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Sean Longley

Sean Longley

Sean Longley

Consistent Attitude Pays Off!!

Looking for an interesting activity for their 5 year old son, Kyle and Maria Longley came to Karate for Kids four years ago and enrolled Sean.  “We didn’t want to put him in team sports at that age and felt that the individual nature of the Karate for Kids Program in Mesa would suit him well and help develop listening skills.”

And from his very first class, Sean has shown a totally consistent attitude.  “He never complains about coming.  In fact, even though he has friends playing football, Sean has consistently insisted on doing Karate for Kids.  It has become a real point of pride for him.” In fact, Sean recently did a demonstration all by himself in front of 800 children at his school.  Now that’s Black Belt Attitude!!!

I asked Mr. & Mrs. Longley about the overall impact of Karate for Kids on Sean:  “He’s really learned a broader concept of RESPECT.  He carries this idea to school.  His teachers love him.  But he also now understands that he can apply respect everywhere, to all people and also to all things.  We’re really pleased with that.”

And every instructor over the past four years has consistently enforced that discipline and respect.  “We’ve found that parents can say only just so much when it comes to reinforcing respect and self-control, especially at home.  Sean respects his Karate for Kids instructors so much that the weekly  progress report was a very useful tool in shaping behavior, like learning to THINK before you SPEAK.”

When Sean began sparring in K4K, mom had some reservations, but she was really impressed how he focused quickly.  Now sparring is one of Sean’s favorite things to do.

As with so many families, the Longley’s place high value on persistence and teaching their children to face adversity and struggle through it.

“Sean has always done well at school.  But here at karate he faced challenges, like not being ready for every rank promotion.  In Karate for Kids, he has learned not to run away from struggle.  For example, it was tough enough becoming a black belt, but after earning it, he did not qualify for his first black belt mid term; then he missed another for vacation; and then missed another.  But he has totally refocused himself now, passed his first midterm, and is on his way to his 2nd degree black belt.  He’s learned that not everything in life will be easy and that he can use his attitude to persist and win. He used this skill recently when he entered the 4th grade ‘advanced learning program’ at Mesquite Elementary.  Wow, has it been tough.  He actually got failing marks on some papers in the beginning, but again, he has been able to refocus, get back on track, and is doing great now in this challenging program.”

You might wonder what the Longleys would say to others about getting started in Karate for Kids: “We drive a good distance to get here.  On that drive we pass 2-3 other karate schools.  We’ve been impressed with the quality of instruction here at Babin’s Karate for Kids.  The program is challenging and fun, and it reinforces family values. This is the place to go and the activity to do.  And with schools cutting back on PE, we know that Sean can make Taekwondo a lifetime activity.”

Here’s what Sean has to say, “I think it’s really fun!  I like to tell my friends about it.  I like sparring and weapons the best, but really I like everything about it!!”

Zachary Birdwell

Zac Birdwell

Zac Birdwell

FOUR BLACK BELTS IN ONE FAMILY!!  Mom (Christine) 2nd degree, Dad (Vince) 2nd degree, daughter (Amanda) 4th degree and son (Zac) 3rd degree.  Young Winston (age 7) is now a purple belt on his way to Black Belt

For a student of any age, Zac’s accomplishments are impressive.  For a 15 year old, they are extraordinary:

  • 11 yrs of training at Karate for Kids
  • 11 years of classical ballet, tap & dance
  • 3rd degree black belt
  • 2nd level instructor collar
  • 9 state championships
  • qualified for WORLD TOP TEN in 4 divisions in the last 2 years
  • earned a LEAD ROLE  in the NUTCRACKER this season

Zac was 4 when he started at Karate for Kids, and Christine remembers he was a “shy, very emotional child.  I knew Zac needed the structure found in Karate for Kids classes.” Zac also remembers that “I was quick to breakdown and cry if the instructor asked me to do something I hadn’t done before.” In other words, he cried a lot.

Sparring was tough, too.  “I never liked sparring when I was little.  When I moved from Tiny Tigers to K4K I always had to face a big 1st recommended Black Belt kid.  He always knocked me down.  I got kicked around a lot in class and even in tournaments.  I often told my parents I didn’t want to go.  Well, all I can say is the guy who knocked me around quit a long time ago, and I’m still here!”

Zac’s comments about how his parents handled the situation are very interesting:  “I may have said that I didn’t want to go, but my parents decided I WAS GOING, and I went.  It was always their decision to make, not mine.  And I probably would still be afraid of free sparring and would have quit if they had let me have my way.”

