It’s not unusual to see a black belt hanging in most women’s closets. But for one family, there are three black belts. And we’re not talking fashion here – we’re talking Karate.

To say it’s a family affair is no understatement. Point Loma residents, Mary Davis, 65, and daughters Debbie Clauson and Julie Smith, are all black belts who got their start by observing a Karate class Debbie’s youngest daughter was taking at USA Freestyle Martial Arts on Rosecrans.

“Each of us got hooked on Karate initially, as a good form of exercise, while we were watching our daughters take class,” said Mary Davis. “Debbie’s daughter was the first to try it and when Debbie found out there was an adult class, she signed up. Next thing I know, I’m observing Debbie’s adult class and thought it looked great so I signed up too.”

Mary admits that at first she thought she might be too old to take on Karate, but after talking with Sensei (the Japanese term for teacher) Kikuchi, he encouraged her to give it a try and she’s never looked back.

Although Mary recognizes being a black belt in Karate is an unusual endeavor, it’s an accomplishment she’s proud of because it was never anything she ever dreamed of doing.

“I always thought martial arts to be kind of violent but it’s so much more than just the physical aspects – it teaches you about self control, discipline, confidence and so much more. I’m amazed at all I’ve learned and how I’ve stuck with it to achieve this level and be teaching too,” Mary said.

Mary and daughter, Debbie, went through the process first and kept each other motivated. They took classes twice a week and after four years and twelve different belt levels, they were ready to go for their black belts. Julie followed in their footsteps shortly thereafter.

“We never started this with the intention of getting our black belts,” Mary remembered. We were just looking for a good exercise class we could stick with and one thing lead to another. As it turned out, I got my black belt for my 60th birthday!”

The three-day black belt testing is “grueling” according to Mary, and there were no allocations made for her age. The first day consists of performing the basic forms and movements, the second day is sparring, and the third day is endurance including running, sit-ups, stair climbing, etc.

“Sensei Kikuchi has been a great role model who never let my age be a deterrent,” Mary said. “I am the oldest, yes, but the Asian culture reveres and respects age so differently than our culture. And now as a second degree black belt, I teach once a week and everyone in my class is younger than I am.”

Mary’s martial arts life has provided countless benefits ranging from self-defense techniques to improved flexibility and upper body strength to better endurance, less arthritis pain and a recently impressive bone density test result.

“There will be no applesauce days for me—I’m going to be the oldest woman doing Karate!” Mary exclaimed.

And for those who are curious, yes, Mary can break boards with a simple karate chop!


Kelly Ferrin is a local gerontologist residing in Carlsbad. She is a certified
AARP retirement specialist, motivational speaker, consultant, and author of a
nationally released book titled, "What's Age Got To Do With It?" For column
ideas contact her at (760)438-2126 or on the internet at ageangel@earthlink.net.
Kelly Ferrin, Gerontologist Lifestyles (760)438-2126 web: http://www.ageangel.com

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