Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Belting It out Woman, 68, Kicks Age Bias by Competing in Karate

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Belting It out Woman, 68, Kicks Age Bias by Competing in Karate

Article excerpt

Gladys Haley is hardly the Karate Kid.

She stands 5 feet 3, weighs 130 pounds, has short strawberry-blond hair and a mid-Missouri twang.

She's also 68 and a second-degree black belt. Gladys, from New Bloomfield near Jefferson City, is a fixture at competitions in the St. Louis area. Because so few grandmothers own black belts, she rarely would compete in these local jousts if she stayed within her masters age group. So Gladys takes on all comers, male and female, in open competition. Last weekend, at the American Karate Classic at Jamestown Sports Complex in North County, she found herself against three young men in the musical "kata." "It's a real fight against an imaginary opponent that you do to music," she said. Gladys resembled a white-robed pixie - until she put on her game face, reported in emphatically to the judges and kicked into action to the ominous theme from "Jaws." "You need something that will go with your form," she said, after growling through a ferocious pantomime. Gladys placed third, behind David Largen, 30, of Bethalto and Jonathan Edwards, 18, of St. Louis, and ahead of 15-year-old Tim Scott of Florissant. "This is an exceptional lady," Largen said. "She doesn't care what group she's in - how old or young you are - she's going to try to smoke you. "She doesn't consider herself a senior citizen, so she comes out and smokes us younger guys. This is our mom around here. We love her to death. Tournaments wouldn't be the same without her." Young Scott wasn't embarrassed to finish behind Gladys, although he was unhappy with his performance. "She's one of the nicest people I know," Scott said. "She's really good with all the kids. She'll come up behind and give them a hug." He gets a kick, so to speak, out of competing against a woman more than half a century older than he is. "That just makes it more interesting," Scott said. Edwards, who attended Westminster Christian Academy, was on leave from the University of Alabama to perform on the Mortal Kombat tour. …

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