Karate OAPs: Pair in their seventies get black belts

Sheila Stewart, 72, and Isabel Murray, 77, have been awarded black belts.
Sheila Stewart, 72, and Isabel Murray, 77, have been awarded black belts.
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A pair of Fife pensioners have become two of the oldest people in Britain to achieve black belts – in karate.

Sprightly Sheila Stewart (72) and Isabel Murray (77) took up the sport in 2015 when Sheila began taking her grandchildren to classes.

The fighting fit duo – both from Dalgety Bay, went through twelve grades from white belt, before being awarded their coveted black belts.

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Under the guidance of fifth dan instructor Sarah Queen, they have now achieved one of the highest ranks in the martial art.

The pensioners reached the rank on November 16 after four years of honing their fighting techniques.

Marking the milestone, the delighted women were both given ‘special’ black belts from Japan, complete with their names embroidered on them.

Sheila, a gran-of-three and former hairdresser, said: “My grandchildren do karate and they had a fun day in Burntisland.

“I went along and Sarah was willing to do a class for seniors, so I thought I’d give it a go.

“Me and Isabel went along and the rest is history.

“We were a bit hesitant about our first grading but she [Sarah] thought we could do it and we passed, so we did the next one.

“It’s just gone on from there – it’s been amazing.

“We never ever thought we’d get to the stage we’re at now.

“Words really fail me, it was just wonderful – we were ecstatic [when given the belts] “We couldn’t believe we’d got this far.”

Isabel, a former delivery driver, said: “It was exciting, something I never thought I’d achieve, but perseverance and hard work I got there - I’m quite happy.

“Our first grading was in March 2016 and we just went on from there, but it’s been hard work.

Sarah, who coached Sheila and Isabel for four years, said: “They’ve been fun to teach.

“I’m glad to see them achieving black belt.”

Despite their age, Sheila and Isabel only missed a handful of classes over the course of their four year training.

Sarah said: “They’ve had to learn a certain group of techniques and come in and do them, which can be quite daunting at that age.

“They’ve progressed pretty quickly through it.

“They’ve missed one or two classes but we’ve encouraged them to keep going.

“Originally it was never an aim to achieve black belt but I pushed them to achieve it as quickly as they could.

“The four year period is a good time frame, as you get older it gets harder.

“We’ve got a lot of people that have trained for a long time but they didn’t start until an older age.

“One of our instructors is 67 but he’s been doing it his whole life.

“It’s not common to get someone starting karate in their late 60s-70s – it’s quite unique.”