Karate black belt Garry Maher holding his Diploma together with his gold medal and embroidered Japanese Black Belt.
Karate black belt Garry Maher holding his Diploma together with his gold medal and embroidered Japanese Black Belt.

‘Karate saved my life’

At age 76, Garry Maher is not quite the karate kid but he has kicked some big martial arts goals.

While others his age are playing lawns bowls, Garry recently achieved a Black Belt Diploma, an award bestowed by Shotokan Karate hierarchy in Japan.

He also scored a gold medal at the Sunshine Coast Karate Challenge.

Not bad for someone who should have been dead by now, according to the cardiologist who treated him after his second heart attack decades ago.

“I believe karate has prolonged my life, there’s no doubt about,” says Garry.

“I was unhealthy and overweight – I weighed 103kg and now I am 81 kilos.

“Karate cured me of a lot of problems.”

A former police officer, Garry had undergone a quintuple bypass and knew he had to change his lifestyle when he chanced upon karate.

He was sitting at Gibsons Café in Noosaville, mulling his future health when he heard commotion in the room upstairs.

It turned out to be a karate class and after staying to watch he returned one day in crisp white gear to give it a go.

“I turned up with my white belt all shaky and nervous like a fish out of water,” he recalls.

“But it was like ‘money see, monkey do’ – just follow along, take it easy and enjoy yourself.”

Garry got hooked, turning up twice a week for classes and training at home nearly every day.

Over the years he has had broken bones and bruises but the injuries have not detracted from his love of the sport.

“I have had broken toes and a broken finger and I broke my foot and was in a moon boot for a couple of months,” he says.

“My love of karate surpasses the pain.”

To attain his Black Belt Diploma, Garry was recommended by sensei Bryan Dukas and underwent a gruelling grading process assessed by a panel.

With the support of his wife Bernadette and Sensei Dukas, Garry says he managed to “hang in there” to achieve the award.

“To now have a Black Belt Diploma straight out of the World Shotokan Karate Headquarters in Tokyo is something I still find hard to believe,” he says.

“Particularly when in 1993, I was advised by an eminent cardiologist to ‘Go home and consider seriously organising your affairs,’ after two near fatal heart attacks.”

Garry is proud ambassador of karate and his enthusiasm has spurred others of his vintage to “get off the recliner” and have a go.

He jokes he is now training hard to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics but beyond that has no desire to fold away the karate suit.

“It will be a continuous effort of improvement knowing that I still have a long way to go,” he says.