Kicking retirement with kung fu
Published - 11/24/19 - 10:05 AM | 2544 views | 1 1 comments | 60 60 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don and Ann Cottrell sparing with weapons (Courtesy photo)
Don and Ann Cottrell sparing with weapons (Courtesy photo)

Experts say that doing things together through life is the best way to keep relationships alive, especially as the years mount up. Retired SDSU professors Don and Ann Cottrell took that advice to heart, and for more than two decades they’ve been doing that regularly.

What is the activity that keeps them humming at the ages of 80 (Ann) and 81 (Don)?

Martial arts.

Kung fu.

Tai chi.

And they are really, really good at it.

Good enough to have won awards and promotion in the ranks, and be admired by people much younger than they are.

“We got interested when Don took our son to the school where we now study and work out,” Ann said.

“Rather than sit and watch, Don thought he’d give it a try, and he liked it. He got me interested and it’s gone from there. It’s great exercise, and great training. We’ve each earned a black sash award in kung fu, and a black fringe in tai chi. We’re in the senior division now, and have no plans to stop it.”

Kung fu is definitely a combat art, complete with swords, knives, spears, clubs and whatever else comes to hand. The moves are primarily oriented toward fighting, and have been since it was invented by Shaolin monks in long-ago China.

(Many of you have probably seen one or more of the violent action movies Hollywood and Beijing put out. That action is badly overcooked, and, you know … they’re movies.)

People often say tai chi is simply exercise in slow motion, and it can be that — usually is.

But it’s also useful at speed. Tai chi can be used to defuse an attack by preventing attackers from getting started — stop them from attacking you. It’s definitely a martial art.

You can see what the martial arts training has done, and is doing, for Don and Ann.

Watching them move around their College Area home, you don’t really realize these people are in their 80s.

They move like retired athletes, not retired college professors.

Pictures show they know what they’re doing.

(Well, there was the time when Ann accidentally broke Don’s arm, but she was instantly forgiven.)

“We’ll never stop unless we have to,” Don said.

So far, neither of them show any inclination to do that.

Good for them.


—Doug Curlee is a longtime San Diego reporter for both print and television news.

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