75-year-old gets black belt in taekwondo

75-year-old gets black belt in taekwondo

wcrenshaw@macon.comMarch 26, 2014 

  • Charlie Miner, 75, tested successfully for his black belt in Taekwondo. Video by Wayne Crenshaw

WARNER ROBINS -- Not many people turn 75 as impressively as Charlie Miner did.

His birthday was March 17, and on Friday he tested successfully for his black belt in taekwondo.

His instructor is Master Steve Sapp, who operates Warner Robins Karate Academy. In 40 years of teaching, Sapp said Miner is by far the oldest person he has tested for a black belt.

And Miner did it with a bit of flair, delighting a large audience of parents who were there to see their children tested.

Part of the test includes breaking a 1-inch board -- once with his foot and once with his fist. Miner, however, chose to break two boards held together.

When he did that with his fist, third-degree black belt Milton Taylor was particularly impressed.

“I can’t even do that,” he said. “I did it once and my hand hurt for a month.”

Miner was wearing a black belt during the test because he had been recommended for one, but the test made it official.

Modesty is an important tenant of taekwondo, so Miner was reluctant to talk about his achievement. (He only wanted to talk about how much Sapp had helped him.) But he agreed to do so after the suggestion he could inspire others his age.

He took up taekwondo, a self-defense system much like karate, just four years ago when he was living in a retirement community in Florida. He moved to Warner Robins in October to be near family.

“It’s basically a health thing for me,” he said. “This presents a good challenge, and it’s good for your mind, body and soul.”

Asked if thought he could fend off some young punk who tries to mess with him, his modesty came through again.

“You don’t brag on your skills,” he said, “but you have confidence you can handle yourself. You only use it in the defense of others.”

He’s no stranger to hand-to-hand combat. He served in the Marines, and for 30 years he was an Ohio state trooper, where he got into many scrapes with suspects.

While many people his age can’t handle the rigors of taekwondo training, Miner said he hopes more of them find some way to remain active. “It’s never too old to get off the couch and get yourself involved in an exercise program,” he said. “All you have to do is look around.”

He said he did have a problem with his cholesterol level, but that has gone away since he took up martial arts.

At 58, Sapp is no youngster himself.

“He gives me inspiration to know that at 75 I can still be teaching,” Sapp said. “For a person his age, he is in excellent shape. He has maintained good flexibility.”

Sapp teaches all ages, and many children were among those he tested with Miner that day. He said a person of any age can learn taekwondo as long as they understand their physical limits.

“It’s something you’ve got to want to do and love to do,” he said.

Taekwondo originated in Korea and emphasizes high leg kicks, quick hand movements and physical fitness.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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