She’s 89 and Still Kickin’ Up Heels


Here’s what you do if a mugger comes up from behind and grabs you:

You raise one fist skyward, as if giving the old black-power salute. Then you swing it downward and back and very hard, aiming for where you think the mugger’s crotch is. If you hit the bull’s-eyes, the mugger will let go. You then take one step forward, turn toward him and kick him there again. Near there will do. Then run like hell.

This advice comes from 89-year-old Margaretta (Peg) Seaman of Orange, who is not only willing to do it but qualified as well. She received her karate green belt this week, the first to make that grade in the self-defense class at TLC senior citizen center in Anaheim. (Black belt is top grade, followed by brown, green and purple.)

Mrs. Seaman--who has eight grandchildren, 10 or 12 great-grandchildren (“I can’t remember exactly”) and one great-great-grandchild--does not look like the street-fighting type.

“If I hit you, I’d break all these bones,” she said, rubbing the back of her right hand. “But yes, I could do something.

“We’ve modified karate for senior citizens,” said Carlos Gallegos, instructor of the class. “When you’re young and you fight, you’re like a machine gun. You’ve got lots of bullets. When you’re a senior citizen, you’ve got one shot. But you can surprise the guy and break away.”

Mrs. Seaman has been a karate student since 1984, and, Gallegos said, has worked diligently.

“It was just for exercise,” she said. “I’ve always been active.” She worked as a registered nurse until age 75, traveled, dabbled in judo, joined exercise classes and still walks 5 miles a day.

Gallegos has taught her how to fend off blows, punch and kick. As the time neared for her to be presented with a green belt, “Carlos felt we’d better do it now,” said Nick Warner, director of the TLC center, “before she has this operation.” Mrs. Seaman is due to undergo hip surgery.

Monday, Mrs. Seaman’s classmates lined up behind her on the senior citizen center’s stage. Gallegos’ karate master, David Nuuhiwa of Anaheim, 68, performed the ceremony. He unwound her purple belt, laid it on her shoulder, blessed the new green belt, wrapped it around her waist and gave her a kiss and a bow.

The audience applauded, then laughed as she and Gallegos gave a demonstration. She swung her purse at Gallegos, and he went down as if hit by a falling grand piano. Then she kicked him. The crowd loved it.

It was, Mrs. Seaman said, merely a demonstration, because she is of a much more peaceful disposition.

If she ever encountered a real mugger, she’d probably just offer to take him home and cook him a good meal, she said, adding, “I used to handle the most psychotic patients, and I could talk them to my way.”