Try that line around 72 year old 4th degree martial artist Kenny Peterson!
“I started martial arts when I was 60 years old. My 10 year old grandson was preparing to test for his 1st degree black belt in taekwondo when the instructor asked me why I had not started yet.”
Two months later, after a series of private lessons, he surprised his grandson by appearing on the floor to receive his orange belt in taekwondo.
“My grandson had tested and earned his recommended black belt just that morning. When they called my name during roll, call his head turned so fast he could have gotten whiplash. My grandson was the one to tie that orange belt around my waist.”
Fears & Inspiration, But Never Too Old to Start
After nearly 40 years of truck driving, fitness and exercise were not normal things in Kenny Peterson’s life. He continues to drive trucks and has logged over 4 million miles across the USA.
“My biggest fear starting out was getting hurt. I saw younger people doing running jump kicks and could not see myself doing that. My instructors, all younger than me, took me step by step at a pace I could manage for where I was at.”
“I was 220 pounds at the time, well over an ideal weight for my height. I had little flexibility, but I saw what happened to my father when he stopped being active and I knew I had to do something different.”
When his knees made living in his own home too difficult by his late 80’s, Kenny’s father moved into a nursing home which included daily physical therapy. Over the following months, with this support, Kenny watched his father improve not only physically but mentally as well.
“It was inspiring to see him improve. He even started singing in the choir again!”
However, when he was moved to another nursing home which did not include movement or physical therapy, he rapidly declined in all areas again. “It was heartbreaking to see him on his 92nd birthday, the last day I saw him, being fed and unaware of even who was around him.”
It was a similar story with his mother, who rapidly improved after a fall and was inspired to work hard to get back to her home. “When someone told her that was probably never going to happen, she just sort of gave up and quickly went backwards.”
“When I started taekwondo I decided I wanted to work on my flexibility, and being able to do the splits was one goal I set to achieve by the time I earned my 1st degree black belt.”
He got his splits down 2 months before testing for his first black belt. He has also dropped 50 pounds, and has seen other health markers improve, even while suffering Meniere’s disease with symptoms of vertigo, tinnitus, hearing loss and nausea.
“I recover faster and I believe it’s because my body is healthier.”
Kenny and his grandson tested together for their 4th degree black belt at ATA Worlds in 2012, just months after his grandson turned 18 and became eligible. It was a happy moment for grandfather and grandson, and a first for the organization.
Kenny is a 13 time ATA World Champion, and is now an instructor. This spring he was awarded the ATA Region 114 Black Belt of the Year Award, nominated and awarded from ATA headquarters in Arkansas.
“I love working with students. I also enjoy when my instructors point to me when talking to 30 and 40 year old parents and tell them my story. It’s never too late to start something you love to do.”
In 2016 Kenny applied to test for his 5th degree black belt at the ATA Worlds in Little Rock, Arkansas. If all goes well, his instructors are encouraging him to start thinking ahead to the future of a 6th degree, and even becoming a Master.
“At earliest I would be 79 years old when that could happen.”
If you find something you love to do, you can find other reasons to do what it takes to make that happen.
“Martial arts is my passion, too,” says LeAnn Lyon, founder and president of aVivoPur.com, a 1st degree black belt and student of Kenny’s. “Because of that, I am at the gym at 6am three times a week, and wearing my Fitbit to hit my 10,000 steps daily to make me a better martial artist. Martial arts gives me the reason to do those other things that are not always what I feel I want to do!”
She continues, “Don’t settle. If you have an old injury, or a fear that is holding you back from doing something you used to enjoy or always wanted to try, find natural healthy options or a great coach to #GetBackInTheGame and do it. There are no do-overs, so live your life to your fullest dreams!”
“It doesn’t even have to be martial arts,” Kenny adds jokingly.
- “I want to run out of gas, not rust out.”
- “Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. Just ask my wife.”
“I feel #MovementMatters just because if you don’t keep your body active, your mind won’t be active. Exercise is not only for your body, but also your mind. I think it’s helping me stay young, I really do.”