'Master' Willie Nelson gets 5th-degree black belt

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 29, 2014 at 12:52 am •  Published: April 29, 2014
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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Some advice for when Willie Nelson slides off his sneakers personalized with the word "Texas": Don't mess with him.

The country music icon who turns 81 this week received his fifth-degree black belt in the martial art of Gong Kwon Yu Sul on Monday night, parking his tour bus outside the Austin studio of his instructor who began teaching him two decades ago.

Nelson didn't show off his chops but Grand Master Sam Um assured a packed room that the "Red Headed Stranger" could hold his own against anyone. As is typically the case wherever Nelson goes, other celebrities were close: this time Austin resident Lance Armstrong tiptoed past parents of other students to see his fellow Texan honored.

"Honestly, I was surprised to be getting this degree," Nelson said on his bus before the ceremony. "I don't know what else is out there. I never thought about anything beyond second-degree black belt."

Nelson's birthday is Wednesday — though he's claimed before that the date is really April 29, a day earlier. He said a doctor gave him a clean bill of health earlier Monday during an annual exam.

The singer gives martial arts a lot of credit for that. Although off stage he's more famously known for more mellow interests — like smoking pot — Nelson said he stays physical whenever possible. He's also a runner and avid bike rider.