Self-taught karate coach quits

GEORGE HEAGNEY
Last updated 12:00 21/12/2012
Kevin O'Leary
KEVIN BILLS PHOTOGRAPHY

LEADING THE PACK: Long-time karate coach Kevin O'Leary has called it quits after coaching in Manawatu for 30 years.

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Kevin O'Leary would have seen most people involved in karate in Manawatu during his 30 years of running the Palmerston North Kyokushin gym.

The 60 year old has retired from coaching after a long career, as his body cannot handle the rigours of the sport any more.

"I have trouble throwing my legs around now," he said.

The Palmerston North man will still help out as a fighting instructor, but has given up the main role and will let Errol Sayer and Nigel Vertongen, both third dan black belts, take over as head instructors.

O'Leary said he had been talking about retiring for a while, so they should be fine in his absence, but he will be there to keep an eye on things occasionally if they ever need a hand.

"It's hard to walk away, but when your body tells you it's time, it's time."

A self-employed painter, in his time he has had branches of the gym all over the lower North Island and was branch chief representative to Honbu in Japan as an affiliate gym.

A fifth dan black belt, he originally took it up to keep fit over summer during the rugby league off-season and never looked back.

"Over the years probably, I must have put through over 20 black belts through the Palmerston North club."

He took over the club as a brown belt and had to teach himself the rest all the way through, becoming a black belt when he was 36.

As a late-comer to the sport, he never competed to a high level so he stuck to coaching mainly.

"I was not much of a competitor," he said.

"I got told I was too old when I started."

He will keep working, but without having to spend a huge amount of time coaching, he will be doing a lot more hunting and fishing.

Not as many juniors have come up through the ranks to get their black belts as he would have liked because it gets so hard, but the gym still has good numbers at senior and junior level.

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- The Manawatu Standard

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