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Martial arts blend life skills with cool tricks

Published: Thursday, April 4, 2013 11:34 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, April 4, 2013 11:35 a.m. CDT

A decade ago, Ke Roth was like any suburban Mom, taking her son off to tae kwon do classes. But when she tired of waiting on the sidelines with a book in hand,and joined her teenaged son on the floor, her life took a dramatic turn.

Now, she's a black belt, a martial arts instructor and operator at TKD Martial Arts, 1305 S. River St. in Batavia.

"We focus on children between the ages of 3 and 14, but we have several parents who participate as well," Roth said. "We have a program that is designed specifically for 3-7 year olds, which is focused on the development of the big muscles groups, eye-hand coordination, balance and basic socialization skills. It's not martial arts per se, but uses martial arts skills and games to help teach these fundamentals to students who are going into their first school settings.

TKD offers a 6-10 year-old class for those students who have a little more physical and social development, and does teach martial arts.

"Because we are dealing with younger students, it's low key, friendly, and again, oriented toward having fun and playing games rather than hard-core martial arts - but it also stresses the basics of respect, honor, integrity and honesty, as well as helping children with getting more physical activity in their lives."

In older age groups,it's more competitive

"Again, we work on the black belt attributes of appropriate social behavior ( honor, integrity, loyalty, self-control, respect, perseverance) but we also work on some of the other skills they will need in life such as setting goals."

For many parents, its the psychological aspect of martial arts that offers the most benefit, building confidence, instilling discipline, and learning control.

"Many parents enroll their children in martial arts because they are concerned with bullying issues, though the people who could really benefit from studying martial arts are the bullies - they need to learn how to be confident in themselves, not through harming those around them," Roth said, "while others think that martial arts can help their children with poor grades and poor attitudes. And it can - the discipline you learn can be applied to everything, as can the confidence you gain.

"Other people enroll their children because they see it on tv and in the movies, and it looks cool to be able to throw the high kicks and strong blocks - and it is." But Roth, contends, it's really much more.

"We teach the integrity - and along the way, you learn to break boards," Roth said. "We teach honor, and while we're doing that, you learn reverse side kicks. We teach respect, and while on that journey, you get to learn punches and blocks."

Roth added that she don't consider martial arts a sport.

"It's a physical activity, yes, and we do having some sport-like activities - but unlike other sports, there is nothing that prevents everyone from winning," she said. "You can achieve whatever you decide you want to achieve; in martial arts, the only one standing in your way of getting what you want is you. Every student who is willing to do the work can be a black belt."

At World Martial Arts in Geneva, the last eight months have been a growing experience. With a curriculum based in Shotokan karate, the studio opened in August 2012 at 316 Anderson Blvd, in Geneva.

Shotokan Karate is a Japanese martial art that involves striking with the hands and feet, said chief instroctor and grandmaster Ramon Ribay, a 10th Degree Blackbelt with over 50 years of experience. 

Programs are offered for all age groups -- a Lil' Warriors program for 4-7 year olds, a youth program for 8-13 year olds, and an adult program for ages 14 and up.  All groups are taught age appropriate martial arts skills. 

"For Lil' Warriors, we emphasize listening skills, balance, and coordination," he said.  "For youth, we emphasize self-discipline and respect as we work on the 3 K's of Karate - Kihon, the basics, Kata, or forms; , and Kumite, which is sparring."  Finally with teens and adults, the training is more rigorous, with an emphasis on correct execution of technique and as well as proper application, he added.

"At about one year into our program, we begin introducing students Filipino Martial Arts, known for weaponry and hand-to-hand combat," he said.  "After two years into our program, we introduce the techniques of Aikido, a Japanese martial art that focuses on blending and redirecting the force of your opponent using throws and joint locks."

Ribay said most people come for martial arts training in order to learn how to defend themselves and to develop self-discipline. 

"A martial artist is seen as someone who is a highly disciplined individual, skilled in physically defending him or herself," he said. "Parents also correctly cite the development of self-confidence as a reason for enrolling their children.

But Ribay attests martial arts training directly or indirectly addresses many of the issues facing people today including: obesity, low level of activity/fitness, low self-esteem, lack of self-discipline or focus, poor attitude and behavior.

"Martial Arts is not about learning how to beat up people.  It's about self-improvement and becoming the best individual you can be," he said.  " After all is said and done, martial arts training is fun."

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