Fighting fit and loving it

At 73, Garry couldn’t be fitter, healthier or happier and means it quite literally when he says karate is a lifesaver.
It’s a long way from that dark place of almost a decade ago when the retired police detective senior sergeant received an ominous warning from his doctor that he wasn’t travelling too well.

He was 64 and all his blood readings were elevated to an unacceptable level, he weighed 103kg and had already suffered two heart attacks necessitating a quintuple coronary by-pass operation.

That was followed by a total right knee replacement because of his arthritis.

He would joke that if he was a horse, even the glue factory would reject him.

But Garry wasn’t ready to sign out and decided that things had to change. With the cautious agreement of his doctor, he took up karate.

“I needed to regain some semblance of physical fitness to increase my prospects of a healthy lifestyle in the longer term, and to counter the adverse affects of my increasingly sedentary lifestyle in retirement,” he says.
“I chose karate as it also offered increased confidence and the skills to avoid or reduce harm as I wasn’t getting any younger and was aware of the potential for violence in the community.”

Karate training, he learned, gave him increased awareness of his surroundings, greater alertness and a keen sensitivity to his gut feeling or intuition.

“Under the close supervision of the professional and caring instructional staff at Karate Budokan International (KBI) in Noosaville, I began my karate training as a nervous, un-coordinated white belt at a very slow and measured pace,” he says.

“I started to experience a noticeable increase in agility, mobility and an overall feeling of wellbeing with accompanying weight loss and, importantly, an increase in confidence.”

Acute awareness of surroundings and improvement in cognitive skills was a bonus.  It was time to pursue his boyhood dream of becoming a black belt in karate.

At 73, Garry is firing despite his bleak picture of health a decade ago.

Regular weekly classes, individual assistance from instructors and regular consultation with his doctor and cardiologist, saw Garry slowly work his way up through the nine coloured belts.

On December 11, 2011, after a personally satisfying but physically and mentally challenging grading over two days by three judges and in accordance with international karate training and assessment criteria, Garry realised his elusive dream.

He was a 1st Dan Black Belt in karate, a Shodan.  He was 68.

Since then he has gone on to bigger things - winning a silver medal in the Queensland State Karate championships in Brisbane and then another silver medal in the KBI world championship in Noosaville, all the while competing against others who were almost half a century younger than him.

Garry is now listed in the Black Belt Register of the Australia Karate Federation (AKF) the sport’s Australian governing body, as a 3rd Dan Black Belt (Sandan). He has also moved into teaching, a karate sensei, after earning his formal vocational qualification by researching and submitting a 26,000 word thesis.

“I was not surprised to learn from one research paper that a karate training program contributed positively to the cognitive and neuromotor functions of an individual,” he says. “This struck home as some of my former police colleagues had succumbed to varying degrees of dementia.”

Today, Garry weighs 90kg, his blood test readings are normal, one of his medications has now been halved and his right knee is performing pain-free and beyond expectation.  

At 73, life has never looked so good.

Garry recommends the Masters karate training class for students over 50 years, Wednesday 9am-10am at the Karate Budokan International’s (KBI) training rooms, Harvey Norman Centre, Gibson Road, Noosaville.
Members range from late 60s to 80. “I hope it will entice a few retirees out of their recliners and on to the tatami (karate mat) to become the Sunshine Coast’s new-age Karate Kids,” he says.