South Placer seniors earning black belts, staying active

Never too late for martial arts
By: Margaret Snider, Gold Country News Service correspondent
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Good to know

Who: The Studio Martial Arts & Fitness

What: Wise Warriors non-contact martial arts program

When: 10-11:30 or 7-8:30 p.m. Fridays

Where: 4130 Douglas Blvd., Suite 405, Granite Bay

Phone: (916) 258-5425



Who: Extreme Martial Arts

What: Tai Chi Chuan, Kung Fu

Where: 8601 Auburn Folsom Road, Granite Bay; 7823 Lichen Drive, Citrus Heights

Phone: (916) 781-9777 (Granite Bay); (916) 726-5425 (Citrus Heights)


Many older adults have expressed a desire to participate in martial arts, or regret that they didn’t do it while they were younger. As evidenced by those who have successfully joined and completed martial arts programs, it is possible to attain these goals with programs that take into consideration the person’s capabilities, such as in the Wise Warriors program now being offered by The Studio Martial Arts & Fitness in Granite Bay.

“We wanted to make sure that even those with physical limitations are still active and healthy and those that are in their 50s and 60s and 70s, even folks that are in retirement, can have something that they work hard for and attain,” said Amitis Pourarian, 35, owner of The Studio Martial Arts & Fitness in Granite Bay and San Diego. “It’s never too late to do martial arts.”

The Studio conceived of Wise Warriors because of the number of people Pourarian encountered who said they would love to learn martial arts, but thought they were too old or too limited, or were leery of injuries from the contact part of the sport.

“The criteria are modified slightly based on physical limitations and age group,” Pourarian said. “But they’ll still earn every belt, they’ll still work hard for every belt, they just won’t have that physical contact part of it unless they choose to engage in some of it, then we can incorporate it.”

It will keep them fresh mentally as well as physically, Pourarian said, as they continuously learn new material.

“We still do all the traditional forms,” Pourarian said. “We’ve added in a little bit of Qigong in there, too, a little bit of Tai Chi, a little bit of yoga, a little bit of meditation, plus all the martial arts aspects. ... They will do weapons, they’ll do all the kicks, all the basic self-defense, so all the components minus the injury. We just saw the need in our community.”

Pourarian began learning Taekwondo as a teen when she tried a class with a family friend and fell in love with it.

She graduated high school a year early, earned a bachelor’s degree in business and master’s in construction engineering, but as far as Taekwondo goes, she said, it has never been for business.

“This has always been my passion, my way to give to my community, to better it in so many different ways,” Pourarian said. “I just come to teach.”

Pourarian, who is a sixth-degree black belt, has won four national championships and made the United States sparring team, competing in the World Cup in 2001.

Laurie Rich, 51, is one of her students, and now also program director for Wise Warriors.

“Seriously, if someone had told me 19 months ago before I walked into The Studio that in 2013 I could be earning my black belt, I would have laughed so hard, and told them that they were insane,” Rich said. “For me, some of the specific benefits have been believing in myself, believing that I could do something that I thought was completely impossible, because of some of the physical disabilities that I deal with.”

There are many other examples of people who have, later in life, decided to take on martial arts as a physical discipline. Doris Murphy, 83, lived in Granite Bay and began Tai Chi with Extreme Martial Arts of Granite Bay when she was 76. Murphy lost her battle with cancer in March, but before she passed away she gave an interview describing her experience with martial arts.

“The main thing with the Tai Chi moves is stretching,” Murphy said.  “Your body starts feeling good because the blood is circulating better. ... It makes you feel good and yet you don’t have to be stressing yourself out.”

She started in 2005, and after progressing through the different levels, even while battling health issues, Murphy tested and attained her black fringe at the end of 2012.

The owner of Extreme Martial Arts, Ron Dillman, said that while Murphy was training at his studio, she participated in local and international competitions, and also helped at the Granite Bay Eskaton with the senior Tai Chi Program.

“She’s really inspirational when she gets on the mat,” Dillman said. “Always with a positive attitude, no matter what she has going on.”

Whatever the program, older participants as well as masters agree that there is much to gain.

“For the most part, our masters and grand masters are in their 50s, 60s and 70s,” Pourarian said. “They are flexible, have great muscle mass, and they’re healthy. And they do amazing things because they’ve trained in martial arts. So we want to share that with everyone.”