Martial arts community remembers senior student

Doris Murphy, 83, earned highest Tai Chi rank
By: Eileen Wilson, Granite Bay View Correspondent
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A Granite Bay woman who at 83 years old earned her black fringe, the highest rank a Tai Chi practitioner can achieve, passed away of cancer on March 13.

Doris Murphy had lived in Granite Bay for 53 years and her house illustrated her love of the martial art, as medals ranging from the size of a nickel to the size of a baseball hung from the furniture.

“I liked Tai Chi right away,” Murphy told the View shortly before her death. “But, I’ve always liked to exercise.”

Murphy had practiced the ancient art for seven years with her instructor, Ron Dillman, and her friends at Extreme Martial Arts in Granite Bay and Roseville.

“I was walking along, just minding my own business,” Murphy said. “No, really — I had belonged to Curves for a couple of years, and I decided that I wanted to try something different.  As I was advanced in age, I thought it would be good to do something to keep my mind active.”

The energetic octogenarian found an activity she loved, and pursued it with a passion. She immediately started earning sashes and fringes. According to Sifu (master) Dillman, no one worked harder than Murphy.

“Doris participated in many competitions, from here to San Francisco, and in many workshops,” he said, prior to her death. “We love her. She’s an absolute inspiration.”

In Tai Chi, Murphy found a way to strengthen her body’s muscle memory. She loved attending seminars and learning as much as she could.

“There’s a lot of practice, a lot of memorization,” she said. “You can learn the different forms, but it can take years to perfect them.”

Strengthening her core muscles through Tai Chi helped Murphy recover from injuries. She especially enjoyed the discipline involved.

“It’s a lot of fun, I’ve enjoyed the camaraderie and Tai Chi teaches respect to practitioners of all ages,” she said.

Murphy was instrumental in establishing a program that teaches Tai Chi to seniors at Eskaton Lodge Granite Bay, but her real goal was always to earn her black fringe — a goal stopped short with a terminal cancer diagnosis in November. Enter Dillman, who helped make her dream come true.

“She was so close to achieving the black fringe. It (was) very meaningful to her,” Dillman said. “We sped up the process for her.”

This meant special tests of Murphy’s skills, and counting the hours she spent sewing people’s fringes onto sashes for them over the years. The process included help from family members. She leaves behind five children, 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Murphy was known for her love of sharing Tai Chi — and the important lesson the art brings to mind and body — with others.

“It’s too bad everyone doesn’t know about Tai Chi,” she told the View. “No matter our age or our health, just holding a pose and practicing deep breathing, you will really feel good.”