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Grand martial artists

Just when a leisurely walk in the park might be on some retired alums’ to-do lists, two grads have different ideas: Nancy Bauman, 72, practices karate and Bruce Kahn, 64, trains in the samurai sword.

Kahn ’66, M’69 invested more than four decades in public and private education. While teaching he took up karate and earned a second degree black belt, eventually teaching karate and women’s self-defense classes. He began training with the samurai sword, or katana, in 2003 and explains it is “just another component of the martial arts.”

Kahn works with his instructor once a week but he practices at least five days a week, most of the time outside. The grandfather of six says the strenuous work requires great mind and body control. “There’s a great deal of beauty and athleticism in the samurai sword,” Kahn says. He jokes that his custom-made carbon steel sword “weighs six pounds at the beginning of class and about 60 by the end.”

Kahn has made considerable progress in a short time. “I’m good,” he admitted when pressed. “About a seven out of ten, but it takes a lifetime to get really skilled. I consider this my ‘last hurrah’ as far as the martial arts are concerned.”

Bauman ’81 joined the Air Force in 1955 after taking a three-year nursing course on Long Island. Marriage and children came along, as well as nursing work, but she eventually earned her bachelor’s degree after nine years of night school.

Looking for an activity, in 1998 she signed up for two months of karate lessons. “They didn’t expect much of me, but I expected much of myself. I had an “I can do that!” kind of attitude.” Personal obligations derailed her training and she didn’t return to it until 2003. Back on track and ready to resume karate in her new hometown in Texas, the grandmother of five and great-grandmother of two has earned a red belt.

Mike Garaguso, head of the academy where she began, commended Bauman. “She tries everything and inspires others,” he said.

Bauman confidently spars with younger and presumably stronger classmates. “We never hurt each other, but we do more as we go along.” And she’s “tickled to death” to share karate with one of her grandsons who’s proud to say, “My Mom-Mom does karate!”


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