Few people ever earn a Black Belt in the Martial Arts. But earning it at age 59 is rare indeed.
On November 14, Dr. Mark Bohn of Mountaintop received his 1st degree Black Belt & the rank of Shodan in Aiki-jitsu at the Mountaintop Martial Arts Dojo. He successfully completed an intensive 4-hour test of self-defense skills against knives, clubs and hand-to-hand combat, often fending off multiple attackers at once. “We’re talking guys who are half my age and twice my size!” Bohn notes.
Dr. Bohn also performed the technique of “Iron Palm”, using 2-inch thick solid concrete capping stones. He explained: “These can routinely withstand impacts of 800 to 1000 LB. You kneel, the stone in front of you at chest height, and rest your hand on top of it. You concentrate on focusing your “Chi”, or inner strength, into your open palm, gently raise your hand 12 inches, then drop it straight down. The stone breaks like snapping a twig. It isn’t strength, it’s focusing your Chi. You aren’t hitting the stone, you are dropping your hand through it. The result is incredible.”
A Mountaintop native, Dr. Bohn, his wife Donna, daughters Rachel and Amanda still live there. He works for the Disability Bureau. He first became interested in Martial Arts 7 years ago. “It was a mid-life-crisis sort of thing. I was never particularly strong, fast or limber. But I heard that Aiki-jitsu teaches you to use the attacker’s speed & strength against him. I wanted to know more, so at 53, I took an introductory course, thinking if I just learned some of the basics, I’d be happy. But the more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. I studied under Grand Master David Sparks, a nationally ranked Martial Arts expert.”
While Karate relies mostly on punches and kicks, Aiki-jitsu or ‘Way of Harmony’ teaches using leverage against an attacker, locking his joints to drop him to his knees or pin him to the ground. The more force he uses against you, the more leverage you have against him. It focuses on realistic self-defense situations, not scoring points in competitions. It has been called the Martial Art “for mere mortals.”
Grand Master Sparks recalls “I knew ‘Doc’ for many years, he was always soft-spoken, not an aggressive bone in his body. So when he walked in the dojo, I thought ‘this will be a real challenge!’ But he was dedicated from day one, showed respect and worked hard. He earned every rank he received. I don’t know of anyone else who earned a black belt when pushing 60 years old.”
Dr. Bohn now splits his time at the dojo between teaching new students and learning advanced techniques. He believes “Age is a number, not an obstacle. Never stop improving yourself! Learn new skills, and improve the ones you have.”