80-year-old Gidea Park judoka still fighting tough

Lawrence Ralph has reached his sixth dan in Judo at the age of 80

Lawrence Ralph has reached his sixth dan in Judo at the age of 80 - Credit: Archant

Judo is a sport you would think you had to pack in when you turned 80.

But Lawrence Ralph, of Pemberton Avenue, Gidea Park, is putting his counterparts to shame after scooping yet another judo belt.

Mr Ralph, who has been doing the martial art for 60 years, was awarded his sixth Dan last month by the British Judo Association.

Normally it takes 12 years to get promoted from a fifth Dan – five belts on from black belt - but Mr Ralph was promoted in just 11. “That is quite some recognition,” says Mr Ralph.

“I grew up in an era where there were no weight categories but over the years more strength has come into the discipline.”

These days Mr Ralph is a senior club coach at the Budokwai Club in West London and still gets on the mat to demonstrate his point to his class.

Only nine years ago, though, he won a bronze at World Masters in Vienna just as he had done the year before too.

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His wife Anna, 75, is equally proud of his achievement.

She said: “It is a very high grade, it is an honorary grade – not too many people go onto seven, eight or nine Dan.”

Mrs Ralph, a part-time fish and chip shop worker, says her husband of 50 years tried to persuade her to take up the sport, but she found it a “bit rough”.

Mr Ralph is currently carrying an injury, resulting from osteo-arthritis in his ankle caused from judo back in 1969.

The retired electrical engineer tried to off-set the injury by putting more weight on his knee.

He now faces a crunch decision about whether to continue the sport he has loved since 1954, because he requires surgery on the troublesome ankle.

“I have these injuries but I have been very lucky over the years. Nine times out of ten it is technique which causes the injury.

“I am 80. I would just like to carry on coaching but I have thought about stopping if I have the surgery.”

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