MEDFORD, Ore. — Some people say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but Jerry Newcomb disagrees.
“I don’t set my standards by anybody else but myself,” Newcomb said. “I challenge myself.”
His latest challenge is martial arts. The 53-year-old picked up the sport six months ago, training alongside kids sometimes a third of his age.
“Actually it motivated me,” said Newcomb. “I watch some of these kids that are pretty amazing, and I think, ‘well, if they can do it, I’m going to do it.’ I mean, that’s what it is. I’m going to find a way to do it.”
It’s not Newcomb’s age that is his greatest obstacle. though. Two and a half years ago, the UPS retiree suffered a biking accident.
“For the first year I was laid up,” said Newcomb. “I couldn’t get out of bed. It was pretty bad. My leg was like polio. As soon as the doctor gave me the go ahead, it was pretty much a progression, but I was pretty much mush.”
The former college basketball player turned to martial arts instructor Michael Evans.
“I saw him working out in the gym and noticed his prosthetic,” said Evans. “I’m watching him work out, and he’s working out very, very hard, very intense, and so I said, ‘you know, you might want to try my workouts.’”
So Newcomb gave it a try, despite grappling with a variety of challenges.
“The leg started flying off,” said Newcomb. “It came off a couple times. So I kept going back to my doctors. I said, ‘we’ve got a problem.’
Eventually Newcomb found a temporary solution, although he still feels pain while training. It doesn’t limit him on the mats; in fact, his performance has exceeded his master’s expectations.
“I wanted to change the curriculum for him a little bit,” said Evans. “He’s not going to be able to do all the kicks, but he’s actually proven me wrong. He’s actually pretty much doing all the kicks.”
Newcomb earned his green belt in early July. He said he play on continuing his martial arts training as far as it takes him, fighting through each and every challenge thrown his way.
“That’s the kind of attitude you’ve got to have,” said Newcomb. “No matter where you’re at in life, just never give up.”