Age no block to success

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Herbert man Geoff Higgins is making strides in the discipline of aikido, at the age of 72.
Last April, he started taking aikido classes three nights a week in the Herbert Community Hall, under the tutelage of Mark Fitzwater.
Now a fifth kyu (orange belt), Mr Higgins is determined to go as far as he can in the martial art.
“When Mark came to Herbert, I thought I would go down and take a look at it.
“It’s a defensive art … if I get into a situation I don’t like, I have got an option to get out of it. I’m not aggressive, so it suits me.
“Aikido is a grounded martial art meaning that with the exception of learning to do forward and backward rolls, the art is about techniques of moving the feet, hands and torso in passive defence of oneself.”He said he always wanted to learn a martial art, but was unable to find one that suited his needs and temperament until he discovered aikido.
“As a crusty pensioner prior to joining the group, my physical ability was deteriorating due to bad work practices, which caused hamstring and groin damage to the extent I could not walk without pain and certainly not run. So, in essence, I was becoming crippled.”Mr Higgins has lived in Herbert for 32 years.
Before that, he worked in supply and logistics at the Royal New Zealand Air Force in Wellington, Christchurch, Ohakea and Te Rapa.
He moved to North Otago and worked as a jailer at the Oamaru police station for eight years and at Otepopo School, which closed in 2010, for five years, as an IT technician and groundskeeper.
Mr Higgins said his health and well-being had improved dramatically since he started aikido.
“I can run without pain and without impediment. I have gained a fitness [level] I’m proud of and notice an improvement in my co-ordination, balance and muscle toning.
“You don’t need to be bulked up and muscular. It’s all about using the other person’s effort and energy.”In the early 2000s, Mr Higgins suffered two heart attacks and he has had six heart-bypass operations and two heart stents (tube-shaped devices to keep the arteries open) implanted.
He hopes to achieve the highest grade possible in aikido.
“My aim is to be a black belt at 80. I’ve only got eight more years to get there … but we’ve got a good teacher here.”A 10-weeks adult beginners’ course starts in Herbert on February 24, at the community hall.
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