Zac’s accomplishments and successes are directly related to the fact that his parents supported him and made him follow through and face his challenges instead of running away from them.

Christine’s thoughts on Zac’s accomplishments are: “Because he experienced emotional difficulty when he was young and in Tiny Tigers, he is now sensitive to children like himself.  He is sensitive to shy or emotional kids and almost always knows when they are about to cry.  Parents have often told me that Zac can read their kids.  He sees the emotional breakdown coming and he’s able to head it off.”

“I really think Zac’s greatest accomplishment has been developing a thicker skin, learning to control his emotions, which has lead to success in other things.  As a teenager, I think he is more emotionally stable: he can take NO and uses it to make his performance better next time.  Competing on a national level in the ATA would have been way out of his comfort zone in the past, but he really does well with it now.”

Zac was a member of the “Demolition Demo Team” that won 2nd place in the world this past June.  He performed on stage in an arena with over 15,000 spectators.  I would say he is in control of his emotions!

Zac’s view of his own accomplishments is equally interesting:  “I think my greatest accomplishment in Taekwondo has been teaching a class by myself.  At first in Junior Leadership, I was terrified to get up in front of the class.  Over time I got enough confidence to lead a part of the class, but now, I actually lead the entire class.  That’s my greatest accomplishment for sure.”

According to Zac, “Leadership is a big- time confidence booster.  It gets you prepared to get up in front of an audience.  You can’t get that anywhere else.  Even my dance / ballet training is not the same.  When I’m on stage dancing, I’m not actually speaking to anyone, I’m performing.  Usually I can’t even see the audience.  And there are other people on stage with me.  But in Junior Leadership,

you’re taught to communicate. I can see my audience; I’m physically close to the students.  And that’s really different.  It’s very difficult.  In school, I know that kids who do well making oral presentations get better grades than those who hide behind their papers and mumble.  It’s obvious those kids were never taught to speak in public.  And that’s the kind of training I got in Junior Leadership.  You can’t get that anywhere else.”

All of the Birdwell children compete in lots of tournaments.  Here’s what Christine had to say about Zac’s competition career: “He’s the kid that shakes hands with everyone in the ring.  He’s there for the camaraderie; he takes it past the competition.  I’m thrilled when he wins, but he is the kid with humility and self-control. Other kids jump around and complain about their scores and about how unfair it was that they lost.  I’m proud of how Zac competes.”

Zac goes on to say; “I like competition because it helps me get better.  I always want to improve myself.  Competition is a way to gauge my performance.  I like Xtreme competition because it is a way to be creative, to get out there and do something different and unique; not just doing the same form over and over and dance has taught me about understanding rhythm.”

Wow, that’s a way different attitude than when I started out, isn’t it?”

Over the last 11 years while pursuing Taekwondo, Zac has also trained at CAMPBELLS DANCE in Mesa.  Over the years, in the annual NUTCRACKER production, he has performed FRITZ, a soldier, a Russian, Faun, Reed Flute, one of the nephews, and this year he will play the lead role.  The ballet directors have asked him to include some of his martial arts techniques in this portrayal of the nutcracker!

Christine sums thing up with these comments:  “Karate for Kids has made Zac a well-rounded kid.  He makes friends easily and he has emotional self-control.  Parents of white-orange and yellow belts should be patient.  You need to let the instructors teach.  Give them the opportunity to find what will work for your child.  Even when all a student does is sit in the back of the classroom, progress is being made. Eventually, children go to kindergarten.  They might as well learn these lessons of self control at age 3, 4.  I often reassure parents that they are not hurting their children by forcing them to get into class.  Some kids are not always receptive and need a lot of encouragement, but Karate for Kids is safe and a good thing for them to do.  It’s a great opportunity for any child.  Instructors constantly encourage them. Karate for Kids prepares kids to face life’s challenges.

Kayleigh Bauer 1-09

Kayleigh Bauer

Kayleigh Bauer

Setting and Achieving Goals

It has been so great for her in many ways.  Now, it has simply become a part of her life!” That’s what Valri Bauer says about her daughter, Kayleigh, age 20, who is now celebrating TEN YEARS in our program.  Kayleigh graduated from in Red Mountain in 2006, went to COTTEY COLLEGE where she earned her A.A Degree in 2008, and is now pursuing a degree in Sustainability at Arizona State University.

Kayleigh is now a 3rd degree black belt and in the very near future will become a 4th degree and a CERTIFIED INSTURCTOR through the American Taekwondo Association.  But let’s look back for a minute at her beginnings as a nine-year-old.

