Kicking photo by Janet Conrad, Conrad and Company Photography, Bowing photo by Steve Shay
Tracey Spenser, 51 is the oldest female to earn her black belt at Lee's Martial Arts in West Seattle. She did so Thursday night. Bottom photo, Master Lee has just tied her black belt on her. Rear Left to right, instructors Joe & Lisa Skvarla, & and West Seattle black belt Mileta Radunovic.

Youthful 51 year-old woman earns black belt

Tracey Spenser, 51, earned her 1st Dan Black Belt last night at Lee's Martial Arts in West Seattle last night. She is the oldest female there to earn a black belt. Also earning their black belts were Jesse Simpson, 17, a Chief Sealth junior, and Meagan Veltman, 19.

Spenser is an editor for MSN. She worked for the Seattle Times for 20 years, including a post as National Wire Editor. Spenser gave a speech of thanks, and self-examination, before earning her belt in front of Master Lee, instructors Lisa and Joe Skvarla, and West Seattle black belt Mileta Radunovic. Spenser explained that the speech is the last procedure on the check-off list for the belt qualification.

The West Seattle Herald has reported on Lisa Skvarla here in her instructor role, and here in her "superhero" role on the web TV show The Collectibles.

Here are excerpts of Spenser's speech:

“I guess you could say tae kwon do is my version of a midlife crisis. Some people, when they reach a certain age, buy a sports car. Others travel, change careers or do important volunteer work. I, on the other hand, choose to spend hundreds of hours in a gym that smells like feet, huffing, puffing, sweating, getting dizzy, falling over, getting bruised, getting confused, all in the hopes that someone, someday would see fit to give me a 2-inch wide, 9-foot long strip of black fabric.

“What on earth was I thinking? I could have had a little red convertible.

“But here’s the thing about tae kwon do. It has this way of making you feel both proud and humble at the same time. When I was just starting out, I’d take a belt test and I'd think to myself, 'Yeah, man. Tae kwon do. This is cool. I can do this. I’m getting good.' And then I’d come to class the next day with my new belt on and my head one size bigger, and instructors Joe and Lisa would start to throw new things at me (…) I pretty soon came to realize that the more I learned about tae kwon do, the less I knew.

“And so as the dream of that black strip of fabric gets closer to being reality, I’ve come to look at it not so much as the fulfillment of an ultimate goal but as another new beginning. Because I’m pretty sure that when I come to class next time with my new belt on and my head one size bigger, that Lisa and Joe will find a way to make me feel like a white belt. So to me, a black belt martial artist is someone who is humble because she knows she always has more to learn.”

The West Seattle Herald congratulates Tracey Spenser, as well as Jesse Simpson and Meagan Veltman.

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