Page last updated at 15:42 GMT, Sunday, 7 February 2010

Pensioner joins martial art elite

George Kerr prepare to throw a colleauge at the Junior Judo Club in Edinburgh
Mr Kerr (left) has dedicated much of his life to the martial art

A Scottish pensioner has become one of only seven living people to hold judo's highest rank.

Martial arts expert George Kerr, 72, was named a "10th Dan" black belt at a ceremony held by the International Judo Federation in Paris.

He is one of only five non-Japanese recipients of the award, which honours his contribution to the sport.

Mr Kerr, who runs a judo club for 200 youngsters in Edinburgh, said he was "humbled" by the award.

Fewer than 20 people have ever received the honour, which recognises Mr Kerr's contribution to the sport as a competitor, coach, referee and administrator.

I think judo can contribute to fitness and health and it would be a great thing for kids to take up
George Kerr

He received it in front of 14,000 people at the Grand Slam event in Paris on Saturday.

Speaking from the French capital, Mr Kerr told BBC Scotland: "I feel humbled and proud to be the first Scotsman to receive this award.

"I was slightly embarrassed because most of the people that get this award are in their 80s while I am only 72 - and just a young 72 at that.

"I felt there were a lot of people who deserved it more than I do, but I suppose when you get this type of award it is like getting made a lordship of your sport. It kind of takes the breath away from you."

Mr Kerr, who was an inaugural member of the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame in 2002 and has written several books on judo and its techniques, insisted he had no plans to slow down as he grew older.

He added: "Don't be silly. If you give up, if you retire, you die. I will never retire. I just don't work as hard as I used to work but retiring is not on my horizon.

"I think the sport gives you many things in your life. It teaches you discipline and honesty, many things that can contribute to young kids' lives.

"It keeps them off the computer, and the biggest killer in our country at the moment is not cancer it is obesity and obesity in children unfortunately, so I think judo can contribute to fitness and health and it would be a great thing for kids to take up."

Gold medals

Mr Kerr was also honoured by the Japanese government last month for his contribution to promoting understanding and friendship between Japan and the UK.

He won the gold medal in the 1957 European Championships in Rotterdam and a string of other awards, and is currently president of the British Judo Association.

Mr Kerr, from Edinburgh, began practising judo when he was eight and as a young man won a scholarship to study the sport in Japan for four years.

He later coached legendary Austrian judo champion Peter Seisenbacher, who won gold medals at the Olympic Games in 1984 and 1988.

Charles Palmer, from London, was made Britain's first 10th Dan by the International Judo Association Federation in 1997. Mr Palmer died four years later at the age of 71.

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