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95-Year-Old Great-Grandfather And Judo Sensei Master Says It's His Secret To A Long Life

Jack Hearn takes part in a campaign with Seven Seas JointCare Supplex & Tumeric. (PA REAL LIFE/Seven Seas JointCare Supplex & Tumeric)

A great-grandad dubbed Britain's oldest judo sensei master at the age of 95 claims the martial art is the secret to a long and happy life.


War veteran Jack Hearn, 95, from Cramlington, Northumberland, has been teaching the sport for almost 70 years, and continues to travel around the country taking classes.

Demonstrating his knowledge of the art, he has been awarded his ninth Dan black belt – an instructor who is nine degrees above a standard black belt – and is hoping to achieve the 10th Dan, the highest you can get, next year.

Jack Hearn takes part in a campaign with Seven Seas JointCare Supplex & Tumeric. (PA REAL LIFE/Seven Seas JointCare Supplex & Tumeric)

Marking his 96th birthday in September, Jack, who has four children – retired Marilyn Kilmister, 68, Carolyn Richfield, 49, a rental agent, Jacci Hearn, 47, who works in security, and John Hearn 45, who works for Siemens, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchild – swears the sport has helped him to live longer, saying: “Everyone should get off their butts and do something."

Widower Jack, a retired dockworker, regularly teaches people of all ages at clubs across the country.

He said: “I fell in love with judo right away, I just took to it like a duck to water and now I've been doing it for 68 years. I would say it is the secret to a long life."

Jack Hearn with Phil Tuffnell and Graeme Swann who go head to head in a series of challenges set by Seven Seas JointCare Supplex & Tumeric. (PA REAL LIFE/Seven Seas JointCare Supplex & Tumeric)

He continued: “It's a very active sport and you have to do a lot of physical training like push ups, sit ups and knee ups.

“I can still touch the floor with my hands flat and I still get on my back with my legs cycling in the air. I walk up and down the stairs a number of times just for the exercise.

“I get such pleasure in teaching the younger generations and passing on the knowledge. You can have a lot of fun with it when you let them throw you down as well."

Jack continued: “People who do judo are the most calm people you will meet. They are not interested in fisticuffs at all."

Judo is described by the Merriam Webster dictionary as a martial art that emphasizes the use of quick movement and leverage to throw an opponent.

Losing track of the amount of people he has taught over the years, Jack has coached children who have gone on to compete at international level, after setting up a judo school in North Shields in the 1950s with his brother Bob, who passed away more than twenty years ago in his seventies.

Jack Hearn (PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT)

He explained: “I first started in 1951. Before that I was a racing cyclist, but I had an appendicitis and had to have an operation, so the doctor told me, 'No more cycling.'

“My brother Bob went to a judo club so I decided to look at doing that instead and I just took to it.

“I was really curious because it was man-to-man rather than a team game. You would just crash land until you learned how to fall properly."

Jack Hearn with Phil Tuffnell and Graeme Swann who go head to head in a series of challenges set by Seven Seas JointCare Supplex & Tumeric. (PA REAL LIFE/Seven Seas JointCare Supplex & Tumeric)

“In 1954 my brother and I decided we would start our own judo club in North Shields," Jack recalled.

“We couldn't afford a lot of the equipment, so we would make our own judo mats out of sawdust and old army canvas, or material taken from lifebelts.

“The club became really popular. The room we taught in was 25ft by 15ft and there were as many as 70 people practicing in there. It went from strength to strength."

In 1954 Jack went to college to gain a teaching qualification and has gone on to coach people who have competed at championship level. He has also refereed international competitions across Europe.

Jack, who used the Japanese name Hoko Jun at competitions and still uses it when teaching, continued: “I was talking to a Japanese student from Newcastle University and asked if he could give me a Japanese name.

“He called me 'Hoko Jun.' 'Jun' means 'shield' and 'Hoko' is 'north' so when translated it meant 'defender of the north.' Wherever I went the name Hoko Jun followed."

