Edward Ahn has the stamina of a man half his age. At age 61, Ahn still jogs five miles a day and teaches several classes of tae kwon do at his fitness center each week. He estimates that he’s run more than 37,000 miles and trained more than 50,000 students. And he has no plans to retire anytime soon. “I love what I do,” Ahn said Friday. “It is still very exciting.”

A native of North Korea, Ahn moved to Macon in 1973 to teach tae kwon do. He opened Ahn Fitness Center, now located on Vineville Avenue. “I like the people of Middle Georgia,” Ahn said. “They have been good to me.” Over the years, Ahn has worked with law enforcement officials and school-aged children, teaching them to defend themselves against predators. He said any martial arts training is a combination of mental and physical discipline. “When they come in with a bad attitude, I have to teach them a lot,” Ahn said. “But they usually leave here thinking very differently.”

Saturday, members of Ahn’s fitness center and some of his former students gathered to honor Ahn for his 50 years of teaching. They gave him a plaque and a trophy. Some of his students have gone on to open their own schools, and others teach at his center. “A lot of people have moved on, but I stayed in one place,” Ahn said. “It’s a free country, and I can do what I wish.” Ahn started training in the martial arts at age 12 and was by the modern founder of tae kwon do, Gen. Choi Hong Hi, to spread the once-lost art in the United States. After 40 years of training, he earned a ninth-degree black belt, the highest level. “I started training to defend myself,” Ahn said. “We learned it outside on the ground, not inside a building. … There was a lot of discipline to learn also.”

Janet Battcher, the principal at Springdale Elementary School in Macon, is one of Ahn’s students. She has worked with Ahn for four years and is now a first-degree black belt. “I was looking for some type of exercise, and a neighbor suggested we try tae kwon do,” Battcher said. She described him as a “great mentor. “You just feel privileged to be learning from him,” Battcher said. Ahn, who can take down a person with one finger, keeps up with his pupils throughout the year in classes and training sessions. He has lived in Macon longer than he has lived anywhere and now considers it home. In 1985, he founded the Hae San Martial Arts Association, which currently has 50 members who teach his style of tae kwon do. He said the best part of his legacy is that others will carry his work on. “I want other to learn and continue training,” Ahn said. “That people will learn more developed techniques and carry those into the future.”

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