Teaching seniors to walk tall and toughen up

Neal Hardy’s oldest student, 74-year-old Graeme Quinn. Photo by Andrew Finch

Neal Hardy’s oldest student, 74-year-old Graeme Quinn. Photo by Andrew Finch

“EVEN a little bit of self-defence knowledge means you are less likely to be a victim; you walk more confidently on the streets,” says kung fu instructor Neal Hardy.

“Older people can feel freer from others having a go at them, as they have increased confidence and self esteem,” he says.

Neal is inviting older Canberrans and those with a disability to discover the benefits of Chinese martial arts, through a new, government-funded initiative, “Overcoming Challenges”, to encourage more people to take up Kung Fu Wushu.  

“Many people who have disabilities or who are older do not even bother to consider that they could try Kung Fu Wushu, but our organisation has received funding from the ACT Government to assist in reaching these groups,” says Neal, who is president of Kung Fu Wushu ACT.  

“We have tailored our teaching programs to give people individual attention that takes account of any restrictions they may have.”
Neal says kung fu means “excellence through practice” and in China it is associated with other professions or activities in which people strive to always be better.

“It seems that Westerners associate kung fu solely with martial arts, but you can be a kung fu chef or bureaucrat,” he says.

The philosophy behind the practice is all about achieving oneness between mind and body and this is the goal of every kung fu practitioner.

“The benefits of Kung Fu Wushu are many, and apply as much for older people and those with a disability as to the broader community. Benefits include improved co-ordination, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility and strength, and the practical benefits of effective self defence,” he says.

For Neal who is the Australian Grand Master in the White Dragon system of kung fu, holds two Guinness World Records and is well known in Canberra for breaking large amounts of concrete on fire, he says the beauty of the sport is that he never stops learning.  

“It’s not just about kicking and punching. It’s about the capacity of the person studying,” says Neal.

Kung fu instructor Neal Hardy with his oldest student, Graeme Quinn. Photo by Andrew Finch

Kung fu instructor Neal Hardy with his oldest student, Graeme Quinn. Photo by Andrew Finch

“We think that a lot of people can gain from practice. I taught a man with one arm and helped him to understand how to stand straight. Even a few lessons helped him in his life.”

Neal’s oldest student is 74-year-old Graeme Quinn, who was fascinated when he saw a kung fu class on Downer Oval as he took a morning walk two years ago.

Graeme has now progressed to a yellow belt and although he says he’s not as good as the younger students, he enjoys the camaraderie of training and setting goals to achieve higher gradings.   

“I am fitter and stronger now. I am more confident and feel I am achieving a balance by developing inner strength through meditation,” says Graeme.

“I have a pacemaker and Neal makes allowance for that, ensuring that my chest area is kept clear and no one gets near it.”   

Neal says that martial arts can also give increased confidence to older people who may feel vulnerable. He works with aged care groups to teach them self defence basics.

His instructors have more than 100 years of experience in martial arts between them.

“The irony is that none of our instructors are younger than 60!” he says.

“I enjoy teaching people of any age and ability. This inspires me to reach out to everyone.”

More information about the “Overcoming Challenges” program email  president@kwact.com.au or call 0421 849551.


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