The 68-year-old black belt

Spa­niard’s Bay res­i­dent earns his mar­tial arts achieve­ment

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER nmercer@cbn­com­

Spa­niard’s Bay’s Howard Smith doesn’t see the big deal.

When the 68-year-old tells peo­ple he re­cently com­pleted the test for his first de­gree black belt in taek­wondo from the Pre­ci­sion Tae Kwon Do, they usu­ally get wide-eyed and gush about the acom­plish­ment.

Smith just doesn’t see it that way.

“It’s just an­other step along the way,” Smith told The Com­pass. Lean­ing against the back of a booth at a lo­cal cof­fee shop, he takes a sip of his hot bev­er­age and smiles think­ing of the mem­ory. “I don’t look at it that way. I think any­one can do it.”

That’s not to say Smith isn’t thrilled at the ac­com­plish­ment, be­cause he is. It’s just the lat­est in a jour­ney he started more than 30 years ago when he first started prac­tic­ing the mar­tial art.

“It makes you feel like you ac­com­plished some­thing,” he said. “If you want some­thing bad enough, you can do it.”

That burn­ing de­sire to get his black belt stuck with Smith for a long time. When he was 38years-old, he was forced to put taek­wondo on the back burner as work beck­oned.

Smith stayed away from the sport for al­most three decades.

That was un­til his 65th year. That’s when he got back in the dojo and started train­ing again.

“This wasn’t al­ways the plan,” said Smith. “It was al­ways in the back of my mind, to get back into it.”

Step­ping into the sport again, Smith met a fa­mil­iar face. Pre­ci­sion in­struc­tor Scott Bartlett was just get­ting into taek­wondo as Smith was get­ting out of it.

Now, Bartlett is tieing the black belt around his pro­tégé’s waist.

“It’s spe­cial for him. I felt great pride know­ing Mr. Smith got his black belt,” said Bartlett. “I’ve known him since I was a boy.”

Catching up

The ba­sics of taek­wondo haven’t changed much in the last 30 years. How­ever, some of the tech­niques have. Al­though Bartlett and Pre­ci­sion hon­oured his pre­vi­ous belts, there was still plenty to learn be­fore he could test for the black belt.

“I had to start over really,” said Smith. “I like the chal­lenge of it. There are some things that stay with you.

“It wasn’t easy to get back into it.”

Bartlett rec­og­nized that, and worked with Smith to get him up to speed.

“I know how big of a deal it is to get a black belt,” said Bartlett. “I put him through the same test­ing I put his grand­son. I really wanted him to feel that he de­served it. “I wanted him to get it.” Bartlett would like to see Pre­ci­sion be­come a haven for older peo­ple want­ing to get fit while also learn­ing some­thing new.

He uses the im­age of Smith bring­ing him the black belt as the guide­lines for this.

“I’d love to see an ex­ec­u­tive class and older class at the school,” said Bartlett. “It’s great for health and keep­ing peo­ple in­volved in some­thing.”

He even has an idea on who could teach it.

“I’d like to see Mr. Smith start teach­ing. I could give him his own class.”

Fam­ily mat­ters

The sport of taek­wondo, black belts and the Smith fam­ily go hand in hand it seems. His son Paul and grand­son Daniel are black belts, while Paul’s wife and his daugh­ter Hannah are also en­rolled at the school. Smith’s other son and grand­son also prac­ticed the sport.

A pic­ture taken at the belt cer­e­mony is some­thing Smith will hold dear. It’s of him, Daniel and Paul clad in their gi and re­spec­tive black belts.

“It’s pretty great to be shar­ing it with my fam­ily,” said Smith. “It’s nice to have that pic­ture. There are three gen­er­a­tions there.”

There are times when Smith finds him­self prac­tic­ing the art at the same time as his grand­chil­dren. When this hap­pens, he doesn’t just push him­self to keep up with the younger gen­er­a­tion — he wants to sur­pass them.

“I try to get ahead of them in lessons,” he said with a laugh. “They’ve got to keep up with pop.”

Armed with his first-de­gree black belt, Smith has his sights set on the next step of his jour­ney.

“It’s an­other step go­ing for it,” he said.




Spa­niard’s Bay res­i­dent Howard Smith (sec­ond from right) re­cently earned his first-de­gree black belt from Pre­ci­sion Tae Kwon Do. Here, he is shown with grand­son Daniel (left), in­struc­tor Scott Bartlett (sec­ond from left) and his son Paul.

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