Jack explained: “I wasn't interested in getting trophies and medals, but I was really interested in the culture and history of judo."

Based in Italy with the Army during the Second World War, Jack, who joined up as a soldier when he was 18, drove ammunition around Europe and was training as a ski trooper just as the war was ending.

On returning to North Shields, Jack, who has been married twice – getting divorced from his first wife Mary after 24 years when their relationship stopped working and then being married again to his second wife, who he does not want to name, for 15 years, until she died 30 years ago – became a dock worker.

Jack Hearn with his daughters (PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT)

He loaded and unloaded cargo at the North Shields ferry port, as well as teaching judo in his spare time.

“It's a really nice feeling to see a child progress until they get up to the level of a black belt, or to see them enter championships or win gold medals. It makes me feel like I've done a good job," he said.

“Judo teaches people to respect and have a good feeling for other people. One of the main things I teach is respect. Without that we are nothing."

Jack Hearn with Phil Tuffnell and Graeme Swann who go head to head in a series of challenges set by Seven Seas JointCare Supplex & Tumeric. (PA REAL LIFE/Seven Seas JointCare Supplex & Tumeric)

“You do not go into a fight hoping to damage the other person. You have a nice feeling about the other person," Jack said.

Jack would travel up and down the country teaching the sport and would often make the trip from Newcastle down to London and back again in a day.

He also traveled across Europe, where he would meet Japanese judo teachers who would pass on their knowledge.

Jack Hearn with Phil Tuffnell and Graeme Swann who go head to head in a series of challenges set by Seven Seas JointCare Supplex & Tumeric. (PA REAL LIFE/Seven Seas JointCare Supplex & Tumeric)

“When it comes to taking exams, they will give you the command in Japanese and you answer in English and vice versa, so you do have to have knowledge of the Japanese language as it is the spirit of judo," he said.

Jack now has his 9th Dan black belt, which is a ranking system used by Japanese martial arts organizations to indicate ability.

The highest grade is the 10th Dan, which he hopes to achieve in 2020.

“If I live that long I hope to get it," he joked.

“I took my 9th Dan in 2010, so the way the ranking works is I have to wait 10 years, until 2020 until I get my 10th Dan.

“The time between each Dan depends on what level you are. For example, when you have your 4th Dan you have to wait five years until you can try for the fifth then six years until the sixth and so on."

Jack Hearn with Phil Tuffnell and Graeme Swann who go head to head in a series of challenges set by Seven Seas JointCare Supplex & Tumeric. (PA REAL LIFE/Seven Seas JointCare Supplex & Tumeric)

Jack explained: “I will be put before a technical board who will decide whether to award me with the 10th Dan . I won't have to do any more fighting because they have seen me fight in the past and they have seen the knowledge I have.

“To be a good teacher you need the knowledge and a good few years of practice under your belt.

“At the moment I'm a technical adviser within the judo association, so I travel to clubs around the country offering advice and I'm Britain's oldest active judo master."

Jack, who also enjoys ballroom and sequence dancing twice a week, said the main thing is to keep active as you get older.

To highlight this, he is taking part in a campaign with Seven Seas supplements, which has involved him teaching judo to former international cricketers Phil Tufnell and Graeme Swann.

He said: “I want to live for as long as I can."

Jack Hearn with Phil Tuffnell and Graeme Swann who go head to head in a series of challenges set by Seven Seas JointCare Supplex & Tumeric. (PA REAL LIFE/Seven Seas JointCare Supplex & Tumeric)

He continued: “If you sit in the house and watch television you become inactive and your body starts to slip away and you soon die.

“People need to get off their butt and do something to keep the body and mind active.

“You don't need to become a judo master, but just get out and walk, take a trip to the local community center and meet people."

He added: “That's why I've been working with Seven Seas JointCare Supplex & Turmeric to emphasize the importance of keeping physically fit to feel healthy and happy.

“As long as you are breathing get out and do something."

For more information on the campaign visit www.seven-seas.com.