HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — Craig Wilt was looking for a way to get exercise to reduce his cholesterol level. He wanted something that was fun, so he’d stick with it and not get bored.
“I had always wanted to get into karate, but I thought I was too old,” said Wilt, 63.
His stepson, Sean Rohrer, had started taking Tae Kwon Do, a form of martial arts, and eventually, with encouragement from Sean’s instructor, “Mr. Jimmy” Smith, Wilt decided to give it a try.
That was in 2005. On Feb. 12, 2011, Wilt earned his first-degree black belt, an accomplishment he never thought was possible because of his age and lack of flexibility.
“I am a lot more flexible now. I feel a lot better and have a lot more energy,” Wilt said.
Wilt gives Mr. Jimmy of White Tiger Martial Arts credit for his success.
“He does an outstanding job. He’s great. He brings a lot of energy and fun to the mat,” Wilt said.
Testing for his black belt took more than four hours. Wilt was tested with two other students, one male and one female, both of whom were 16. Not only was he able to keep up with them, Wilt even ran the mile faster than they did.
Then there were 100 situps, 100 pushups, 400 kicks and all the forms required for this level.
“When we were sparring, I was the only of the three of us that didn’t hit the floor,” Wilt said.
“He was nervous,” said his wife, Kathy Wilt, who was there watching.
Craig Wilt admitted he did quite a few extra pushups that day, because he was so nervous and would “mess up.” They celebrated by going out to dinner at the Stadium Tavern, where the Wilts’ son-in-law is a cook.
“I was pretty wore out,” Wilt said.
The Hagerstown native attended South Hagerstown High School, then was in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years before earning his high school diploma. Wilt has worked for the city of Hagerstown for 34 years at the Water Pollution Control plant on Frederick Street.
He and his wife have been married 33 years and have six children and 11 grandchildren between them.
Wilt, who has lived in the West End most of his life, still takes classes at the Maryland Avenue martial arts school three to six days a week.
“No, I’m not done. I joined because I needed the exercise, and because I enjoy it,” Wilt said.
There are seven degrees of black belt, then grand masters level. Wilt’s next goal is second-degree black belt, which he expects will take two years.
Even though he qualifies to park in some senior citizen parking spots, Wilt said he won’t park there because he’s in good health and would rather see someone with a medical need use the spot.
Wilt likes doing home maintenance, spending time on the computer and walking outside in the summer, although his free time is now limited.
“Once I started martial arts, pretty much the other hobbies are gone,” he said.
Information from: The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, Md., http://www.herald-mail.com
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)