Willie Nelson Gets Fifth-Degree Black Belt Ahead of 81st Birthday

Country icon also inducted into Austin City Limits Hall of Fame

Willie Nelson, black belt, 81, birthday
That's Willie Nelson in the middle there, with the white beard Photo by MASTER MARTIAL ARTS
Marc Hogan WRITTEN BY
Marc Hogan

"Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain"? More like blue eyes crying with some pain, if anyone ever forces Willie Nelson to show off his self-defense prowess. Nelson turns 81 tomorrow (April 29), but according to People the country legend will attend an Austin, Texas ceremony today where he'll receive his fifth-degree black belt.

Nelson's area of expertise? Gong Kwon Yu Sul, a modern Korean martial art. "It's a good form of exercise, especially as you get older," Nelson said of martial arts in a 2013 Men's Health interview.

Nelson got another early birthday present on Saturday (April 26). That's when he was inducted into the inaugural class of the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame. Matthew McConaughey, coming off his recent Oscar for Best Actor in Dallas Buyers Club, introduced him, saying, "There would be no Austin City Limits without Willie Nelson," as the AP reports.

Nelson performed onstage at the induction ceremony along with fellow country luminaries Emmylou Harris and Lyle Love. Others inducted included Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, and the night reportedly ended with Nelson performing Vaughan's "Texas Flood" joined by blues-rock guitarists Buddy Guy and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

The Red Headed Stranger's birthday was also a big occasion last year, when he turned 80. A CMT Crossroads special marking the event was shot at Jack White's Third Man Studios. The former White Stripe chatted with Nelson, and a wide range of guests performed, from Leon Russell and Sheryl Crow to Norah Jones and Neil Young. Long may Willie run (and, er, chop).

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