It's never too late to learn a new skill, as two martial artists from Evesham have shown.
Luigi Pasqualin, a cancer survivor, and Barry Jones, an Anglican priest, are 74 and 75 respectively and recently earned black belts in Mugai Ryu following a demanding examination.

Neil Hall has been their instructor for eight years and says he has never seen anything like it.

He said: “Though I have decades of experience in martial arts, their achievement must be one of the most wonderful things I have seen.

“It is very rare indeed for students of this age to achieve it. I can only think of one other 70-year-old Mugai Ryu black belt in Europe.”

“Although it happens it is still fairly unusual for people to start once they are over 40.

“Those that do start later find it very hard to reach black belt, and it is really quite a talking point when someone starts after the age of 40 and gains a black belt.

“Through martial arts friends around the world I have heard of a few students of a similar age to Barry and Luigi achieving a black belt, but I have never heard of two together.”

Luigi added: "It has been a unique experience. Over the years I have learnt to focus on my inner self in order to achieve the calm and tranquillity required.”

Meanwhile, Barry said: "With Luigi at 74 and me at 75 it proves that you're never too old to learn!

"I'm continuing to learn through Mugai Ryu to live in each moment, and being involved with my whole being. A work in progress!

"It's fun, learning with others, where humour and looking after each other are part of Mugai Ryu life.”

Neil, who is 62 in a few weeks, trains in five different martial arts.

He said that the achievement of Barry and Luigi has motivated him to work ever harder and next year he will work towards his third Dan in Mugai Ryu, which would make him one of only two people in the UK to hold that grade.

He added that, on average, only one in a hundred people who take up martial arts goes on to become a black belt, typically requiring at least five years of intense training.

Barry and Luigi achieved the feat in seven years, thanks to the lessons on offer at LCKTD, a martial arts school that holds weekly sessions in Badsey and Peopleton.

“At LCTKD we have always prided ourselves in making martial arts accessible to people who don’t normally get involved,” Neil said.