Willie Nelson Achieves Martial Arts Milestone

He Tells CMT Hot 20 Countdown About Earning Fifth-Degree Black Belt

I always wanted one of those fantastic T-shirts proclaiming “Don’t Mess With Texas.” Now I’m gunning for one that says “Don’t Mess With Willie.”

I’m talking about Willie Nelson, of course, and maybe we should all think twice about crossing the country legend in a dark alley. For his 81st birthday earlier this week in Austin, Nelson was promoted to a fifth-degree black belt in the practice of Gong Kwon Yu Sul, a modern form of martial arts that originated in Korea.

Nelson has been involved in martial arts for many years, he told CMT Hot 20 Countdown .

“I’ve always played around with it since I was a kid … jujitsu … martial arts back when I was a kid, then grew up and then ran into some more guys who went into Nashville, got into kung fu and then came back down here.”

He began studying taekwondo with Grand Master Sam Um, who presented Nelson with his latest promotion.

“The funny part of the whole thing is, you know, I made a lot of classes and everything and did a lot of schooling in there with Master Um,” Nelson said. “But most of the time when I was practicing my forms was on the bus, going down the road 60, 70 miles an hour with David Anderson, who’s helping me out. We did all the forms right here on the bus, and then whenever I think I had them down, we would stop and pull over and film me doing them. Then I sent them back to Master Um, and he’d say, ’That’s good,’ or I need to work on this, so did the whole thing basically just traveling.”

Now, I’m much more of a yoga girl, myself, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been curious about martial arts.

For Nelson, staying active is a big priority.

“It’s something to be proud of,” he said of his achievement. “It’s a great sport, and I highly recommend it to everybody out there. It’s good for you mentally, spiritually, physically … whatever.”

Samantha is a country radio insider with a deep love for the music and its stars. She can often be found on a red carpet or at a late-night guitar pull.