Aging is no excuse for not pursuing your passion. Michael Leigh, at the ripe age of 90, has just been awarded his ninth degree in Judo—a feat that only six individuals in the UK have achieved. This master martial artist’s accomplishments are a testament to his commitment to the sport and an inspiration to those looking to engage in activities despite age.
Leigh didn’t start practicing judo until 1955 while he was working for the Royal Air Force. He found an old judo book in a charity shop written by the co-founder of the London Judo Society and thought it “looked interesting”—which led him on his journey to becoming one of the highest-ranking judokas in Britain. After obtaining his black belt, he moved on to compete at international tournaments and eventually set up his own club—The Kin Ryu Judo Club—in Crawley, West Sussex in 1976. The club quickly became one of the largest in the UK with 520 members across three locations: Crawley, Horley, and Horsham.
His achievements don’t stop there either! Not only did he act as a backup on the 1964 Olympic team but also served two terms as chairman of British Judo and worked as both a national coach and international referee over his lifetime of involvement with the martial art form. But despite reaching such acclaim within this sport, Leigh still humbly expressed surprise when learning about receiving this ninth-degree award: “When I heard the news I couldn’t quite take it in…I find myself amongst peers I greatly admire and respect. I appreciate this recognition of my lifetime of commitment to the amazing sport of Judo and I will hold the grade with great pride and honor.”
Moreover, beyond being recognized for his athletic ability Leigh has also been commended for making judoka more accessible through organizing championships specifically designed for older athletes as well as introducing special needs programs into clubs around Britain. His efforts have allowed others who may not have had opportunities before now to be able to participate too! And although he now describes himself as “more oracle than athlete these days” Martin Rivers who co-manages Crawley Judo Club still reports seeing Leigh on mats from time to time showing off moves that make him look like he’s “75 rather than 90”.
It’s super inspiring stories like Michael Leigh’s that remind us all that our dreams can come true no matter how advanced our age might be! So if you’ve ever wanted to try something new or rekindle an old flame we’d say go right ahead – you never know what kind of extraordinary success you could achieve!
Sources: Good News Network