By 1998, Kayleigh had done dance and soccer, and her mom says she really didn’t like either, but Kayleigh’s comment is more interesting: ”I was in dance class but I wasn’t any good at it.”

From the beginning, Valri and Dave (Kayleigh’s dad) liked our positive approach to teaching, but it had a profound impact on Kayliegh: “I remember being a white belt and front kicking a blue target and the instructor said, “good kick,” and that was the first time anything went well for me in a physical activity.”

It doesn’t matter how “good” that first kick really was because the result of that encouraging comment has been 10 years of disciplined training and positive experiences.

Mom and dad also note that Taekwondo has really helped build Kayleigh’s confidence.  “When she was younger, she was always the quiet student.  By high school, though, the confidence she developed through her training at the academy really helped her with academic decathlon (rigorous academic team competition that involves written tests, interviews, and speeches.)  She pursued that goal with a new confidence and strength.” And her team made it to the state competition.  “I liked academic decathlon because you get out of it exactly what you put into it.  I knew if I studied hard, I would do well, and I did.” Kayleigh said.   The same is true in Taekwondo; you get out just what you put into it!

I asked Kayleigh, “What has been your biggest accomplishment in Taekwondo?” and her response was quick and clear:  “Clearly my black collar (certification) is my biggest accomplishment.” She goes on to say: “The teaching thing is important.  Teachers have always meant a lot to me.  I always wanted to be a part of that community that passes on knowledge.  At a certain point in Taekwondo, you realize that everything you are learning, you are learning so you can pass it on to someone else.  That’s why certification is so important to me.  Our little classroom is our ’mountain top’ where we are learning.  When people join, they do look for a little of that mythical master/student experience.  I want to be a part of that.”

Mom and dad have said that they liked that  Taekwondo develops the whole person, not just one part:  It’s not about trophies or titles: it’s about learning self discipline and respect for others; physical and mental control of yourself.  And being persistent.”

Kayleigh’s comments confirm that:  “I’m stronger physically than if I had not trained.  But also I’ve gained inner strength, especially patience.  Working with Tiny Tigers, that’s a good way to build patience!  Taekwondo gives me a sense of purpose; we all need to know where we are going.  In Taekwondo, I always have goals—things to work on—AND people pushing me.  It’s great!!”

Considering all that Kayleigh has accomplished, we need to ask you, “What will your 9 year old white belt be doing in 10 years?”  When you stick with Taekwondo like the Bauer family has done, the results are profoundly life-enhancing.

McKenna Lohide 2-09

McKenna Lohide

McKenna Lohide

Trains With Focus and Effort!

Two years ago, McKenna went to a birthday party and her life has been more fun ever since.   That party took place at Karate for Kids in Chandler and although mom and dad and McKenna were not thinking about martial arts training, the moment McKenna did a little Karate, she was hooked.

We were not looking for more focus or confidence or discipline.  She was doing well at home, at school, and in competitive cheer.  But she liked Taekwondo so much we decided to enroll her, thinking it might help with her cheerleading.”

And, once again, LEADERSHIP TRAINING makes a difference.  Mrs. Lohide says: “After working in the leadership classes, we did notice that her voice became louder and her presentation in cheer became stronger.”

McKenna’s training went very well, and then suddenly, a year ago, everything changed.    “We went to class and the door was locked—the business had closed.” Because McKenna enjoyed Taekwondo so much, Mom and Dad wanted to continue supporting it.  They looked around other ATA Academies in the area and when they visited our Academy in Mesa, they knew they found a new Taekwondo home.   “Here in Mesa it just felt right,” Mrs. Lohide said. 

“And when I talk to parents about martial arts, I tell them to come here (Mesa). We’ve been to other schools and we know there is a difference.   In Mesa, the expectations for students are HIGH; the staff and instructors communicate well with parents and kids alike, and I can see a real connection between the things she learns in class day to day, week to week, and month to month.”

McKenna’s favorite TKD activity is breaking: “It makes me feel strong!” And this simple comment sums up two years of focused training:  “Taekwondo is exciting.  It’s fun!”

Mrs. Lohide also said that another great benefit is the self-defense: “In the beginning, we were not looking for self-defense training, but I AND McKenna have learned so much about safety.  It has been a great surprise benefit!”

So if you want to see a student who trains with focus and real effort, someone who is headed

for success as a Black belt, then watch McKenna Lohide.

Jim Slevin

Jim Slevin

Jim Slevin

Youthful Enthusiasm & Perseverance!

