Grand Master Jhoon Rhee

In the video below, you will see a brief demonstration from Jhoon Rhee on his 80th birthday. If you aren’t familiar with Jhoon Rhee, he’s known by the martial arts community as the Father of American Taekwondo. He introduced the style to the United States upon his arrival in the 1950s.

As for his birthday demonstration, the video is worthy of a discussion for a few reasons. First and foremost, it is amazing to see an 80 year old man perform at his level. There is no denying his mental acuity and physical ability. He is light years ahead of his peers, not to mention many who are a fraction of his age.

Unfortunately, yet to no surprise, I have seen several comments online about his pushup form. And it is that type of comment that I’ve always struggled to understand. Not only does Jhoon Rhee remain capable at 80 years old, he’s still trying to motivate and inspire others to become more active. Who cares if his technique does not meet your criteria for a perfect pushup? When did pushups become an athletic event that are scored by a panel of judges? If Rhee’s version of a pushup is what helps him remain active, who are we to suggest otherwise?

Shouldn’t we applaud the individual who makes adjustments based on individual factors such as ability? Jhoon Rhee has been involved in martial arts for longer than most of us have been alive. For twenty year old keyboard warriors who’ve never accomplished anything to criticize him is beyond pathetic.

Personally, I’ve never been one to care much about exercise form as long as what you are doing isn’t dangerous and apt to cause injury. Exercise is not an event. We use exercise to feel and/or perform better. If an exercise helps you in either regard, who cares if it is performed according to someone else’s definition of proper form. Speaking for myself, if you perform an exercise differently than me, I don’t care. It doesn’t affect me and I won’t lose sleep over it. I’m just happy that you are doing something. Like it or not, we are still part of the same minority in that we choose to exercise. Rather than fighting with each other about how to perform an exercise, why not focus that energy elsewhere and instead get someone who does nothing to do something.

As I’ve said before (see video below), pick people up rather than putting them down.

Hats off to Jhoon Rhee for continuing to stay active and motivate others at 80+. I hope to someday reach my 80’s and still be able to perform pushups. If I make it to that day, you are welcome to criticize my pushup form as much as you’d like. I just can’t promise that I’ll have enough interest to respond.


“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.” – William James


  1. Wow! This guy looks great for 80. I bet those push-up police don’t have as much flexibility. Great post Ross.

  2. I watched the video before reading the rest of your post and was bitching to myself about his poor form and then I went on to read the rest of your post.

    I was immediately ashamed of being such a d1ck.

    Thanks for this post Ross.

    Keep up the good work.

  3. Perfect form or not, most people I’m around are going to feel a burn after 10 seconds of remaining in a stationary pushup position much less adding the up and down movements.

    People who comment on the form–I’ve been guilty of it in the past–merely need to take at themselves most of the time. In earlier years, I would sometimes see overweight people jogging at a minimal speed in a park and think, “That won’t get you anywhere,” -says the guy driving to the drugstore a quarter mile up the road to get some redvines.

    Ever since I first came to this site and gained the knowledge to jump rope and later keep myself more physically fit–and after reading several posts and watching the videos–my outlook has changed. Anytime I see anyone doing ANYthing to stay physically fit, I want to cheer them on. I want to tell them to stay consistent and to not give up.

    As you mentioned, do something to stay active is better than nothing at all. I respect that you take the time to keep up this website, that you recognize the good in mankind, and that you share your knowledge with us. Keep on keepin’ on Ross.

  4. I know I just commented, but I just got done watching the video on picking others up rather than pulling them down.
    That needs to be said more often, by more people in the online world. I can also attest to what you said, that you do feel a lot better helping and serving others with exercise.
    To see their whole countenance change–is a reward in itself. I’ve watched the confidence and happiness level go way up in a couple of my friends and my brother. All I did was make a workout schedule, and I told them to stay consistent for at least a month. They altered it here and there, made different food decisions on their own–but after a few months it’s a great thing to see the improvements and hear about the accomplishments they’ve made.

    Again, thanks for what you do Ross.

  5. I rarely ever criticize someone’s form and I almost did after just watching the video, but I read your take on Mr. Rhee’s pushup form. Still impressive for an 80 year old man and his flexibility is amazing. I find as I age I have more problems keeping my flexibility than strength, so congrats to Mr. Rhee. Even if he’s performing half-pushups that is far better than not performing any pushups.

  6. Preview of a future 80 year old Ross?

    The demonstration was nice; the fact he instinctively still wants to teach others is even more amazing

  7. Completely agree with your comment re push up form Ross, people can be petty. I remember a previous post you did about an old guy doing standing ab wheel rollouts. One of the comments on youtube was critical because he didn’t fully extend his arms!!

    Hope you’re not too cold, best wishes from a hot Northern Australia

  8. Ross, great post, amen!

    By the way I love your your style of training, so much more fun than when I used to run/jog around the streets (not that I’m knocking those who do so). We all get our kicks in different ways.

    Mr. Rhee is in great shape for a person of any age. So what is there to knock?

    From a Kiwi (New Zealander) living in Bolivia.

  9. I liked his advice at the end of the video. Never mind push-ups and flexibility ( but, hey, as the Hodge twins would say “Do whatever the f–k you want to do!”) If instead of sitting on the couch you practiced kb exercises or pull-ups or shadowboxing combinations you could achieve a lot more in wherever you want to go. Plus I like the fact that even at 80, he’s still pushing (some might even say selling) a healthy lifestyle. Hats off to you, Mr. Rhee.

  10. It is posts like these that demonstrate why I regularly read your blog. Not only do you provide valuable fitness resources, but your philosophy extends far beyond this field and I often find the wisdom you share in your posts to apply to my attitude to all areas of life.

  11. Hi Ross,

    I agree with everything you said and thank you for posting the video. There are some wonderful people out there, including Jhoon Rhee and your good self, who ‘walk the talk’ and also strive to inspire others to do the same. But, unfortunately there will also always be the ‘know it alls’ who somehow feel important by criticizing others.

    Respect always to you and the Jhoon Rhees of the world 🙂

  12. ABSOLUTELY!! It’s funny (and not so much ha ha funny) how many have to comment or have an opinion about how “you should” vs simply being excited for or happy about something someone is doing. Great post. Thank-you.

  13. I think people react when a claim is made of this many reps performed in a set amount of time. Even so we should respect what this man can do at the age of 80; many of us will not be animated enough at that age to fart.

  14. Jhoon Rhee is an amazing person and his demonstration was impressive! However, not one full pushup was performed. In his defense, he wasn’t in a competition with criteria to qualify the movement. Had he performed full (chest to the floor) pushups, he may have only achieved 40 or so, but that would have been more impressive and would give the critics less to gripe about.

  15. Love a good debate or argument about for or against any form used not because its negative in any way but simply because it stimulates new ideas as to how you can individulise your own training more or fills in some gaps in questions you had previously considered . overall the last statement about consistency in training no matter how you trian is real wisdom

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