When Hugh was 52 years old he sold his business and found himself with a lot of time on his hands. He wanted an activity he could do with his young sons and started looking into Martial Arts. He chose a small dojo in the Lion’s Hall out in Springbank, lead by Renshi Trevor Clarke. Renshi Trevor had not been in Springbank long, but was passionate and loved what he was doing, and this was infectious. Though his sons eventually turned to other activities, Hugh had fallen in love with karate and he “jumped into it!” He says that he became almost obsessed with it as he really enjoyed it and felt like he never wanted to quit.
For him, age was not a factor.
“If you do the right kind of exercises and just stick with it, it doesn’t matter what age you are, in my opinion, that’s just a number- you can whip yourself into shape.”
It took Hugh 4 years to achieve his Black Belt – the average for any age group. He now cross trains in Muay Thai kickboxing, a traditional martial art out of Thailand that involves the hands and feet, knees and elbows in a stand up fight, and in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the ground fight where outmaneuvering your opponent is as important as out-thinking your opponent. Hugh has no desire to rank in these, though he has earned his purple prejiad in Muay Thai and a blue belt in BJJ. Instead, he tends to “..look at it as rounding out my skills, filling in the details…”.
As for how martial arts has helped him outside of the classes, community, and incredible fitness, Hugh says it increased his confidence – some skills “develop a millimeter at a time and that is how it should be – you don’t really get anything unless you work hard.” When asked what he has to say to his peers, others approaching middle age and wondering what they can do or if it is too late, he says:
“ I think the thing that we hear from adults the most is that, well, you know ‘my knees won’t take it’ and, or, ‘I’ll feel out of place’, and I think that the dojo is the one place where respect is the most important thing on the floor. Don’t worry about feeling out of place, we’ll all be happy to see you there! As for being fit goes take it easy, just work yourself into shape and it can happen.”
In the end Hugh says it is a cliché but true; it is about the journey. It is a continuous learning process and he does not see himself stopping any time soon. He would like to see more adults, both those who sit and watch their kids participate and those who have long thought something like martial arts was well in their past, to get off their chairs and join him on the mats!
Check out Sensei Hugh's interview video on our YouTube channel!