Her life has been a monumental struggle. It began in a traditional culture that tried to restrain her goals and put her into a role she did not want. Through it all, Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim has demonstrated the power of her motto:
“He Can Do, She Can Do, Why Not Me!”
From the moment of Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim’s birth in 1946, her family and all the people of the small South Korean village in which she was born called her a curse. She was born on the Lunar New Year. The family of Tae Yun was certain that on this special day, they would be blessed and their first-born child would surely be a healthy baby boy to carry on the Kim family name. When her grandfather found out that she was not a boy, he was horrified. He ran to the temple and prayed, asking why his family had been cursed.
Life was difficult
Life was very hard for young Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim. Her mother, who was also ostracized for not producing a son for the family, blamed Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim for her hardships. She often left her alone without food for days, hoping that she would die. While surviving this abuse at home, Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim found that even the other village children did not like her. They threw snakes at her and called her bad luck. No one wanted anything to do with her.
During the Korean War, families fled their villages with their sons, often abandoning their daughters. Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim was one such girl. At the age of five, she was left alone while bombs fell all around her. She encountered another young girl a few years older than her. She came up to young Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim and told her that she had to get away from the bombs. “Let’s race!” she said. These words sounded so sweet to Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim’s ears. This was the first time someone had been truly nice to her. Someone cared about her and wanted to help her. Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim was excited and raced after her new friend. She ran hard to keep up with the older girl, but as they were running, a bomb exploded right in front of them.
A glimpse of Tae Kwon Do
As Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim came to her senses, she immediately began to look for her friend. She was desperate to find her. She looked and looked, and then she saw her—lying on the ground, motionless. Her arm was blown off and all around her Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim could see the bodies of people from her village. She had been told throughout her whole life that she was a curse and bad luck, but now here she was, alive. Filled with sadness from losing her first and only friend, from this point forward, Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim decided that she would stand her ground and fight for her life. She was not going to run anymore.
After the war, Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim went to live with her grandparents. It was here she first saw her uncles practicing Tae Kwon Do in the morning mist. Intrigued and fascinated by what she saw, she knew at that moment what she wanted to do with her life.
Women at this time were forbidden to practice Tae Kwon Do. It was a ridiculous notion, but Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim insisted that her uncles teach her. They told her that because she was a girl, she could not train. They told her to learn to cook and sew instead—if she was lucky, she could get married, produce twelve sons, and be set for life. But Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim’s mind was made up. She would learn the martial art. She did not want to be like her mother or her grandmother. She wanted to be an original. Finally, one of her uncles agreed to teach her, certain that she would give up after a few bruises. To his surprise, Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim did not give up. Instead, she trained hard and progressed quickly.
Changing her life
At this point, her grandparents put their feet down. Enough was enough. In their eyes, it was bad enough that this girl had been such a curse on their family, but now she was practicing Tae Kwon Do. They decided to have her married off, but Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim would not let that happen. During an interview with a matchmaker, she was asked to serve tea to show the matchmaker that she could be graceful and polite and could serve her future husband well. As the tea was being served, Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim dumped the tea into the lap of the matchmaker. The matchmaker stormed out of the house proclaiming that this girl was bad luck and would never get married.
At this point, Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim’s grandfather had tried everything to make her change. Finally, he called in a well-known Buddhist Master to convince her to behave as he thought she should. This special meeting would change Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim’s life forever.
Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim was outside when her grandfather and this new person approached. She did not know what was about to happen. The Master asked her to look at him, but that was unthinkable. As culture and tradition demanded, the little girl didn’t dare look into the Master’s eyes. So he put his finger under her chin and gently lifted her face until her eyes met his.
“What do you want to do when you grow up, little girl?” he asked.
“I want to be a teacher and help people,” she replied.
He asked her why she would want to do that. “Don’t you want to grow up, get married, and raise a family?”
Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim replied, “No Sir, I don’t want to be my mother or my grandmother. I want to be me. I want to be an original.”
The Master gazed into her eyes and into her heart and then said, “Okay, I will teach you.” Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim’s life and mission started at this moment.
Dreaming of her own martial arts school
Training was everything for Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim. Everywhere else in her life, people treated her like an outcast. But when she was training with her Master, none of that mattered. She put everything into her training and dedicated her whole self to being the best she could be. She looked around and said to herself, “He Can Do, She Can Do, Why Not Me!”
Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim’s master recognized her dedication and passed on the secrets of internal Ki energy that would form the foundation of what Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim shares with the world today. In the snow, the rain, the sun, and throughout the day and night, Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim dedicated every ounce of energy she had to learning and being the best student.
The master encouraged Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim and her family to try living in the United States. So, in 1968, she and her family moved to Burlington, Vermont with just $300 to their name and not knowing a word of English. Even so, Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim set out to make a place for herself in this new world. However, she was quickly struck with the harsh realities of stifling prejudice and an insurmountable language and cultural barrier.
Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim wanted to open her own martial arts school and teach others the amazing things she had dedicated her life to learning, but she was shut down at every turn. No one would rent her space to open her school. When she finally found a small space, it was quickly burnt to the ground by an arsonist.
Struggling to survive
Working three jobs to make ends meet, Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim pumped gas, cleaned bathrooms at a local hotel, and sold cars on weekends. People still did not accept her. She had spent her whole life dedicated to learning and preparing to help people, but even in America, the land of opportunity, she was still being shunned.
Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim hit rock bottom. She lost all hope and all will to live. Her excitement about coming to the USA was completely gone. No matter how hard she worked and how much enthusiasm she put into everything she did, she felt like she wasn’t getting anywhere. Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim wondered why her master wanted her to come to this strange and hostile place. All she could feel was despair and loneliness. The only thing that kept her from committing suicide was her strong belief in God, which kept her going day by day.
However, one dark and hopeless day, she truly felt she couldn’t go on any longer. She went up a mountain, taking only her bible. With no tent, blanket, food, or water, she fasted and prayed for two weeks, begging God to let her die. At the end of the second week, she received a vision of the passage Isaiah 60, which comforted her immensely. Her vision also included a message from God to, of all things, start a computer company.
Planning the future
Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim, together with a few of her students, founded Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions in 1982. The mission of Lighthouse would be to use science and technology for the betterment of mankind.
As with everything else, this too was a struggle. Funded from the money Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim got from selling her house, she quickly lost everything after a series of business crises. But Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim again said, “He Can Do, She Can Do, Why Not Me!” She did not give up. In a small apartment, she ate soup that she made from discarded beef bones from the local grocery store, and herbs and plants that she picked from the surrounding mountains.
Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim noticed some of the kids in her martial arts classes had blisters on their hands. When she asked how they got them, they told her about the video games that they spent hours playing. Recognizing the trend she was seeing and the negative outcome from sitting in front of a TV playing violent and mindless games for hours, she set Lighthouse in motion to make Bible-based video games. Games based on the Story of Moses and Samson and Delilah were some of the first games they made.
Lighthouse continued to develop custom software applications for businesses, but in Burlington, Vermont, the need and interest in computers was slight at best. So, Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim moved her company to the heart of the Silicon Valley in California.
This was where technology was booming. Lighthouse quickly gained a reputation as a leading custom engineering solutions provider, working with Lockheed, FMC, Intuit, McAfee, IBM, Texas Instruments, and more.
Then, in 1989, Lighthouse did a project with the world’s leading provider of components for hard disk drives. They created a global system that monitored the purity of the air and water in cleanrooms around the world. In a time before the Internet was created, this was a very cutting-edge development.
Lighthouse has continued to develop and innovate real time monitoring for clean air and water, and today manufactures the world’s most innovative line of monitoring equipment. Lighthouse was the winner of two back-to-back “Best Places to Work” awards, among other product awards.
Having been awarded an honorary business degree from one of Korea’s top colleges, Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim is now known around the world as a business visionary. She was awarded a grand prize in the California Chamber of Commerce’s Simply Success Story Challenge for the bold and innovative way she led Lighthouse through an economic downturn.
Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim continues to drive the Lighthouse Development Team to invent and create new products that lead the industry in monitoring clean air and water.
Inspiring others to reach their dreams
Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim has become a true icon of success. She offers her life story to the world so others can be inspired to use her life experiences as a roadmap to their own unique and individual success stories.
As a modern day warrior, Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim still teaches the ancient principles of Ki Energy at her martial arts school, Jung SuWon Martial Art Academy. At Jung SuWon, students overcome their challenges and achieve their successes through her teaching and inspiration.
The country of Korea has honored Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim for the outstanding story of challenge and ultimate success that she has achieved in her life. She embodies the spirit of a Great American Success story. Her motto, “He Can Do, She Can Do, Why Not Me!” motivates her to continue to drive herself and those around her to new levels. It inspires people around the world to go beyond what they think is possible.