Becker Interview

Adriana Pontrelli

Every Tuesday afternoon, Ms. Renee Becker can be found at Mayer’s Karate and Fitness in North Haledon. An 82-year-old black belt, she has been practicing karate for years. In an interview for Rampage, she tells her story:


When did you start taking karate?

I started in 1979. I was 40 years old when I first stepped on the mat.


Why did you start karate?

There was a confluence of events that influenced me.  When I was in my early 20’s I experienced the fear of a potential attack but never considered joining a self defense class. Karate classes were not well known in the 1950’s. So, I just tucked my fears way in the back of my mind.  I was in my 30’s when I realized that I was out of shape, but I didn’t have the motivation to do anything about it. I was juggling my career in addition to caring for my family’s needs.  However, I enrolled my 8 and 10 year old children in karate and as a dutiful mom I would drive them back and forth to class.  After a couple of years of chauffeuring my kids to class, I finally convinced myself it’s time to get back into shape and learn some self defense techniques.  I was now ready to take that first step onto the training mat. The rest is history.


How long have you been doing it for?

I have been training in Karate for 42 years. I started at the age of 40 and I am now 82 years old.


What degree black belt are you?

I’m a 4th degree black belt which I received in June 2021. I earned my 1st degree in 1985.


What is your favorite thing about karate?

That is a tough one to answer. There are so many aspects of karate that have made a positive change to my life.  My fears of an attack relented little by little over time which then was replaced with a sense of empowerment.  Because of my years of training, I feel stronger, healthier and happier now than when I was at the age of 40. With each class, I begin to look forward to the challenges placed before me and I develop the desire to be the best I can be. With that comes the rewards of not only becoming physically fit, but I also develop self confidence of being able to defend myself if ever put in a compromising position. Karate is a challenge for me. It tests my stamina, reflexes, coordination, agility, focus and my ability to read my opponent’s strategy while sparring. By continuing to work at improving these skills, I feel a sense of accomplishment.


But what I like most is the sense of camaraderie and respect we have for one another. I believe that’s what makes the karate school environment different from many other forms of workouts.  In essence, we help each other, we learn from each other and we feel like family.  


Other comments?

 I don’t use my age as an excuse to slow down.  When I’m in the karate class, I feel the need to set an example for the younger students. Being a black belt comes with responsibility. There is no taking the easy way out. Because of my rank, I am in the front of the class. This motivates me to work my hardest, to set an example for others.  As a result I hope to motivate the students. I feel that perseverance pays off.   “Just don’t quit.”