Past News

July 25, 2019   |    Blog, Health and Aging, Independent Living

Meet “Ninja Grandma” Resident, Sandy Cupper


When the Wesbury Woodshop had its recent Open House, the attendees were delighted with a martial arts demonstration from a fellow resident. Many of them had heard that Thoburn Village resident, Sandy Cupper has been taking Tae Kwon Do for several years, but this was the first time they saw it up close, and it was impressive. Her instructor at Flying Tigers Martial Arts Academy, Master Rich Anton, was there to assist Sandy. He explained to everyone what they were about to see, Sandy was going to break a few pieces of wood for them, with her fist. Master Anton took his stance with the wood, and Sandy prepared herself. She pulled her arm back and with a deep “HI-YA!” there was a cracking sound, and Master Rich was holding two pieces of wood. The audience clapped with enthusiasm in awe.

Breaking boards is a part of the promotion tests in Tae Kwon Do when students advance to their new belts. A student begins as a white belt and moves all the way through a black belt. Sandy just received her red-black belt, which is one belt below a black belt.  Sandy is 75, and at Flying Tigers, she goes by the name, “Ninja Grandma.”


Sandy is no stranger to being the proverbial fish out of water. When her husband, Bob, got a teaching position at Allegheny College, she decided to go back to school to finish her college degree at Allegheny graduating in her mid-40s. After graduation, she worked for 34 years as Crawford County’s Tax Assessor, which entailed going out all over the county to assess all the properties which she says, “at times, I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to do this job, it was so fun.” After Bob passed away, she found herself wanting to find things to do, especially in the evenings.

A co-worker at the courthouse said, “Have you thought about taking karate?” Sandy thought to herself, “no, not really, but why not?” She reached out to Master Anton about joining his class, who told her to come and check it out. She was 69-years old, and the only issues she could think of was that she had a double knee replacement and back surgery in the past. She went to her first class and has been committed since.

Sandy says, “Of course it is taking me a bit longer than the younger students because I need to modify some things because of my knees, my back, and now my hip, after a more recent surgery, but Master Anton tells me to do the things I am allowed to do, move forward.” She also says it was a 14-year old black belt who encouraged her to succeed in Tae Kwon Do because it was “all up here,” Sandy says pointing to her head.


“After nearly 6 years of the Korean Martial Arts of Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido at Flying Tigers, Sandy has stayed the course in her training…despite her age limitations and a few health setbacks.  “She has set the bar high for all of our students demonstrating that one can accomplish great things through patience and perseverance.  She inspires and encourages all around her – especially me!” says Master Anton.

She says she has no intention to rest with this accomplishment, but notes achieving black is going to be difficult, “you break bricks! And many of the kicks and flips are quite challenging.” Sandy also encourages others to try martial arts training at any age as it is a great work out for the mind and body. She says it is quite literally, “blood, sweat and tears and worth every minute of it.”