LAYTON -- Carole Taylor was simply following doctors' orders to keep active and learn something new when, at age 72, she earned a first-degree black belt in Chun Kuk Do, a form of karate.
"When you are my age, they suggest that you try something you've never tried before to keep the mind going. When I sat and watched my granddaughter learn karate, I realized it wasn't just physical, but very mental, which would be a very good thing for me to try," said the Layton resident.
When she began taking lessons, it was never with the intention of obtaining black belt certification. As she advanced, she'd think she didn't need to go any further, but her instructor and granddaughter had other plans and encouraged her to keep going.
Learning all of the forms convinced her that it was exactly the kind of thing her doctor had been talking about. It challenged her in a way her previous focus on art and calligraphy hadn't, she said.
"Getting a black belt is very difficult and certainly not easy," Taylor said.
"There is a lot to know, a lot of practice, a lot of classes, and a lot of times, you hit the wall and think you can't go any more, but they just keep supporting you one step at a time, and all of a sudden, you are there."
In addition to being the oldest person to receive a black belt in the United Fighting Arts Federation, the worldwide martial arts organization founded by actor Chuck Norris, Taylor was recognized as the federation's most inspirational student.
Taylor recently received the award from Norris at the federation's annual conference in Las Vegas.
With more than 5,000 members and 3,000 black belts, it was an honor to even be considered as a finalist for the award, Taylor said.
"At first, I thought, 'They are going to give me an award for being old,' " she said.
However, after the awards ceremony, numerous people told Taylor that, if she could earn a black belt at her age, they could certainly pursue their particular endeavor. Only then did Taylor believe the true nature of the award she had just received.
To receive black belt certification, students go through rigorous testing, which includes a pre-test filmed for board members to preview before test day, and then a demanding test in front of a board of seven high-ranking black belts who judge the student's technique.
Joe Gemma, regional chairman for UFAF covering Utah, was one of the board members who assessed Taylor's qualifications.
"As people get on in life, there are certain things their bodies cannot do, so some concessions are made when evaluating an older student in karate," he said.
"However, we were looking to see if Taylor had correct posture, making sure she had a method of generating power correctly and checking to see if she had good concentration, all of which Taylor passed with flying colors."
Chun Kuk Do is a practical fighting style that is very useful in application, not just as an art form, said Kristi Tanner, Taylor's instructor at American Martial Arts for the last 3 1/2 years.
It is one of those skills that may prove useful over the years.
"You hope you never have to use it, but if you do, you are glad you have the knowledge, kind of like CPR," Tanner said. "It is exactly why we do karate, not because you are going to pick a fight, but you can use it if you need it."
One of the main differentiations Norris makes in his style of Chun Kuk Do is the modifications he has made to provide more power to certain moves. For instance, a stance is modified so that, when a reverse stance into a forward punch is performed, more punch is provided because the stance is wider.
"The modifications he made were to add intensity and power to your technique so, if you are in a situation, you know how to generate enough power to stand up for yourself," Tanner said.
Taylor still attends karate classes twice a week at Central Davis Junior High in Layton and is working toward the next level of black belt certification.