Karate expert John, 65, helps residents battle advancing years

Tai Chi at The Elms

A karate black-belt pensioner from Torksey, John Viney, is proving that retirement doesn’t have to be just about gentle gardening and trips to the library.

John, who lives at The Elms Retirement Park in the village, has formed the Torksey Dragons Tai Chi Club – which boasts a growing membership of “oldies with attitude”.

With most of the Dragons in their seventies, John at 65 years old is actually one of the youngest at the club which meets every Thursday afternoon in the village hall.

But although John is a 2nd Dan Shotokan Karate expert, the Tai Chi he teaches is not a martial art used in fighting, but a method of promoting physical and psychological health.

Combining deep breathing and relaxation with slow and graceful movements, it is found especially beneficial by older people wishing to improve their overall wellbeing.

It is claimed to reduce stress, improve balance and general mobility, and increase muscle strength.

John says he is delighted that the Dragons club has already attracted around ten members, most of which are also residents at The Elms, with more likely to be joining soon.

A former Birmingham police inspector, John retired from the force aged 55 and went on to work in the city council’s CCTV control centre.

When he reached 60, he and his wife Christine decided to move to Cyprus – but two years down the line, the couple found they were missing their two daughters and grandchildren.

They decided to return to England, and came upon their dream home at The Elms where 300 park homes are set in 60 acres of parkland with nature trails and abundant wildlife.

But John had no intention of taking things easy, or of abandoning his life-long interest in martial arts and the Tai Chi he more recently started to practise when in Cyprus.

He is presently studying for the 3rd Dan in Shotokan Karate, and earlier this year reached Level 4 in Tai Chi, just one stage away from the highest competence stage of Level 5.

As well as teaching his own Dragons, John also holds regular weekly Tai Chi sessions at the DW Sports Fitness Centre in Gainsborough.

“Tai Chi is a fantastic way to build flexibility and to gain a host of other health benefits such as better breathing, almost regardless of how old you are,” said John.

“It’s a very low impact form of exercise which means that there’s little pressure on bones and joints, and your flexibility can improve almost immediately.

“But what many people also greatly value is the state of mental relaxation which is achieved by Tai Chi, and which can bring real long-term psychological benefits,” said John.

But although the Zen-like state which Tai Chi can induce is part of its appeal, John prefers to be on full alert when enjoying another of his favourite pastimes: piloting aircraft around the world.

John does this on a Boeing flight simulator kept in an outhouse at his home on The Elms, but says he always schedules a return landing in time for his next Tai Chi class.

* New members are always welcome at the Torksey Dragons Tai Chi Club, and can simply turn up at 3.00pm on any Thursday afternoon at Kettlethorpe Village Hall. Sessions are £3.00 each.