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Willie Nelson awarded 5th-degree karate black belt

Published On: Apr 30 2014 11:38:18 AM CDT
Updated On: May 01 2014 10:15:28 AM CDT
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Lucas Jackson/Reuters

San Antonio (KSAT) -- In ceremony that featured the county icon wearing his karate garb instead of his usual bandana and sneakers, Willie Nelson was awarded his 5th-degree black belt by his coach and martial arts mentor, Master Sam Um, at Um's martial arts studio in San Antonio Monday.

Nelson said that even as child, he was interested in martial arts.

"I've always been involved in judo, jujitsu and all that stuff when I was a kid," Nelson said during an interview with KSAT 12 prior to Monday's ceremony.

He said he is extremely serious about the sport and manages to stay in shape in spite of his demanding recording and touring schedule.

"I practice all the time," Nelson said. "I do some kicks, punches, punching bags and things."

Though he is serious about karate, Nelson is realistic, he said, given his age.

"I'd hate to think if I had to go up against a real 2nd-degree black belt kid about 20 years old," he said with a smile, "it would be no contest."

But, he said, "It's good exercise and good for you mentally, physically and spiritually -- at any age."

Um, who has been coaching Nelson for two decades, said the legendary singer-songwriter is a committed student.

"He does everything that I tell him to do and sometimes he comes up with new ideas," Um said.

As he presented Nelson with his 5th-degree certification certificate, Um shared his hope for Nelson's martial arts future: "Someday I would like to see him become a 7th-degree (and) becoming a grand master. Maybe on his 90th birthday."