“Everyone, regardless of age or gender, should be given the opportunity that I had.”
Students of martial arts learn the importance of discipline, hard work, sacrifice and humility. Sharon Tippe of Revelstoke has a black belt in karate, and exemplifies these qualities and more. Spend a few minutes with her, and you are both inspired by her accomplishments, and heartened by her genuine desire to help others achieve their goals.
Sharon was always drawn to the martial arts. Once, many years ago, when she was accompanying her grandchildren to a Tae Kwon Do class, her daughter mentioned to the instructor that Sharon did aerobics. The instructor asked Sharon if she would like to learn the “Four-Direction Punch.” This pattern is a basic Tae Kwon Do exercise that involves stepping with the foot, at the same time as executing a block or punch with the opposite arm.
“I couldn’t get my arm and leg coordinated,” Sharon recalls now with some amusement. “I left the class embarrassed.”
Notwithstanding that awkward debut, Sharon persisted in her desire to learn more about martial arts. She telephoned the recreation centre in Revelstoke, and learned they offered a karate class. Sharon was in her late fifties at the time. “I asked them how old you had to be,” Sharon recalls, “and they replied, ‘how old are you?’ I told them, and they told me to come down and try it.”
After her first karate class, she was hooked.
“I could hardly wait to go back to the next lesson,” says Sharon, the enthusiasm still evident in her voice. At first, she would cry when she was called up to the front of the class. Eventually, she learned to put her fear aside, and she was able to spar in front of her classmates.
Sharon chuckles when she relates one incident in a karate class where she was paired with a 16-year-old who was visiting from Germany. When the girl was told she would be Sharon’s partner, she looked skeptical. After the class, however, she remarked to Sharon, “I told my Mom… you are strong!” Sharon reminded the girl, “not to judge a book by its cover.” It is an admonition she uses often, especially with young people.
Sharon met her first goal of obtaining a green belt in karate. She then went on to earn her black belt at age 65, and her second level black belt at 73. She shares the impact karate has had on her life.
“I was afraid of who I was. I couldn’t speak in front of people. It’s given me such confidence. I would love to get more young women involved in the martial arts.”
A resident of Revelstoke for 41 years, Sharon first moved to the town with her husband when he went into business with his brother. She is still happy to call it home.
“It is a great town in which to raise children, with the rivers, and the lake and the snow,” she says. Sharon feels grateful that no matter what activity she joined in Revelstoke, her age was never an issue.
Before she became a mother, Sharon had a career as a psychiatric nurse. While her children were growing up, she helped her husband in his business, but primarily focused on staying at home with their children. It was during this period in her life that she began to put on weight.
“People see me now and often ask me about getting into shape. They don’t realize that I had struggled with it.”
At one point, she wore a size 22 ½ on her 5’4” frame. Sharon recalls without bitterness that her doctor, at the time, told her she was “fat and repulsive,” and that she needed to lose weight. She took his words to heart, and with changes to her diet as well as exercise, she lost 80 pounds in a year.
“I ate protein, salad and soup,” Sharon explains. “It took three months until I could do my first sit-up.” As a result of that experience, Sharon says she realized, “exercise and good health were the answer.”
On any given day, Sharon can be found putting this belief into action. After her morning cup of coffee, she goes for weight training or for a run or she practices yoga. She is proud to have mastered the head stand. She plays golf and hikes from early spring through early September. She also takes advantage of Revelstoke’s great cross-country skiing during the winter months.
Sharon is also an avid baker and gardener. At the height of the season, her garden is full of flowering trees, clematis, roses and her cherished orchids. Despite a busy schedule, she manages to find time to put her gardening skills to use in a volunteer capacity, as she tends to the flower beds at the golf course.
What does she find to be the best part about this time in her life? “Just doing everything that I do. I like to inspire people to do things. I think people say, ‘Ask Sharon about it, she does that activity.’ Being enthusiastic helps.”
Sharon is inspiring to others, but she quickly gives credit to those who have inspired her, including the friend who got her started in yoga, her karate instructor, and the people at her church.
“It’s never too late to get active,” she says. “Find a buddy to do something with. A group of three is a good idea – if one can’t make it, another will be available. Loneliness and boredom is the worst thing you can have. You have to be around people to look up to.”
Sharon finds it’s a bonus to discover she is a source of inspiration to the younger generation as well.
“My grandchildren think it’s great what I can do,” she says. “It’s nice to know they are proud.”