We’ve all met them. Teachers who become singer-songwriters, oil company executives who become small business owners, and high school coaches who become disc jockeys. It can be said that Central Texas is filled with individuals re-discovering themselves after retirement.
For Charles Elder it was re-discovering his inner Karate man. “I’m a professional salesman, retired,” he said. But as he retired, he remembered starting his martial arts training in the early 1970s. “Bruce Lee had died one week before,” Elder said. “Today, mention karate and the only other name that rings a bell with most people is Chuck Norris.”
“[In those days] I was scared of my own shadow. I could take a beating. Nobody taught me how to fight. That’s pretty common,” he continued. “The bravest thing to do was to walk through the door of the martial arts studio. It took a lot of courage.” He kept up with his karate before retiring from Karate competition in 1994 (in the age 35 an up division).
Since 1994 a lot happened-- he retired from workforce and moved to nearby Wimberley. It was in this new phase of his life that he remembered his Karate days. “I turned 65, I retired from 25 years at the company (as a professional salesman). I thought, competition, just one more, it would be fun. He decided to start training himself. “I came out of the [physical fitness] wilderness. I trained at the Dripping Springs YMCA three times a week for two hours a day,” Elder said.
As training progressed, he’d use the aerobics room with mirrors to watch his form, but “after 25 years I was rusty.” He decided to get help at a school in San Marcos. Last October he entered a competition and was totally embarrassed. This spurred him on in his training. “I saw video and came back and trained harder. I got blanked again. I got really mad,” he said.
Competing in the Texas Amateur Organization of Karate, has continued to hone his talents. It took eight tournaments to catch the leader, another to step to become the leader himself, and then another step to put some distance between himself and No. 2 in the rankings. Now, at 67 years of age, he’s is the top ranked competitor on the amateur circuit.
“It forces me to get better and it’s a rush when you win. The competitor’s comments are what I like.” His tournament schedule is a weekly basis, all around the state. He estimates that with book learning, studying and practice he has spent over 10,000 hours pursuing karate.
Now as a teacher of Karate, he enjoys teaching the craft and watching students “eyes light up once they get it.” He continues to compete on an almost weekly basis around the state and his goal is to “Be ranked No. 1 at 70.”
Elder said he will continue to train. And his one big piece for advice the rest of us?-- “Exercise and stretch every day, and it will improve your quality of life,” he says. If you want, he can explain it to you on the matt.