Morrell, 81, first in state to earn USJA eighth-degree black belt

By Kris Henry
Mail Tribune
May 05, 2007

When Elie Morrell was first introduced to the world of judo in 1955, he admittedly was hooked from Day 1.

But inspired as he was back then, he had no idea how much of an impact martial arts would have on his life

Still going strong in the sport, the 81-year-old Morrell recently was honored with a promotion to eighth-degree black belt becoming the first Oregonian to complete such a rank in the United States Judo Association.

"In the 52 years I've been doing this, I didn't think I'd get to this point," says Morrell, who turns 82 on June 2. "I thought somewhere along the way, either on the basis of health or lack of interest, I'd give it up. I think it's a real accomplishment (to reach eighth-degree black belt) because around the country we just don't have that many people at this rank."

There are only a handful of ninth-degree black belts in the USJA, and no 10th-degree black belts in the organization.

Morrell, who lives just outside of Jacksonville in the Western Carriage Estates, first learned of his promotion after the USJA board met April 19 in Miami for a national competition. The promotion wasn't confirmed, however, until all the paperwork was received and signed off on at the USJA's central office in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Morrell's last promotion came in April of 2001, but his continued work Wednesdays at Wayne Owen Fighting Arts in Grants Pass and as an associate instructor at Southern Oregon University on Tuesdays helped set the stage for another promotion. Morrell has also published about 20 technical articles on judo over the years, and has been conducting judo clinics in Corvallis since 2001.

"It's the only sport I've ever been in in all my life," says Morrell of judo. "To me it's not only fascinating and intriguing, you just go on learning. There's no end to the learning process. It's so complex and you don't realize it until you've been in it a few years. No matter what rank you are, you still look at it like I'm a beginner and I'm still learning."

As testament to that fact, Morrell says he was on the Internet searching out judo sites on Thursday and came across a few throws he'd never seen before that he now wants to incorporate into his own repertoire.

"If I thought for a moment that I knew it all, I would've stopped a long time ago," he says. "It's an ongoing process and none of us ever becomes an expert."

Impressive, I wonder if he's still out on the mat at his age.
Anyone heard of this guy before?