The first thing you’ll notice about Lanny Joon is a smile bright enough to obliterate any gloom. Joon, an actor and boxing coach, follows it up with a disarming personality that, once engaged, can draw in any stranger.
It wasn’t always like that for Joon as a child.
He was a heavyset kid who was picked on often, which led to a lack of self confidence. His road to success and the ability to be vulnerable in front of strangers was paved by a very traditional martial art: Taekwondo.
Taekwondo became a confidant for Joon. He was able to face what he saw as flaws, challenge and then overcome them in a safe and uplifting space.
“I think dealing with pain and managing pain and knowing what it is, you not only discover your body physically, but you start to understand your limits and start to push your limits,” Joon said. “And I think the physicality of martial arts bleeds into the mentality of your life. And I think the tougher you are on yourself, the easier life can be because life is always difficult when you want to get to the next echelon of your life. It's the booster. It's what teaches you to kind of keep going.”
Losing is maybe the only thing that you can learn from in terms of failure.
That Taekwondo background has played a key role in Joon’s acting career. It’s a life that could ensnare some, who lack a high level of discipline and focus, in negativity. Opportunities are denied and rewarded on a regular basis in Hollywood. Joon has worked his way into numerous roles on both the big and small screens. He played the role of JD in the 2017 film Baby Driver, and has been in Takers (2017) as well as Black Gold (2011). He’s also held roles in television shows: Lost, The Big Bang Theory, Magnum P.I., Hawaii Five-O, Numb3rs, and NCIS: Los Angeles, to name a few.
Those roles didn’t come without their challenges and it was martial arts that helped Joon deal with the ups and downs of the industry.
“There's a lot of things that we all go through and martial arts has provided just a release in terms of anxiety, stress,” Joon said. “Especially as an actor in this city. There's a lot of that stuff going on and I think martial arts kind of just zones you in and makes you focused. It's almost like a reset button. You know, you go do your session, and you're just focusing on this one thing. And once you hit it, you kind of emulate that in your life. You just pick one focus and you hit that. And I think that's what's really helped that moment. I think life is all about that moment. We work every second and every minute for that one moment, that job interview or that audition or whatever it may be, it's always that one moment that we strive so hard [for] and we only have that one moment, and we have to let it go. I think martial arts provides a place where you can practice that.”
In practicing martial arts, Joon has a deep understanding that winning and losing is a natural part of life. Those moments go hand in hand and quite frankly, one can’t exist without the other. Taekwondo, as well as his parents, allowed him to process that state of being and embrace it.
“Discipline, never quitting, pain is okay,” Joon said. “Losing is absolutely okay. Losing is maybe the only thing that you can learn from in terms of failure. And there's a lot of people that I've learned from who say failure is only a failure if you don't learn something from it. And I agree with that.”
Reflecting on where Joon began as a child before entering Taekwondo and where he is today, he’s already won.