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Oklahoma City woman, 68, getting a kick out of martial arts
Posted on Tue, Mar 22, 2011 at 5:54 am
by IDMA Editor

A second-degree black belt, Jimi Hadley can arc high crescent kicks, do splits and break boards with a punch. And she's 68.

Photo of Jimi Hadley - photo credit - Chris Landsberger

Hadley always had athletic ability. And grit.

When she was 11, back when a personal flotation device consisted of an inner tube around the waist, Hadley took up water skiing. “My dad told me everything to do except to let go when you fall,” she said. The girl was dragged almost to the lake bottom, but held on. “I came up chewing the same gum I went down with.”

Hadley went on to teach water skiing, anchor the 440 relay on a high school Junior Olympics team, take fencing in college, and, while teaching English in Japan, take up snow skiing in the Japanese Alps. “I got pretty good at that,” she said.

In her later years, however, Hadley slacked off. At 60, her weight rose to 156 and she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. That wake-up call prompted her to hit the treadmill every day for three years.

Photo of Jimi Hadley - photo credit - Chris Landsberger

Taking a class

But it wasn't until she began helping care for her three grandchildren that she found her latest passion, taekwondo. While her daughter battled breast cancer, Hadley took the grandchildren to school, fed them meals and put them to bed. And she took the 4-year-old to Korean martial arts class.

After sitting through the class for a year, watching the kids and a few adults, including two guys about eight years younger than she was, Hadley remembered thinking, “I could do as well as some of those older (students).”

Hadley, then in her mid-60s, signed up. She looked at the row of colored belts denoting rank hanging on the wall. “I thought, ‘Gosh, if I could only get a blue belt, I would be so proud,'” she said. “The next thing I knew I was testing for my first-degree black belt.”

In September, as she turns 69, Hadley plans to test for her third-degree black belt. Hadley has participated in tournaments, competing and winning in kata, or forms — long and precise series of martial arts moves — and board-breaking events.

As if that weren't enough, which for Hadley it isn't, she is now into Kumdo, Korean swordsmanship. Hadley began several months ago taking Kumdo lessons from her taekwondo instructor, a discipline that involves swinging a long, heavy sword over her head and through complex movements.

“I have no schoolmarm arms anymore,” she said.

Hadley enjoys keeping up with the kids, and by kids she means the ones in the class, such as Master Lee's talented 14-year-old son. “I'm always competing internally with him to get my kicks as high as his and have the stamina,” Hadley said. “Then I remind myself, ‘OK, we're talking 55 years of age difference here — get a grip.'”

Still, she said, “I pretty much hold my own with him,” and she's often the fastest in running drills involving the entire class.

Photo of Jimi Hadley - photo credit - Chris Landsberger

Normal activities

When she's not punching and kicking, Hadley is much like other seniors, playing bridge and mah-jongg and hanging with friends in a social sorority, who tell her they admire her for what she's doing. Hadley dabbled in dollhouse building and oil painting and still makes stained glass pieces to give to friends and family. She plays golf with her husband.

Hadley has never had to use any of her skills to defend herself and would prefer to keep it that way. Her first instinct would be to run away and yell a lot, she said. However, if forced to, she figures she could do some damage with a snap kick.

Hadley plans to continue martial arts as long as she can, which, the way she's going, could be a while.

Photo of Jimi Hadley - photo credit - Chris Landsberger

“I feel better than I did 10 years ago,” she said. “I feel stronger and faster and healthier.”

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