The shocked intake of breath from the third degree black belt karate judge was frankly, very gratifying.
We were there to judge my first class of senior citizens for their gold belts. The ages of the students ranged from 64 to 73 years of age—one had even had a hip replacement. None of the judges, or the other guests at the test, were expecting the agility, synchronization or power that these students exhibited.
What had begun as a request for me to lead a “Better Mobility, Better Balance Class” became an answer to a simple question: If we are learning all of these karate moves, what is stopping us from earning karate ranking belts?
It’s been several years since that first test, and two of those students, now ages 67 and 77, are preparing to test for their brown belts this spring. We are in no way delusional about our ability compared to, say, a 25-year-old karate student. For instance, the older students do not kick to the head, or do flying sidekicks. We modify these moves. We treat karate as a sport. A really fun sport! However, you never know. It might be useful. Say someday it happens that we run into a 75-year-old or older bad guy…
We are basically there to have fun, be mobile, keep our balance and shed bad habits.
The classes help build self-confidence. That self-confidence reaches into all areas of our lives.
Darlene Hodge is a karate instructor and author. She lives in Angora, Minnesota.