Nova Scotia

Grandmother aims to be 3rd generation black belt in family

Hanna Fraser, 72, could soon become the third generation of women in her family to wear a black belt.

Hanna Fraser, 72, takes her taekwondo test Saturday to join her daughter and granddaughter

Watch this 72-year-old earn her black belt

7 years ago
Duration 0:47
Hanna Fraser took up martial arts after a heart attack in 2012. She says attitude matters more than age when it comes to her success.

Hanna Fraser is a 72-year-old Halifax grandmother who can snap a board in two with the palm of her hand.

And that's just one of the tasks she'll have to do during her black belt test on Saturday. If she passes, she'll join her daughter, granddaughter, son-in-law and grandson in wearing a black belt.

UPDATE: Hanna did earn her black belt. Congratulations!

"Let's put it this way, I'm the last hold out in the family," Fraser said with a laugh. "There are certain expectations."

If Hanna Fraser passes the test, she'll join her daughter and possibly granddaughter in wearing a black belt. (Natalie Dobbin/CBC)

Fraser is delighted that she's worked her hardest and made it to this point. It's something she never considered years earlier.

Her daughter, Adele Fraser, started taekwondo in 2008.

Hanna Fraser breaks a board in two with her hand. (Natalie Dobbin/CBC)

When Adele went for her black belt test, her family had to convince her mom to come watch.

After she broke concrete with her hand (something you don't practice before the test), her mom came running into the change room.

"I had just peeled off all this tape and she came and she grabbed my hand and was staring at it," Adele said.

"I think she was expecting to see massive broken bones and things like that and whereas it was just a little bit wrinkled from all the tape."

After inspecting her daughter's hand, Hanna relaxed.

Recently, Hanna Fraser has been practicing around 4 times a week for at least an hour each time. (Natalie Dobbin/CBC )

'Until I had my heart attack'

But how Hanna got from relaxing to getting involved with her family in taekwondo is another story.

"I became more and more familiar with it, but I didn't seriously think of becoming involved until I had my heart attack," she said.

That happened in March 2012. She started taekwondo in June of that year, after Grandmaster Woo Yong Jung developed a program for her.

Grandmaster Woo Yong Jung is Hanna's teacher, and will do the black belt testing. He won a bronze medal in taekwondo at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. He was also national team coach for 10 years. (Natalie Dobbin/CBC)

She had done yoga and other activities before the heart attack, which she thinks helped her with taekwondo. But she also credits her can-do attitude.

There's another man at Woo Yong's Halifax school who's around her age, but Hanna thinks success is more about attitude than age. Taekwondo is all about doing the best that you can do, she said. 

'Good life journey'

Hanna will need need a positive attitude for her test.

She'll have to do 100 push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, squats and knees-up running — all in eight minutes. She'll also do forms, sparring and self-defence. Then there's the breaking-through-concrete part.

Sonja Smith, 10, will be testing for her second-degree black belt on Saturday. (Natalie Dobbin/CBC)

Her teacher, Jung, is an Olympic bronze medalist in taekwondo. He said it's quite a thing to have three generations of a family wearing a black belt. 

"That's really, kind of you know, good life journey," Jung said.

Will she likely get her black belt?

"I think so, I think so — very positive."

Her granddaughter, 10-year-old Sonja Smith, also will be testing on Saturday. She's going for her second-degree black belt.

Sonja  enjoys being able to do an activity with her whole family. Sometimes her mom even teaches her and her grandmother.

Her schoolmates think it's pretty cool she can snap a board in two. "Taekwondo makes you strong emotionally and physically," Sonja said.

She thinks she'll be able to watch her grandmother's test. "I'll be thinking, 'Yes!'"