Raynham dojo promotes 73-year-old student to black belt

RAYNHAM — Age, it doesn’t matter. Size, it doesn’t matter. Predetermined assumptions about what you think you can or cannot do, they don’t matter.

Premier Martial Arts in Raynham recently promoted two members of the dojo who, according to the averages, got a late start in their martial arts practice and are on the small side.

Sensei Brandy Fischbach, 52, is by any measure petite. Fischbach’s student Jane Cunningham, 73, isn’t much bigger. But the two have come a long way in the study of PMA’s blended practice of Krav Maga and Muay Thai, and both started their journey quite unexpectedly.

Recently, Fischbach was promoted to third-degree black belt and sensei, while Cunningham was promoted to black belt. The pair prepared for their respective tests together for months and part of what is a thriving group of adult students and fellow late-starters at the dojo. And PMA Raynham has a recent history of seeing dojo members of an advanced age to achieve black belt status.

Sensei Brandy Fischbach, left, is a third degree black belt, and Jane Callahan, right, just earned her black belt at age 73 at Premier Martial Arts in Raynham.

Callahan says “just giving it a try” is a decision that has changed her life and come with unimaginable rewards.

“My mother used to say, ‘To rest is to rust.’ You have to keep moving, to stay in shape and be the best you can be,” Callahan said in an interview with the Taunton Daily Gazette on Tuesday, April 19.

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By her own admission, Callahan was feeling the rust while accompanying her grandson, Max, to class as Premier Martial Arts back in 2018. It looked like fun and she got the strange urge to give it a try.

Sensei Brandy Fischbach, left, is a third degree black belt, and Jane Callahan, right, just earned her black belt at age 73 at Premier Martial Arts in Raynham.

“I thought, gee, they’re getting in shape, learning skills,” Callahan says of her first impressions. “This is a wonderful dojo, they have wonderful principles. They don’t teach aggression or put up with bullying. They teach respect and all the things I wanted my grandson to learn. So I was inspired, and I thought ‘this is for me, I’m gonna try to do it.'”

She joined a class and she was hooked immediately.

“It was fun. I guess I’m a kid at heart,” she said.

“I was 20 pounds heavier. I couldn’t run and do push-ups and sit-ups like I can now. And I wasn’t feeling good about my physical shape. So I knew I really needed some exercise, but I wanted it to be fun. And it was. It’s never boring. They’re always changing it up. You just never know what’s next.

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