Karate’s newest clients: kids
BY SHELBY TANKERSLEY
OU News Bureau
In the ’70s and ’80s, karate studios were dominated by adults and teens trying to learn self-defense. Now, those studios are full of children under the age of 12.
Karate became more accessible when the 2000 Olympic Games accepted Taekwondo as a sport. After that, it became less dominated by men as more women and children joined. Today, about 18 million people are enrolled in martial arts.
Movies and TV shows incorporate karate, with Mixed Martial Arts and some national tournaments televised. It has woven its way into American culture.
Karate is not just known for its kicks and punches. One of its most boast-worthy qualities is that it teaches students to have discipline and never give up, which is why so many families turn to it today.
“Back when I started at 16 years old, I was one of the young ones,” said Jeff Bryant, owner of Bryant’s Karate in Oxford, Michigan. “But right now I have 100 percent kids, no adults at all.”
Rodney Price of the Professional Karate Schools of America, also in Oxford, agreed. About 95 percent of his students are under 13.
Both said that they see so many children because parents want their kids to know what it means to behave well.
“When kids walk through my door, they know that they have to be disciplined,” Bryant said. “But that has to be followed up at home, too. They see their parents more than they see me.”
Price said there can be pressure on schools to be the disciplinarian.
“The kids really benefit when parents take what they get here and apply it to the home,” he said.
Both see a positive impact on kids beyond behavior.
“I’ve had kids that come in who are very quiet and like to keep to themselves,” Price said. “But after just a month they get more vocal. They know they can express themselves here.”
Bryant said he sees a huge growth in confidence from children, as well. That’s actually why he joined. He began training as a teenager to rid himself of the fear of getting beat up. It led him to fight less and be more confident in his ability to protect himself.
Both said that confidence is a big growth they see in any child. It has a particularly rewarding impact in students with special needs, Price said.
“Again, they get to express themselves here,” he said. “I have one student with autism who is a black belt now. When he started he would roll around on the floor and we couldn’t touch him. Now, he’s very outgoing. He’ll come right up and give you a hug. He wouldn’t be where he is today without martial arts.”
Bryant agreed saying a black belt for children with special needs can mean a lot. Being treated as a black belt by their peers in karate goes a long way.
Bryant and Price see children in sports using karate as a way to cross train. It uses many muscles at once, making it a good way to stay fit.
While karate serves as good cross training for other sports, Bryant said he enjoys karate because it’s something anyone of any age and fitness level can get into.
“Karate will be here when you’re done with high school,” he said. “That’s the great thing about it. It’s always there for you.”
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