Can do about taekwondo

Hobbled by polio when young, Iron Mountain man earns blue belt at age 68

Theresa Proudfit/Daily News photos Lead instructor Pete Thelander of Black Dragon TaeKwon-Do works with Dale Close of Iron Mountain, in front, who recently received his blue belt.

IRON MOUNTAIN — In his 68 years, Dale Close of Iron Mountain has gone from leg braces to achieving a blue belt in the martial art of taekwondo.

Originally from Muskegon in lower Michigan, Close contracted polio in 1951 when just a year old. He would spend 3 1/2 years in an iron lung, 2 1/2 years in a wheelchair and need surgery to realign ankle, knee and hip in 1963.

Forced to use crutches and braces most of his life, Close said he endured a great deal of bullying as a child.

“Bullies are going to pick on somebody that won’t fight back,” Close said, adding the way people treated him growing up took its toll.

But in 2015, Close found taekwondo, which he said changed his life.

Dale Close of Iron Mountain, who for most of his life dealt with physical limitations brought on by polio as an infant, has earned his blue belt at Black Dragon TaeKwon-Do.

“I’m gaining a lot of self-esteem and feeling good about myself,” he said. “I have confidence.”

Close trains at Black Dragon TaeKwon-Do school in Kingsford, under lead instructor Pete Thelander and owner/master Mark Murray.

Murray said Close is progressing well, with the blue belt being about midway through the different levels that can be achieved. He also earned his membership in the United States International Taekwon-Do Federation, or USITF.

To be promoted, Murray said Close had to pass testing on patterns for offensive and defensive techniques in specific sequences; do combination kicks, punches and blocks that demonstrate coordination and fluidity of motion; show foot and hand techniques; spar; and do board-breaking to indicate both power and control.

“He has a great, positive attitude,” Murray added.

Close, who is retired but works part-time as a greeter at Walmart, said the program is “easygoing” and he expects to attain his black belt in another three years.

Close also attends Saturday open-hand self-defense and stick defense classes, as well as various seminars throughout the year. He said he enjoys assisting the 4-year-old and 5-to-6-year-old youth classes as well. “We are all very proud of Mr. Close’s accomplishments,” Murray said.

Theresa Proudfit can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 45, or tproudfit@ironmountaindailynews.com.

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