Judo guru Houston is in seventh heaven
Twelve years ago, judo coach Roger Houston was awarded his 6th Dan at the age of 58. He hardly expected the day would arrive when the prestigious 7th Dan came his way.
Having recently turned 70, Houston is now officially a 7th Dan.
Far from calling it quits – the committed coach, who lives in Hanwood, laughed at the possibility of reaching the next step – claiming he's been told it would 'only' take 10 years.
Houston, who was born in Glasgow, hot-footed it to Shropshire at a tender age and, having practised in judo since the turn of the 1960s, set up Bushido Judokwai 473 in 1972.
His livelihood has consisted of educating youngsters from the region in the art of self-defence. Pleased with the 'reasonable' condition that teaching has left him in, Houston conceded that the sport became his 'way of life'.
To put Houston's achievements into context, he was the first judo player from Shropshire to be awarded a 6th Dan, while there are only around 10 from the Midlands to have achieved 7th Dan status.
While Houston passed on the reins of Bushido Judokwai to Mike Pearce in 2014, he still has enough passion for the sport to carry on.
Houston, who became a level three judo coach in 1995, is the director of examiners for British Judo – a role he's held since 1988. He is also in a second spell as chairman of the Midlands Area for British Judo.
Alongside wife Vi, the duo have taken up the more serene sport of bowls – turning out for Hanwood Bowling Club.
Son Jason was born around the same time as Houston's club was formed and he reached green belt status, while grandchildren Max (orange belt) and Alana (red belt) are continuing the family tradition.
"I've spent 55 consecutive years in the sport. I was a judo player before I married my wife 47 years ago," said Houston.
"My family have supported me right from the first moment up until now. My wife has spent many nights alone every week – she's never complained.
"I could be training four nights a week.
"It was a shock to the system to receive a phone call from examiner Colin McIver (9th Dan) in April telling me I had passed. But I had to keep it a secret all this time – I wasn't allowed to broadcast anything!
"It's very, very official and signed by various countries. The family knew but it's one of those things that could go wrong. The sport have tightened it up because of corruption across other sports.
"I was smiling for three straight days after picking up the award."
But a long spell in judo signals, if nothing else, respect.
Houston, who takes pleasures in announcing himself as the first coach of Shropshire Olympian Danny Williams, explains that his role is all about encouraging people into the active pass-time.
A serious car incident curtailed any competitive hopes. of his own. Houston started competing as a 15-year-old – when beginners had to be 'senior' – but the incident in 1982 focused him more on the coaching side of the sport.
He claims that it made him a better coach and, training in a sling at the time, laughed about how he taught with just his left hand.
"Absolutely the students respect me, judo is all about respect," he added.
"You bow to a black belt. I don't need to put my body through the mill anymore but I'm expected to know all of the answers!"
According to Houston, there are just five 10th Dans in the world today. He may not ever quite reach the very top stage, but the county should revel in the pride of the achievements of one of its eldest sporting statesman.