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5 Celebrity Black Belts in Traditional Martial Arts

The benefits of martial arts goes far beyond the ability to defend oneself. Discipline, mental focus, and physical fitness are just some of the rewards practitioners reap. For these celebrities, martial arts became more than just a sideline interest. Serious dedication led each of these stars to earn a black belt or better.

1. Willie Nelson - Now aged 86, Nelson is best known for country music and cannabis, but he is also a devoted practitioner of Gongkwon Yusul. At age 81, Nelson received his 5th degree black belt and was given the honorific, “Master.” At that point, Nelson had been training with Master Sam Um for twenty years. Now 86, he still goes to the dojo. A relatively recent Korean form, Gongkwon Yusul is described by Um as being similar to MMA, utilizing a wide variety of skills. Nelson first went to Um to put his children into Tae Kwon Do, and wound up taking it up himself. He eventually earned two black belts before moving on to Gongkwon Yusul. Willie Nelson struggled with his temper as a young man, getting into a lot of fights. His music, his weed, and his martial arts practice have all been vehicles of self-mastery for the Red Headed Stranger.


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