"It started with me taking my grandchildren to do martial arts, and I'm sitting there and I'm watching them," Carter said. "Then that April they had a special for parents. If your children are in there, you can take it for a month to see how you like it. Well, I started taking it and I was hooked. I think that was in either 2008 or 2009 and I've been going two or three times a week ever since. [In the past] I've joined health clubs and all these exercise places and you pay for a year and I go two or three months and then I don't feel like going. But this is fun.
"I feel like I'm accomplishing something. I didn't even realize it at the time but through the martial arts, through Choi Kwang Do, I've got my blood pressure under control. My diabetes is under control and in the past three years I've lost 44 pounds. So healthwise it has been very effective for me. Before I had problems with my back and thank God, I haven't had an episode since I've been going. And mentally, it keeps me alert. I'm just having fun right now with it."
Carter was promoted to black belt -- the 10th color belt in Choi Kwang Do -- last month, after being tested for about four hours on various martial arts components, such as performing patterns, speed drills and kicks. As the oldest participant at the Cartersville dojo, which trains about 80 people starting at age 3, she is an inspiration to many of her fellow students and family members.
"She has worked hard," said Michael Wilson, co-owner of Choi Kwang Do in Cartersville. "Like with any martial arts program or any type of activity period, you see a lot of people come and a lot of people go because most people are seeking instant gratification these days. So she really amazes me, especially at her age that she came in and she set her goal and there was no stopping her. Any obstacle that got in her way, she found a way to get around it -- financial, physically, things she suffered with as far as blood pressure and diabetes. Anything that was thrown at her, she found a way around it.
"When you get over 50, it's very, very important, actually quite crucial, that you have some type of physical activity to keep your body in check and functioning properly. So a lot of people, when they get to that age, they have this mindset that they can't any longer do anything because they're too old or that's for the young kids or whatever. So I think she really speaks a testament to the fact that not only can age not be a limitation, but it can be something that you can use to your advantage and then to also motivate other people in the same age bracket as yourself."
Echoing Wilson's comments, Carter said she encourages senior adults to maintain a healthy lifestyle and enjoy tackling new experiences.
"I would tell them to try [Choi Kwang Do] because you're not forced to do anything. You do it as you're able to do things. You build up your stamina as your body gets stronger. You don't feel like you're pushed to do anything. We don't have any competition. Your competition is you. You do things as you're able to do them. I know when I first started, I could barely pick up my foot off of the floor to kick. Now I can kick up to here," Carter said, pointing to her shoulder. "So it's made a big difference. I'm more agile now. I get around better. I don't have problems with my knees and ankles and back.
"I don't feel 69. And my goal was to get my black belt before I was 70, and I'll be 70 in July so I accomplished my goal [and that] makes me feel wonderful. [So] I want to say to the seniors -- get off the couch. Do this for you. You'll feel better. You'll look better. It will open up your mind. ... [I would encourage] just living [a more active] life in general, getting out of the house."
With three generations of her family training at the Cartersville dojo, she joins her son, Johnathan Carter, and grandchildren, Johnathan G., Nia and Jahsiah. Along with Carter, all of her participating relatives are black belts, except for Nia, who will receive hers in June. Each week, Carter takes four classes at Choi Kwang Do Martial Art and helps instruct three of the children's offerings.
"It is so fun for me because I'm not the best learner in the world and my grandchildren are my coaches," Carter said. "So they coach me. And they have helped me get to where I am now because when I'm doing one of my moves, they'll say, 'No grandma, it's a rear dynamic not a front dynamic.' ... My grandchildren are my inspiration. It's fun. This is my time with my grandkids."
For Wilson, the Carters are a guiding light in the areas of physical fitness and spending time together.
"She's really setting the example for the seniors in our area and I wish that more people would take her lead and help themselves toward a more healthy, productive lifestyle," Wilson said. "Also, as far as from a family standpoint, they're really setting the bar. The Carter family -- they have three generations training at Choi Kwang Do. Her being, of course, the eldest and then going down to her grandson Jahsiah, who is just  years old.
"So a broad spectrum of ages and then a broad spectrum of benefits as well. The younger guys are learning discipline. They're learning focus, goal setting, while her goals are a little bit different as far as what she's taking from Choi Kwang Do. Hers are more of a healthy lifestyle, physical fitness, activity, those types of things."