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Song Pak is master of defense and healing

Posted: Sunday, January 05, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) -- Song Pak has studied pain from many sides -- as a martial arts master, a holistic healer and the victim of blows that brought him close to death.

''A personal experience with healing -- that's real knowledge,'' he said.

Pak, 40, is also a teacher, a video producer and the leader of Juneau's practitioners of Dzogchen, a form of Buddhism. Juneau has been his home since he left Russia in 1995, but he travels internationally to lead seminars and teach martial and healing arts.

Pak grew up speaking Japanese, Korean and Russian. His heritage is Korean but he spent his childhood in the Russian Far East. His parents and other Korean families were relocated by the Japanese and forced to ''pioneer'' Sakhalin Island when Japan invaded Korea, Eastern Russia and China before World War II. After the war, the region fell into the hands of the Soviet Union.

As a member of an ethnic minority, Pak faced discrimination growing up. He began studying martial arts out of necessity when he was 13.

''For self-defense,'' he said. ''It was a practical skill in Russia.''

He went on to study fencing and boxing as well as martial arts such as Tang Soo Do, Kiai Jitsu, karate and judo. Fascinated with movement and the body, he also took up yoga and a Korean practice called Tae Kyon.

''It's a martial art and a form of dance,'' he said. ''Many martial arts teach technique. This teaches you how to move.''

Pak also earned a degree in holistic medicine in Moscow, and began teaching and practicing massage, acupuncture and acupressure. In 1989, he invented a computer-based pulse diagnostic system that interprets a patient's pulse in accordance with traditional Chinese medicine. The pulse is read and analyzed, providing data on about a dozen different organs and systems.

In 1991, Pak saw tanks roll through the streets of Moscow as the Soviet Union collapsed. He moved back to the Far East to Vladivostok, near the borders of North Korea, China and Russia. A year later, as international relations opened up, Pak visited Juneau for the first time as part of a sister-city delegation.

Mike Ban, who teaches Tang Soo Do in Juneau, met Pak on that trip.

''We hit it off,'' Ban said. ''He had an English-Russian dictionary and we talked martial arts.''

The two became friends, and Ban helped Pak secure a U.S. patent on his diagnostic system. They've worked together in Tang Soo Do as well.

Pak's knowledge of pressure points and the human body makes him a gifted martial artist and healer, Ban said.

''Song is a complete martial artist in that sense,'' Ban said. ''That's part of the old ways: You should know how to put someone back together and help them, heal them as well as hurt them. I've seen him do it.''

In 1994, armed thugs attacked Pak in Moscow and severely beat him. He decided to move to Juneau, believing the beauty and nature would help him recover from his injuries.

''This is a really good healing place,'' he said.

Pak also began teaching Dzogchen, and yoga and Tae Kyon at JRC-The Alaska Club.

Pak said Dzogchen, which means ''great perfection,'' is an early Buddhist philosophy that originated in what is now the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. Practitioners study the nature of the mind, spirit and body, striving for self-knowledge and constant presence and awareness.

Pak guides Dzogchen students using meditation and contemplation, yoga and the dance form and martial art Tae Kyon. Pak said movement is a tremendous teacher. In martial arts, understanding movement helps anticipate an opponent's actions, he said. In healing, movement and posture are valuable diagnostic tools.

Deep-tissue massage and acupressure are among Pak's specialties, and he's been exploring healing therapies that use light, color and sound. Pak said one technique includes bathing a patient with colored light to alter mood and enhance emotion.

Sound is an effective tool for a martial artist as well a healer. Vocalizing sounds enhances the power of a blow or the effectiveness of a parry. In self-defense, something as simple as shouting ''Stop'' or ''Hold it'' when blocking a punch or kick can rob the attack of some of its power, he said.

There are energetic properties to vowels and consonants, Pak said, and sounds can help treat emotional and physical conditions. Pak voiced a long, rolling ''R.'' Making that sound can help alleviate anxiety, he said. Voicing a buzzing ''Z'' can help with grief.

Many physical ailments result from suppressing feelings and experiences and failing to resolve emotional issues, Pak said. Different parts of the body relate to different sides of unresolved psyche.

''Most problems are related to psychic twists,'' he said.

He's been generous with his time and knowledge since he's been in Juneau, said Liz Saya, who studied Dzogchen and Tae Kyon with Pak.

''My body is in the best shape it's been in years,'' she said. ''I've learned so much from him. Every night of the week he's got something going on. We're very lucky to have him here.''

Pak is planning to relocate to New York City next year. He's produced a series of instructional videos on the healing and martial arts, and he can expand his teaching and health practices in the city.



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