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You’ve seen the karate kid ...now meet karate grandad

By Roberta Bell

At 75, most of us are looking for a slower pace of life.



Not so for one Northern Ireland grandfather who has just shown a clean heel to the significantly younger opposition by picking up a black belt in karate.

Robert McCracken was 66 when he joined the Chujo Karate Association, which trains at Coleraine Leisure Centre, in a bid to find a new past-time.

And nine years later the Coleraine pensioner has accomplished a feat that many young martial artists only dream of.

While Mr McCracken spoke of his surprise at achieving the coveted black belt so early in his karate career, his coach Danny Redmond had never had any doubt given his pupil’s dedication.

Mr Redmond, chief instructor and technical adviser of the association, said: “I knew he would do it. When I'm teaching he's just one of the crowd. The fact that he's 75 doesn't come into it.

“He’s older than anyone else there and the oldest person I've ever trained. He’s an inspiration to me and everyone in the club.”

In 1985 Mr McCracken’s son Jonathan, then aged 10, showed an interest in the sport. But his father was worried that the training would be too intensive and have a negative impact on his education.

Jonathan is now an optometrist living in Scotland. “When I rang him up and said I’d decided to start attending karate classes he said: ‘Dad, you never let me!’ I said: ‘Son, that was a mistake’.

“I might still get him interested now, though.

“He's young, he’s just turned 35,” laughed Mr McCracken.

The grandfather’s black belt has involved years of intensive training.

“ I use the rowing machine. I do sit-ups, press-ups and leg raises to tone my muscles,” said Mr McCracken.

It took him seven years to reach an advanced level known as third brown belt. He was told if he was to go on to black belt, it would require an additional training night for two years. So as well as training at the centre, he also travelled to Ballymoney for extra classes.

In March Mr McCracken was kicked in the head by a 16-year-old boy while they were ‘sparring’, as it is called in the karate world.

“It’s good training for me as an old person to speed up my reactions. In this case I just I wasn't quick enough to block his kick,” he said.

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