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The kick-starter: Martial arts grandmaster creates videos to help seniors get active

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With the heart of a samurai and the philosophy of an educator, Clifford C. Crandall Jr. is on a mission.

The mission has, at its source, a playbook of life created by Mr. Crandall, 75, that has seen him embracing the beauty of the Earth and making the most of his time on it — from jumping out of airplanes to diving in oceans deep.

In a new series of short videos, Mr. Crandall, whose path to success included several years as a teacher in Northern New York, wants to encourage senior citizens to engage in an active lifestyle.

He’s a Renaissance man with a motivating resonance.

“When I turned 75, I realized the philosophy that I live by and try to share with people has a whole new group that I should reach out to and offer some ideas for safety and activities,” Mr. Crandall said in a phone interview from his home in Ilion, Herkimer County. “That’s the men and women who are in their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

Mr. Crandall, a martial arts grandmaster, has broken 18 bones in his body and has had a full knee replacement.

“But I’m still doing stuff,” Mr. Crandall said. “Anybody can do it.”

That “stuff” doesn’t have to include breaking boards or running marathons.

“I see people in their 60s and older who aren’t doing anything because they don’t realize what they can be doing,” he said.

His free “Still Alive and Kicking” videos reflect a range of physical activities that aim to improve everyone’s quality of life.

Activities featured in each 60-second video include pickleball, golf, kite flying, hiking, canoeing, golf, horseback riding, bowling, cross-country skiing, trimming Bonsai trees and skeet shooting. Mr. Crandall added that he routinely participates in all of the activities that are featured.

“I’m not just telling others to do the activities, I do them myself,” he said.

Topics for future videos include aerobics, bicycling, darts and billiards. An activity does not have to be physically strenuous, and can be as simple as joining a library book club, Mr. Crandall said. The purpose of the videos is to stimulate body, mind and emotions.

Mr. Crandall is the director and founder of the American Martial Arts Institute and the American Eagle style of martial arts.

“Anything that gets you up and stimulated is an activity. You shouldn’t stop doing them, regardless of your age,” he said.

North country educator

Mr. Crandall is a native of Norwich, Chenango County.

“I was always a bit athletic in a fair amount of sports,” he said. “But I wasn’t an over-achiever athletically. I could do all the sports but wasn’t the best at any of them. But I stayed involved and enjoyed it. I just like staying in shape.”

He earned a Bachelor of Arts in secondary education from Parsons College in Iowa. Before his first teaching job, Mr. Crandall worked as a manager of a shopping plaza in Norwich.

He began his career in education in the north country, teaching history and sociology at Indian River High School in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, he was studying for his master’s degree in educational administration, which he received from St. Lawrence University in Canton.

At Indian River, Mr. Crandall said he founded and coached its gymnastics team. He also coached tennis, with practices held in Watertown. He had an interest in Braille and sign language, and taught an elective course on those topics.

He enjoyed his time in the north country, taking part in activities ranging from bowling to fishing and hunting.

“It was an exciting time,” he said. “I enjoyed the whole process.”

In the martial arts field, Mr. Crandall worked with Raymond P. Arndt, who died in 2001 at the age of 75. He served as an Army explosive ordnance disposal soldier in several detachments, including service at Camp/Fort Drum. An experienced boxer, Mr. Arndt began his martial arts training while stationed in Okinawa in the 1950s.

Grandmaster Arndt also served as an adviser for several martial arts organizations in Europe and the Middle East and would lead the American Kang Duk Won Karate Association.

“I really lucked out with Grandmaster Arndt in the few years I was up there,” Mr. Crandall said.

Also an artist

In 1972, Flower Memorial Library in Watertown hosted an art exhibit of Mr. Crandall’s works, which had also won two blue ribbons at the Jefferson County Fair.

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