Lady Gets Black Belt in Taekwondo at Age 74

WILMINGTON -- In martial arts, the black belt is a symbol of knowledge and power.  With each punch and kick, Arlette Canning, 74, of Wilmington, is proving that it's never too late in life to earn a black belt of her own.

Searching for an alternative to heavy weights and exercise videos, Canning became interested in Taekwondo, after watching her grandson take a class.

"I tried the other stuff, joined the gyms, bought the equipment, watched the tapes," said Canning.  "I just couldn't stick with any of it."

So four years ago, at age 70, Canning began her training.

"The best thing about martial arts is the personal development people obtain in martial arts," said Taekwondo master Paul Leitzke.  "Many people learn martial arts for discipline and confidence."

In August, Canning joined her son and grandson, and received her black belt.  But besides the added confidence, Canning can fend off an attacker who was to come at her.

"These people are very good.  They are way up the mountain yodeling," Canning said of her classmates.  "And I'm way down, but the point is we're on the same mountain."

She wished more seniors would try martial arts, and said that the elderly should not be afraid of receiving any negative responses.

"It's really great. No ever ever seems to look at me like: 'you stupid old thing,'" said Canning. "I can't imagine any other activity where people are so impressed and are so supportive."

She may be an inspiration to others in her class, and to those in her age bracket, but Canning is just having fun.

"The karate kick is just as liberating as bra burning," Canning joked.

For Canning, the sense of liberation doesn't come from taking something off, but from putting something on -- the black belt.

Reported by Joe Keiley