Barbara wins her black belt, aged 75

A GRANDMOTHER from Staple Hill has become a martial arts black belt, at the age of 75.

Barbara Wood took up taekwondo seven years ago when her grandsons Ash and Dylan Golding asked her to take them to a class, and she decided to join in.

Barbara said: “I thought ‘this looks good’ and asked if they had an age limit. When they said there wasn’t one, I thought I’d try it out.

“I figured if I didn’t give it a go, I’d just be at home vegetating – rather than in the dojang meditating.

“I think age is just a number and you shouldn’t think you’re not capable of doing something just because you’re old.

“It’s important to give things a go and if it doesn’t suit you, you can give it up – but you must try.”

Barbara started at Fishponds Taekwondo Academy, which now practices at Lyde Green, then joined Thornbury Taekwondo Academy for extra tuition.

She also has a green belt in tang soo do, another Korean-based martial art.

A spokesperson for the club said only around 2% of students who take up martial arts develop the proficiency in different areas and understanding of theory to achieve a black belt, which requires years of dedication.

Barbara said: “I am proud of my black belt after working so hard for all those years.

“Once I got over my nerves, everything fell into place.”

Barbara’s instructor Vaughan Buxton, a 7th degree black belt and a British, European and World title holder, said: “Barbara has impressed everyone at the club with her dedication and hard work. She’s an inspiration and shows that taekwondo is suitable for people of all ages.”

Barbara said she was brought up with traditional views on a woman’s role in the family during her childhood in South London.

She said: “We were told as children that women get married and have children. I wasn’t encouraged to continue my studies or develop a career.”

Barbara was a talented gymnast and speed skater in her youth, but said: “When I was growing up, we didn’t see women in martial arts.

“There are lots of women in martial arts now and our classes reflect this. I think it’s good for girls and women to learn a martial art as it gives them self-defence skills and confidence. 

“It not only helps to keep you physically fit, but mentally sharp too.”

Barbara is affectionately known as ‘the old lady’ at the club and says enjoys the social side.

She said: “We take the class seriously but also have a laugh and some banter. As there are students in their 50s and 60s, I don’t feel out of place.

“There’s no age limit and you just do what you can. I find it fun and very rewarding.”

Fishponds Taekwondo Academy trains at Lyde Green Community Centre in Lyde Green.

For more information, call 0750 076 4276 or email

Martial arts medals: Page 56