Life Style

I was 80 when I got my black belt in Taekwon-Do

In Taekwon-Do, your gaze must remain fixed on your opponent’s face, which will indicate his or her plan of attack. The temptation to watch for signals from hands or feet can bring unexpected and painful consequences.

At the same time, you need to instantly decide your defence and counterattack. These thoughts raced through my mind when sparring with my instructor Alex Nardizzi, a 6th Dan (the Korean name for ‘level’) former British and European champion.

Unfortunately, his thoughts were well ahead of mine, so no prizes for guessing who won. That said, it was not your usual day for a pensioner.

Last September, a few weeks short of my 80th birthday, it was agreed that I had ‘the potential’ to grade for my Black Belt in Taekwon-Do.

It was the moment I had been anticipating for more than 20 years, on and off, as a student of the martial art. My objectives in becoming a Taekwon-Do practitioner were twofold: to boost my self-confidence and prove that age is indeed but a number.

My GP wasn’t convinced though, after I asked for her guidance. ‘Hmm,’ she frowned. ‘You can probably expect to sustain injuries if you tangle with any 20-year-olds. Needless to say, you may also be risking a heart attack.’

A friend whose judgement I trusted asked me over tea and steepled fingers if I was prepared to put myself in danger of serious bodily damage in, what he kindly referred to as, my ‘declining years’.

I even sought counsel from a veteran martial arts practitioner – to no avail. ‘I think this isn’t a good idea – you know, because of your age,’ he said, stroking his venerable white beard. ‘You may be wasting your money.’

Everyone else seemed more concerned with my age than I was – but I was determined to prove them wrong. If anything, I felt as fit at nearly 80 than I did in my younger years.

Contrary to everyone else’s opinion, one drizzly Saturday morning found me sharing a dojang in East Croydon with a roomful of outrageously fit twenty-somethings. This is it, I told myself: it’s now or never. I was about to grade for my Black Belt in Taekwon-Do.

Seated behind a table at the front of the room was Alex’s dad, 9th Dan Grand Master Donato Nardizzi, one of an elite of Taekwon-Do instructors worldwide to bear that title.

Source of data and images: metro

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