90-year-old earns ninth judo belt

At age 90, Michael Leigh accomplished something only five other people in the United Kingdom have managed to do. He earned his ninth dan, or belt, in judo.

The recognition is the second-highest level in the judo discipline. He has had plenty of time to master the sport. After starting in 1955, he set up his own martial arts studio, the Kin Ryu Judo Club in Crawley, West Sussex, in 1976, the BBC noted.

Not only has he achieved something spectacular in a sport he loves, Michael also visited 160 countries and even served as an alternate to the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.

In addition to teaching judo, he has also served as a national coach and international referee, the paper noted.

“Very, very few people ever get to a ninth dan and you don’t get it unless you’ve done something very exceptional,” Rowena Birch, president of British Judo, told the BBC.

“When I heard the news I couldn’t quite take it in,” Michael wrote for a story on the Kin Ryu Judo Club’s website. “Knowing that there are only five other people in the UK who have been awarded ninth dan, I find myself amongst peers I greatly admire and respect. I appreciate this recognition of my lifetime of commitment to the amazing sport of Judo and I will hold the grade with great pride and honor.”

The full story is available at bbc.com.

Photo of Michael Leigh holding certificate recognizing his ninth judo dan originally appeared in the BBC.