Spry and sparring at 80

Chaney earns 4th degree black belt

Friday, April 30, 2010

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Staff photos by DARWIN WEIGEL
William Chaney, 80, of Dunkirk demonstrates a shoulder wheel take down with James Seuberling of Lusby during a Judo class April 20 at Mt. Hope Community Center. Chaney recently was promoted to a fourth- degree black belt in Judo. He has been involved with Judo since he was stationed in Japan during the Korean War in 1953.

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William Chaney, 80, of Dunkirk works with Adam Larsen, 8, on an advance foot sweep maneuver during a Judo class April 20 at Mt. Hope Community Center.

Not all things in life are expected. So it was for 80-year-old William Chaney of Dunkirk when he experienced a "Seiten no Hekireki" — a Japanese phrase meaning total shock — when he recently was granted a surprise promotion to the rank of fourth degree black belt, or Yodan, in Judo.

Chaney has been active in Judo — a martial art or sport, depending on your perspective, that involves no kicking or punching, but only throws, strangles and joint locks — ever since the 1950s when he was stationed in Japan during the Korean War. Chaney said he has taught Judo for the Calvert County Parks and Recreation Budokan Judo Club at various Calvert locations since about 1984. When Chaney arrived at the Mt. Hope Community Center the evening of April 13, he thought he was just there to teach his evening class, he said. But he soon realized something strange was going on when he saw his wife hovering in the doorway.

"She hadn't come to a practice or tournament for 25 years," Chaney said.

"It was his thing," his wife, Susan Chaney, said in explanation of her long absence. But Susan Chaney made an exception that evening to attend her husband's promotion ceremony, and she was very glad she did.

"He was dumbfounded," Susan Chaney said. "Bill looked at me, and his mouth dropped. He just stood there. That doesn't happen very much. … I think this made him realize that a lot of people cared about him."

"He was speechless," the Rev. Marshall R. Coffman said with a laugh. Coffman, also a Yodan, started out as one of Chaney's students but now teaches Judo alongside Chaney every week.

Chaney is a modest man, Coffman said, who wouldn't have filed the paperwork for his promotion on his own. So Coffman and some of the Judo students decided to do it for him. Coffman wrote the letter to Shufu Yudanshakai (The United States Judo Federation), collected signatures from several of Chaney's students, and mailed the letter January 18, 2010. From that point, it only took a few months for Chaney's promotion to come through.

Coffman said everyone knew Chaney deserved the promotion.

"[Chaney] is dedicated to the sport and his students and is a very even-keeled man." Chaney continued teaching, Coffman said, despite health problems such as a hip replacement and cancer diagnosis. Chaney "still gets out on the mat and spars with the youngsters," Coffman said in the letter to Shufu Yudanshakai.

Susan Chaney said Chaney has tried to get her to take his Judo class a number of times over the years, telling her it's great exercise, but she said, "No, no, no. My body doesn't do that stuff. No."

One of the best things about Judo, Chaney said, is it helps kids stay out of trouble by giving them something productive to do and be involved in. Chaney also definitely would encourage adults to take up Judo, he said, regardless of their age.

"Judo is the safest sport in the world," Chaney said. Even during competition, "if someone ever starts to feel pain, they can ‘pat out,'" and their opponent immediately will release them. And many people don't realize Judo is the second largest spectator sport in the world, Chaney said, right behind soccer.

"I like the sport, and it helps keep you young," Chaney said. And he plans to stick with it.

"I will stop when I'm too old to move."

Chaney was promoted to a fourth-degree black belt by the United States Judo Federation in cooperation with the United States Judo Association.