Thursday, December 18, 2014

Senior black belts compete for free

You just ran out of excuses.  If you're a black belt and are at least 60 years old, you can compete for free in the 20th annual Mercer County National Karate Championship, to be held on Saturday, March 28th, at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J.  This is an outstanding event that offers a total of 145 separate divisions covering forms, weapons, and sparring.  And you should be part of it.
   While it seems that many, perhaps most, tournaments are pushing older athletes to the sidelines, Master Ivan Mendez is determined to make the Mercer County Nationals a comfortable home for the 60+ crowd.  And, yes, this is a really big deal.  I turn 69 next year, and I would like to compete well into my seventies.  But I have to say that the thrill of competing loses something when the top age group is, let's say, 35 or 40.  Competing against someone half your age just doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
   Tournament director Mendez has been working hard for several years to attract seniors to the Mercer County Nationals.  His was one of the first tournaments in the area to raise the top age bracket to 60+, and his is the only tournament I know of that waives registration fees for black belt seniors.  "We're encouraging our most seasoned martial artists to come out, compete, and enjoy each other's fine talent," he says.

                             Above: some of the trophies awarded at the
                            Mercer County Nationals in recent years.

   By the way, a portion of the tournament proceeds will benefit the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, widely known for its pioneering work in saving children with cancer and other catastrophic medical conditions.  Last year's tournament attracted nearly 450 competitors and 725 spectators, so this is an event that can do a lot of good for a fine charity while treating participants to a first-rate martial-arts experience.
   The Mercer County Nationals will feature competitors from a wide variety of styles, so whatever black belt you hold is your free ticket in, as long as you're at least 60 years old.  But it gets better.  The Ancient Warrior Society, an organization that honors an elite group of Taekwondo masters and grandmasters over the age of 50, will be providing an impressive crystal trophy to the 60+ athlete who is voted Outstanding Senior Athlete by the tournament's staff.
   If you're 60+ and still competing, circle the date and find your way to Rider University for this important tournament.  But what if you've already stopped competing because you got tired of being matched with 30-year-olds in every tournament you attended?  Well, you have three months to work on your technique, and that's plenty of time for a veteran black belt.  Ease back into training, and by the end of March you'll be ready to show your stuff against other athletes your age.
   Have questions about the event?  You can post them here, if you'd like, or you can contact Master Mendez directly at  But whatever you do, plan on attending the 2015 Mercer County Nationals.  Our presence will let tournament directors know that the 60+ crowd isn't ready to be put out to pasture.
   Best wishes for your successful training, and best wishes for a joyous holiday season and a bright New Year.