by John Lee
RICHLAND — Joe Dillon may be 73 years old, but her age didn’t stop her from earning a black belt in martial arts at weekly classes at the Old Trace Park Recreation Center with several other ladies.
Dillon, a resident of Gluckstadt, started attending classes taught by her husband, Andy Dillion, in 2016. She received a black belt in October 2021 and says she’s not even the oldest in the group.
Taekwondo is a Korean form of martial arts that features punching and kicking techniques with an emphasis on head kicks, spin jump kicks, and fast kicking techniques. The literal translation of taekwondo is “kick”, “fist” and “art or way”.
Dillon said that when her husband started teaching kickboxing classes in 2016, she joined the class because she felt it was finally her chance. She added that she had learned a lot of useful things, and said the oldest women in the group improved things like balance.
“The oldest lady in the class, Diane Marlos, she’s 81,” Dillon said. “She’s one of the oldest people in North American kickboxing. She couldn’t even balance right at the beginning, but now she’s well balanced and has learned a lot of moves that she couldn’t do before.”
Dillon said her class did everything a normal black belt would do, including breaking planks and different combat moves and stances. She added that her favorite part of the class was the knowledge she gained and a better sense of her surroundings.
“I don’t take my wallet to Walmart anymore, I just take what I need to the store or anywhere,” Dillon said. “I’m also glad we got an update on the earlier classes, as our most recent member Paulette is a yellow belt and is still learning.”
Diane Malouse, another black belt from Ridgeland, said the class was the best thing she’d ever experienced.
“When I started from here, I couldn’t stand up straight and kept falling,” Malouse said. “I’ve improved everything, from balance to coordination. The situation here is great.”
Lynda Jungkind, a Ridgeland resident, black belt and longtime member, said she took the class to learn self-defense and didn’t expect she would learn so much about kickboxing. She said she has learned a lot from the class and enjoys the sisterhood she has built through years of studying with other ladies.
“I’m enjoying my newfound confidence and stronger knees,” Jungkind said. “I look forward to this class every week, I didn’t know I would get so much out of it. I’ve improved my balance, my memory, and learned some useful things, but I hope I don’t have to use them in the end. Andy was very patient with us too.”
New student Paulette Grim from Madison joined the class two years ago and received a Yellow Belt in October 2021. She is currently taking a green belt.
“The martial arts and self-defense I learned made the class fun,” Graham said. “We learn something new every week and it keeps our brains going and I enjoy being here. Everyone is so helpful when I learn something and need help. I would recommend this to anyone class and would say self-defense skills are the best thing I’ve ever learned from it.”
Sandy Mueller, another black belt from Ridgeland, also said that self-defense was the reason she took the class and the most important thing she learned.
“As others have said, we have a great coach,” Mueller said. “Andy was very patient with us and I made a lot of friends here.”
Taekwondo coach Andy Dillon started practicing in 1994. After earning a black belt in 2000, he began teaching self-defense at the Richland Recreation Center. Taekwondo started teaching in 2016.
After working with former senior program coordinator Lynda Assink, Dillon decided to start a kickboxing class while researching the positive benefits of martial arts practice for mind and body.
Dillon said the ladies had to know all the moves in kickboxing and how to fight if there was a real confrontation.
“We do have some workarounds as they get older, but other than that, they do everything they’re supposed to do,” he said. “It was a great class and everyone here stuck with it.”
For more information on kickboxing classes at Ridgeland Recreation Center, please email Neely.firstname.lastname@example.org or email Neely Jones at 601-856-6876.