“Batter Up!!” Words that are very familiar to Jim Slevin, our March student of the month.  Jim, who comes from Winnipeg, Manitoba, has spent many years playing baseball during the summer and hockey during the winter.  “I still have all my teeth,” Jim jokes.  In fact, he has been an avid athlete his entire life, and he’s been around 76 years.  That’s a lot of baseball and hockey.

Jim was originally trained as an accountant, and worked for years for Ford Corporation in Canada.

He and his wife, Cynthia, have been married for a proud and happy 54 years.  They have 4 daughters and 6 grandchildren.

When he was younger, Jim had a friend who was a black belt instructor.  Although he was interested back then, his love for baseball and hockey kept him busy with no time for martial arts.

Jim and his wife, have been wintering here in Arizona for many years and three years again, Cynthia bought him an introductory membership here  at Babin’s Black Belt Academy for Christmas.  (What a gal!!)  And he’s been loving ATA Taekwondo ever since.  Jim trains with us from November through April, then heads back to Canada for the summer.

But he doesn’t slow down.  He works out with his Taekwondo 5 days a week doing squats, front kicks, punches and watches his training DVD to keep up with the forms.  And of course, he plays baseball.

Jim expected to learn self defense and improve his conditioning. And he’s quick to answer about the fitness element in our classes: “the workout has been everything I hoped for and more!”

Jim’s comments about FORMS are most interesting.  He says that “when I get the form down and can move through it well, I feel that I have really accomplished something.”

When I asked him if there was anything unexpected he has encountered in Taekwondo, he said,”Yeh!  Sparring.  I did not expect that, but I like it, too.  I like the contact, the vigorous workout and the blocking.”

He also mentioned something else unexpected:  I”ve always been ‘gung ho.’  And Taekwondo has calmed me down.  It’s improved my baseball. And I’m not as quick to yell at the umpire and that’s good.

Jim’s comments to potential students are great:  “in Taekwondo you can really develop yourself physically and mentally.  It’s a complete development program.  It covers just about everything a person could want.  And it makes me feel good!”

If you have procrastinated about getting started in Taekwondo, learn a good lesson from Jim.  Regardless of age, getting started in something new is beneficial and fun.  It will have hidden benefits, enhance your life and keep you feeling young!!!

Jim Slevin is a “kick’n” example of youthful enthusiasm and perseverance, a lesson someone half his age can learn from!!

The Houstons-Modeling Self-Control & Respect

The Houstons

The Houstons

A year and a half ago, Kris and Neil Houston told Mackenzie, their 7 year old daughter she could try karate.  Mackenzie was quite interested and enjoyed the classes immensely.  During Sibling Month, Mackenzie’s sister, Madison also joined.  And that’s the beginning of a wonderful story of confidence and exceptional parenting.

In this short 18 months, Mackenzie and Madison have both earned RED BELTS, Mackenzie won a triple crown state championship, and both have excelled as junior leaders, helping other students gain the confidence they have earned.

Kris explains: “Before we started at Karate for Kids, Mackenzie was quite shy.  And Madison lacked confidence and was struggling in school, especially in math.  Now, Madison excels in all areas at school and Mackenzie has become ‘leader of the pack’ in most of her social circles.”

Neil says:  “I like Karate for Kids because it is team-oriented, but also very much an individual activity that builds confidence.”

I asked Kris and Neil if there was anything unexpected they had encountered in the girls training: “I’m impressed with the whole approach to values and morals and self respect,” Neil said.  “Especially with other adults, both girls are very respectful, even to teachers.”

“Both girls present themselves to teachers with a much higher level of confidence. Madison especially always had a goofy walk; now her stride is confident and her head is up high,” Kris commented.

The Houstons are quick to offer comments to potential members:  “Karate for Kids creates such great discipline and focus.  It gives them the confidence to go out and do what they want,” Neil said.

“Karate for Kids creates a more well-rounded person.  It’s not just about punching and kicking.  It is about values and morals and every day stuff that helps keep kids safe,” Kris said.

The main reason the Houstons are Parents of the Month is connected to a story from a year ago.  Last spring, the whole family traveled to Las Vegas for the Spring National Tournament.  The kids were just camo belts at the time; it was their first national event.  And it was a disaster!  The judges in Madison’s ring made some errors with scores and it became obvious that awards were going to the wrong competitors.  Tournament officials and parents got involved. “I was really disappointed in the behavior of the parents,” Kris said.  “These kids were just 11 years old. Madison was making friends with kids from all over the country and these parents were arguing and causing a scene.”

