When students earn their black belts from me it’s a very comprehensive program. Never do they feel like they showed up and earned a belt. Every single one had to work hard for it and I’m rather tough that way.
Jaewon at Hight Dan testing at Masters Certification in Colorado Springs.
Q: What is your professional background with Taekwondo?
A: I have been training for 42 years and teaching for 39. Through the Kukkiwon World Headquarters for the martial art of Tae Kwon Do, I’m one of the highest ranking female black belts in the world. Not all the women stick with it this long.
There are organizations under Taekwondo, called a kwon. My father trained under Chang Moo Kwon. Through that organization, I’m certified 9th in the world for female black belts. I have never stopped practicing since I have started. Even when I was in college and not in Michigan, I continued to teach.
Q: That shows an amazing amount of dedication! How did you get started in this sport?
A: We came to the U.S. so my father could teach Taekwondo here. We came straight to Michigan. We moved to Midland, and then lived in Saginaw for a long time as well.
Q: Your business, Lim’s Taekwondo, was founded in 1996. How has the business grown over time?
A: It’s come in waves and lately it has picked back up. There is so much more competition now though. There were only three other teaching places in Midland when I started. There are many more options now for those interested in learning martial arts.
My teaching has evolved over the years, especially having kids of my own. I enjoy meeting people at various conferences and schools to see how we can help with programming. Martial arts practice is a really exciting thing. Taekwondo builds life skills, not just kicking and punching.
Q: With your business so close to the Ashman Circle, what do you think of the developments in and around Center City?
A: I think it’s great! Personally I don’t shop very much, but everything that is going on in Midland is very exciting. Even my kids who are 19 and 17 think it’s such a great town. They are almost never bored, and there is always something going on.
Jaewon Lim with her kids Hanbyul,19 and Danbi, 17.
Q: We can absolutely agree with that! When it comes to teaching for so long, can you tell us how many state, national and international champions Lim’s Taekwondo has produced?
A: Oh gosh, with state champions, I don’t even know, but it is quite a bit. We have been doing less competition because I don’t make my students compete if they don’t want to. I love competitions, and it’s a great chance to share ideas with others, but I’m more of a traditional school, so if students don’t want to compete, we don’t.
Internationally, we have had students compete. They are champions in the fact that they have won medals, and we have had so many younger students and adults.
I’m thinking about going to the U.S. Open again. It’s fun for me as an instructor and coach, but my main focus is what happens on the floor and in my school. I want to make sure that the life skills students learn in class are used outside of class as well. For November, I had them share how they practiced thankfulness outside of class as well as inside. They had so much fun with that one.
Q: If someone is considering getting involved and starting out in this sport, what are some things they should consider?
A: I feel that they should have a general understanding of what they are looking to benefit from in taking martial arts. If they have a clear idea and they share that with me, it’s a good reminder when I’m teaching them. I teach six days a week so it’s good to know that they have shared desires in practicing. For some, it just looks like fun, for some its good exercise. I also try to train regularly along with them.
Q: What are your oldest and youngest athletes?
A: My oldest is currently 64. My youngest is four. It’s a very diverse range!
Q: Can you tell us more about what training entails?
A: Absolutely. We make modifications so anyone can do this sport. I have trained people with weak ankles, knees, back and more. Most students will train two or three times a week. Some people have the option to train more often, and they do. I encourage them to practice some at home, but generally they are okay with 2-3 times a week. My program is very comprehensive and everything is cumulative. What I was teaching students two months ago isn’t going to be forgotten because we build on those initial skills.
Q: It sounds like you have a lifelong passion for your work, and sharing that with your students. What is your personal favorite part of the sport?
A: I really enjoy teaching. A little over a year ago I was asked to be on the board for the U.S. Taekwondo Committee. I was initially apprehensive, because it would interfere with my teaching. I talked with the president of the organization, and he has such an amazing vision for Taekwondo in the United States that I couldn’t say no. A couple months ago, the state organization president asked me to be on the state board as well. I like being involved at all levels of the sport, but by far, my favorite part is still teaching on a regular basis.
Part of the joy of teaching for me is that I’m often invited and allowed to be involved in people’s family life. I get to watch the kids grow not only physically but into adulthood. They still come back and visit to train or even just stop and say hello. I have been doing this for decades and it’s really become the Lim’s Taekwondo family. I just awarded a black belt to one of the girls who started with me when she was ten. She is now 26 and awarding her that black belt was amazing.