Unknown to many, the red-headed stranger has a few other tricks up his sleeve that help keep him young and healthy as he is advancing in years. The bearded, pig-tail braided, pot-smokin’ legendary guitar-slingin’ singer-songwriter is also a fifth-degree black belt in Korean martial arts. Earlier this week Monday, Willie Nelson, the Grammy-winning country music star, received yet another black belt in Gong Kwon Yusul, only days before his 81st birthday.
Nelson has been practicing this particular style of Korean martial arts for roughly 20 years. The evening before the ceremony, Nelson commented to the Associated Press that he did not expect the additional level in his practice, and that he was not even certain of what other accolades were available after his second-degree black belt.
It may be hard to see behind the haze of marijuana smoke, the bandana, and the long braids, but Nelson has always been a very physically fit individual. During his beginning years, the On the Road Again singer participated in several sports in school. He said he has played shortstop, football, and he ran track and was a pole-vaulter. As for now, the entertainer stays as active as possible. Aside from martial arts, he is also a runner and an avid bike rider.
In relation to practicing Gong Kwon Yusul, Nelson told Men’s Health last year, “It’s a good form of exercise, especially as you get older.” Adding later to AP, “It’s just good for you physically. For your lungs. The more you’re breathing, exercising, the better you’re going to feel.” He added that he thinks mentally, spiritually, and physically, martial arts is one of the best exercises anyone can do. After a routine checkup at his doctor’s earlier this week, Nelson said his doctor gave him a clean bill of health. The karate-chopper gives props for his healthy report card to the amount and style of exercise he does.
As an additional perk to his birthday week, Nelson was also inducted into the inaugural class of the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame on Saturday. Fellow Texan and recent Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey honored the 81-year-old with the following words: “There would be no Austin City Limits without Willie Nelson.” It was the performance-based program’s 40th season this fall, and thus far the show has been the longest-running televised music program in the U.S. Nelson helped launch the program in 1974 as their first performer.
When the 81-year-old Willie Nelson showed up to his martial arts studio, he parked his tour bus in the parking lot, cinched his personalized black belt around his black robe, and went inside to receive his fifth-degree black belt from his 20-year instructor, Grand Master Sam Um. Despite Nelson’s age, Um spoke for he man’s vitality saying the red-headed stranger could defend himself against anyone. When Nelson showed up at the studio as a 60-year-old, Um said he worried about the singer’s heart, but once he got a sense of what the multi-faceted man was capable of he did not need to worry any longer. “He has more stamina than I do,” Um said.
By Stacy Feder