A PENARTH woman is striking a blow for senior citizens - after qualifying as one of the sport's oldest karate club members in the county!

66-year-old karate-mad Karen Tucker decided to kick off her newly found spare-time activity after reading a story in the Penarth Times' sister paper - the Barry & District News - in which Barry Kyoukushin Karate Club member Richard Stafford shed more than nine-and-a-half stone after joining.

The Barry-based Castleland community centre club currently has 24 members, with the youngest aged seven and other members Pete Hildrup and Chris Rees aged 49 and 52 respectively.

Mum-of-two Karen, a retired dressmaker who also taught the subject in adult education centres in Penarth, Barry and Cardiff, said she had signed up to the martial art to improve her health.

Karen, of Plymouth Road, said: "I thought it was a good plan to get slim and fit, and I have arthritis so I thought it was a good idea to build up the muscles and keep mobile.

"I joined mid August and it felt strange, but Senpai Phill put me at ease.

"I lost 12lb in two weeks."

Karen is now on schedule to attempt her 10th orange belt Kyu grade 1 in December.

"I am trying not to think about it," she said.

"I've got to learn the Japanese as well!

"Phill is very long-suffering with someone like me, but he's very calm," added Karen.

"It's like trying to do a dance step and do hand movements as well. But I don't intend to grow old gracefully - I will be growing old disgracefully!"

Senpai Phill Sedgmond said: "When Karen first called me to say she and her daughter Nina wanted to join the club, I thought it was simply a mother and her young daughter as we have families like these in the club.

"But when Karen told me she was 66 I was a bit taken aback.

"I have never come across someone of this age wanting to learn Kyokushin Karate, but why not?

"The first session was one of bewilderment, but she is capable, reasonably healthy and above all determined to do it!

"She is such a pleasant person and is already is putting some of the much younger beginners to shame with her training," he added.

"When it come to push ups and sit ups she is keeping up with the younger students, and on occasions out-performing them!

"I have spoken to other Instructors and advised our county representative Shihan Paul Greenway (5th Dan), and they have never had anyone of this age practising Kyokushin Karate, but they are very pleased to learn that Karen is with us," said Phill.

"Training for Karen is tailored specifically to her capabilities, but she still trains very hard along with the other students.

"She approached me about a suitable diet and combined with the training, she soon lost 12lbs.

"She has made an incredible impact on the club and its members, I just hope this may spur others to do the same!"