Grandfather awarded his fifth judo black belt, at 78

First there was Karate Kid but now it is the turn of the judo geriatric.

Tuesday, 18th October 2011, 1:12 pm

While most of his peers are taking things easy in later life, dedicated Donald Hughes is still busy throwing opponents to the mat – and racking up his fifth black belt in the process.

At 78, the Muirhouse grandfather-of-two has become the oldest judo master in Scotland to hold a 5th dan, which he received at a surprise bash at one of his dojos at Drumbrae Leisure Centre.

The pensioner’s commitment to the martial art over 50 years was honoured by scores of guests who slipped into his class as he gave a lesson to youngsters.

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A shocked Mr Hughes was then presented with the coveted 5th dan black belt by technical director of the British Judo Association, Colin McIver.

Mr Hughes said: “It gives me a great feeling to know I have achieved something.

“I knew from the minute I started training that judo was for me.”

The septuagenarian only took up the discipline at the age of 28, but from the moment he entered his first dojo in Gorebridge in 1968, he was hooked.

He was drawn to the Japanese martial art during his national service having watched a soldier of slight build overpower a much larger man.

He said: “This big guy, who was like a ploughman, was thrown to the ground by this normal guy who later turned out to be an orange belt in judo.

“Later, when I was back in Edinburgh, I saw a poster for judo classes and decided to go to one in Gorebridge. When I came back from it, I told my wife, ‘this is for me and I think it was one of the best days of my life’.”

Mr Hughes, who previously worked as a BT engineer before qualifying as a physiotherapist in his 50s, reached the rank of 4th Dan in 2005 but feels he may now have hit a ceiling in his judo career.

He said: “It’s more than just a sport. For me, it’s a way of life and I try to pass that on to people.

“But I doubt I can go much further than this. I would need to wait six years or something before I could get up to another grade and that’s very unlikely to happen. However, I have no plans to give it up and still feel I have something to give and am only too happy to be instructing.”

Speaking about Mr Hughes’ achievements, Mr McIver said: “He has given a lifetime to the sport.

“I’ve known him since 1968 and have been impressed by his passion and dedication to introducing new people into judo.

“This was just really our way of saying thanks for a lifetime of volunteering in judo. He has set up many clubs all over Edinburgh and has been involved at all levels. He is the ideal volunteer and every sport would like someone as dedicated as Donald.”