Dahn Hak: Searching for Energy
Mixing elements from martial arts and yoga, the Korean practice of Dahn Hak is finding new students in Hawaii because, they say, it is both relaxing
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The energy was good when a rainbow
appeared over a Dahn Hak class at Magic Island
Dahn Hak instructor Anita Ahn stands with knees apart as she instructs her students to swing their arms alternately, as if your thumbs point down to the earth and up to the sky.
“One, two, three, four, five, six,” Ahn counts rhythmicly as they practice one of their first exercises.
The students take turns counting off to 10 as they continue the movement. Wearing loose, comfortable white clothing, with bamboo mats in front of them, the students smile as they follow the series of exercises.
The hourlong Korean Dahn Hak class is described by some as a combination of yoga and tai chi. Dahn means energy or vitality, and Hak means study — Dahn Hak is the study of how energy can help the body. It involves stretches, breathing exercises, brief massages, IQ strengthening exercises, meditation and energy training.
In the energy workout, students sit on the floor with their legs crossed and palms facing up. Close eyes, lift arms up to chest level and face palms in toward each other. A tingling feeling between the palms and fingers is felt, and students spend some time feeling the “energy ball” as it expands and contracts.
At the end of the class, students share what they liked about the session. After each student speaks, everyone claps.
“Every time, I come in like this,” Sandra Wong says as she simultaneously tightens her jaw, heaves her shoulders toward her neck, and clenches her hands into claws. The class bursts out in laughter because they can relate to this four-year student of Dahn Hak who is a receptionist at a dental office. “And when we release the stress that’s been accumulated throughout the day, I feel the energy, and electricity of the earth,” confides Wong. “I release stress and have more energy.”
Wong explains that they also try to educate people on their intuitive power, and to be kinder to others. “It’s a philosophical, mental and physical holistic practice,” adds Wong.
Sumastuti “Tuti” Sumukti says her friend enjoyed the exercises so much, she invited her to take the class.
“I had borderline high blood pressure, and after taking the class, three months later, at my checkup at Kaiser, my blood pressure was normal,” explains Sumukti, a semi-retired Indonesian culture consultant, who has been in the class for the past 10 months. “The doctor didn’t allow me to get off my blood pressure pills, but I feel healthier. Master Ahn said it is because we use the yin and yang concept of exercising. And I think the breathing is the good part of it, spreading oxygen all over the body.”
Classes are held at the Japanese Cultural Center Do Jo, the Manoa Recreation Center, Kaneohe Community and Senior Center, Puunui Community Park and Magic Island.
Master Ahn, who used to work as a nurse, has been a Dahn Hak instructor for eight years. As a nurse she was interested in naturopathic treatment because she had weak knees and digestion problems. Dahn Hak helped improve her health, and she says, it gives her “a deep connection with my soul.”
“I feel a connection to any type of people, and I want to help people experience what I feel,” Ahn adds.
Senior healing instructor Donna Taylor says she’s always been interested in integrated medicine. A registered nurse and the former director of the transplant system of Hawaii, she felt that Western medicine did little for prevention and didn’t work with the person as a whole.
Master Anita Ahn works with student
“We have more stress now, and we’re busy,” says Taylor. “There’s more depression, more illness, due to all this stress. There’s 60 to 70 percent more disease in diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis and lupus; they’re stress-related. How do you prevent this in patients?”
Taylor says that people are looking for something like this, and she likes it because it is a set structure to have new experiences and to keep growing.
Students’ flexibility and energy blockages are evaluated. Three sessions per week are generally recommended. Memberships are available by the year, as well
as lifetime memberships. Locally, there are about 36 Dahn Hak instructors.
Dahn Hak is somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 years old. It was passed down from generation to generation of men to develop the mind and body. Eventually it was lost in culture over time, and for the past 2,000 years, it hadn’t been practiced.
From left, Iris Saito, Sandra Wong and
Tuti Sumukti at Magic Island
Some time before 1980, Ilchi Lee started teaching a modernized version of Dahn Hak at public parks, and soon more people joined him. In 1980, the first Dahn center opened in the heart of downtown Seoul. Five years later, the principles and methods of Dahn Hak were published in Korean. More Dahn Hak centers sprouted up, and it began to penetrate corporations like Daewoo, as well as Korea’s athletes and military. In 1991, a Korean American who took Dahn Hak in Seoul opened the first Dahn Hak center in the United States, in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. In 1996, Japan and Canada opened Dahn Hak centers. Lee’s book, titled Healing Society, is published in English and has made No. 1 on the amazon.com selling list. Lee’s newest book is called Human Technology. Today, there are more than 360 centers in Korea and 120 in the United States, 22 in Japan, six in England, one in Brazil and 10 in Canada.
Lee’s theories are also expressed in a series of brain respiration centers, and meditations called higher sensory perception (HSP).
Anita Ahn leads students Maria
and Rebecca Seinitz
Dahn master Ahn says that they’ve even taught Dahn Hak to third-grade students at Maryknoll. There are more plans to expand into the community in the future.
The Dahn Hak Holistic Fitness Energy Training center has a new location at 627 South St., #205C, and an open house will be held Aug. 27 and 28 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Another center is located at 99-080 Kauhale St., #C-21.
For more information on times and locations of classes, call 942- 0003. www.dahnyoga.com
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