By Taylor Moore
ORMOND BEACH - Charge in with a full-fledged running Brazilian haymaker, and this 84-year-old just might break your face and toss you right through the walls of the Ormond Beach Senior Center.
Ruth Horan has been teaching judo for more than 50 years, and has been teaching in the Ormond Beach area for 37 of those.
Ms. Horan is an eighth-degree black belt in sport judo, the only woman to ever receive this award.
Ms. Horan has also achieved several other milestone achievements, including election into the National Martial Arts Hall of Fame, and having July 24, 2004, officially declared "Ruth Horan Day" in Ormond Beach by Mayor Costello.
And she's still kicking, even after her recent open heart surgery.
When attacked by Scott Edwards, one of her top students and second-degree black belt instructors, she shoots for the ground and through a series of intricate leverage and balance tactics, sends him soaring across the mat.
She pops up eagerly, grinning from ear to ear.
Ms. Horan began studying the art of judo in 1951 in New York City, and after four weeks was promoted to instructing all of the women in the dojo, she said.
"It was mainly because they didn't want to instruct the women, so they put me in charge," Ms. Horan said.
And thus began an epic career in teaching "The Gentle Art," as she refers to it.
She says that judo is primarily a defensive art, and that judokas learn how to escape from any assault, though they also learn offensive techniques.
She stresses the importance of using it for positive means, and never for negative.
"The knowledge is invaluable; (Volusia County) is a potentially high-crime area where people can be attacked in their own beds," she said. "It is such an incredible feeling to live life without having to worry about who's coming around the corner."
She has passed on this "invaluable knowledge" to many instructors, some of whom reside in Ormond Beach.
Carol Elliot, third-degree black belt, began studying under Mrs. Horan in 1995.
"I came with my daughter just to sign her up," Mrs. Elliot said. "She needed a partner to work out with, so I just kicked off my shoes and got on the mat."
Mrs. Elliot's daughter received her green belt, but then went off to college.
"I just stuck around," Mrs. Elliot said.
Scott Edwards, another of Ms. Horan's black belt instructors has been practicing judo for 11 years, he said.
"Read the crime statistics," Mr. Edwards said. "There are bad people everywhere; nobody thinks it can happen to them. It only takes that one time to wish that you knew how to defend yourself."
He then walked across the mat, gestured for student Tony Mills to attack, and then initiated a throw that slightly resembled William Shatner heaving an alien across some barren planet.
Ruth Horan, self-proclaimed as one of the first woman judokas, is inviting teens and adults to try out to her eight-week judo program in the ballroom of the Ormond Beach Senior Center.
The classes are on Mondays from 7 p.m. until 8 p.m., and the entire program is $35.20, mainly to cover the fees of the Senior Center, she said.
"Judo is the art that makes you appreciate living your life freely, safely and comfortably," Ms. Horan said.