The crowd cheered as Mr. James Voutsinas, an 80-year-old karate student, successfully demonstrated how to protect one's self with a cane. The special event took place Nov. 15 at the 45th anniversary of the Central New York Karate and Kobudo Schools in East Syracuse. It drew more than 60 people countrywide to test for varying degrees in black belt.
Voutsinas began learning karate when he was 62 years old -- it had been 13 years to the day that Saturday.
"[It] helps your mind, helps your health, helps your attitude," he said about the sport. "And most of all, if you start it, you can't give up. It's not easy. You gotta work at it every single day, seven days a week, and if you don't, then you don't pass."
As a young boy, "Mr. V" said he was constantly harassed by bullies, which led his father to seek out a friend of his who was a boxer. Voutsinas then learned how to defend himself.
"I grew up on the north side, and you had to stay alive when you lived down there," he said. "I got tired of being beaten up in school, having my change taken from my pocket so I couldn't have lunch.
"Now I look out and say it's not safe out there," he added. "You just don't know what's going to happen. People come right out of the dark and hit you. I decided that I would continue and study. It's been a long haul."
In 2007, Voutsinas and his wife were rear-ended in their car; both suffered back injuries.
"If it wasn't for karate, I probably wouldn't be walking," he said. "I'm not perfect but I'm walking. Karate kept me out of the hospital and an operation."
The most senior student at CNY Karate