The way Neil and Kris handled the bad situation has made a great difference to Mackenzie and Madison.  Because their parents modeled self control and respect, these girls learned that making friends is more important than earning a trophy.

Neil and Kris did not let this one disappointing experience stop the kids from competing and training.    Mackenzie went on from that day to win a TRIPLE CROWN state championship and Madison has moved on to being a strong dependable junior leader.  Both will soon be black belts! The true victory on this important day was the way Neil and Kris demonstrated respect and self control.   Mr. and Mrs. Houston have blended the values, etiquette, and discipline of the Karate for Kids program perfectly with their own vision for their children.  When you meet Madison and Mackenzie, you’ll be impressed with the results.

Yvette & Taylor Hawthorne

Learning How NOT To Be Aggressive

Taylor & Yvette Horthorne


Taylor Hawthorne was just 3 years old when she started at Karate for Kids in Mesa three years ago.  When I asked her mother, Yvette, why she chose Karate for Kids for Taylor instead of something more traditional for a little girl like dance or tumbling she said this, “Taylor was being aggressive at school.  I was getting calls at least 3 times a week about her hitting.  She was very stubborn and often refused to do what she was told.  They wanted me to come and take her home.  I heard that Martial Arts was good for discipline, and that’s what Taylor needed.”

And self-discipline plus a whole lot more is what Taylor has achieved.  Within 6 months Taylor’s behavior started to change at home and most importantly, at school.  She could be reasoned with and was being more cooperative. (Be sure to read the feature article, page 2, on karate and aggressiveness.)  Karate for Kids has also given her the confidence to try other things like soccer and basketball.

This month, Taylor will turn 6 and earn her green belt.  She has spent half of her life at Karate for Kids.  Yvette has taken advantage of all the activities and events that Karate for Kids has to offer.  Taylor attends all clinics and seminars and competes at all the in-school and regional tournament, and even attended her first national tournament in Las Vegas this past February. “It was a wonderful experience”, mom said.

Yvette sees a “bright and wonderful future” for Taylor as she continues to grow and learn, and have this academy as a major influence in their lives.  “In all this time, I’ve never had trouble getting Taylor to want to come to class, especially on sparring weeks, and she loves weapons training!”

Actually, a Ssahng Jeol Bong weapons clinic is what peaked Yvette’s interest.  “I saw what the class was learning and it looked like so much fun, so I got started right then.”

Yvette is a juvenile probation officer.  The state only requires and provides 8 hours of physical training once a year.  Her regular participation at Karate for Kids has given her more confidence.  Fortunately, she has never had to use anything that she has learned in class, but the potential is always there.  “This is the most consistent physical activity I have ever done in my life.  It has kept my interest; I come to class 3 times a week and have met some great people.” She says with great pride and anticipation, “I’m testing for my Black Belt this month!”

About a year ago, Taylor’s school called to say that she was hit in the face by another child.  Yvette thought “Oh no, what did Taylor do back?” Good news, she didn’t hit back. When Yvette talked to Taylor about the incident that night this is what she had to say; “I really wanted to hit him back, but I knew it was the wrong thing to do, so I let the teacher deal with him!” These words came from a 5 year old Karate for Kids student!

—-Mission Accomplished—-

When I asked Yvette if there were any unexpected benefits for being in the program she had this to say; “This is such a great program, everyone develops focus and discipline.  We use our Taekwondo every day, every where. I use words with Taylor like integrity, focus, honesty, self-control, discipline and goal setting.  And she can relate to this.  Until my experience with Karate for Kids, I would have never thought to speak to a 5 year old like that!”

Thomas Family – Discipline Leads to Success


Hannah, Dawn, Peyton

Hannah, Dawn, Peyton Thomas

Discipline Leads To Success!!

It seems so simple.  A parent says to the child, “I know you’re disappointed.  But you are not quitting.  Pull yourself together and try again.”

That statement sums up Dawn Thomas’ approach to KARATE FOR KIDS and to life in general for her children.  And the result of that philosophy has been very positive:  THREE BLACK BELTS and FIVE STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS in the same family!

Let’s look back at how this all started.

Hannah was just seven when she saw a karate demo at school and asked her mom, Dawn, about getting started.  Although Peyton, then age 8, was reluctant, Dawn enrolled the kids and herself.  She had seen other parents running around to multiple activities and she knew that the discipline and emphasis on memorizing forms at KARATE FOR KIDS would be good for both children.  Although Dawn herself had been very active working out, she found those workouts to be “mindless” and wanted something for herself that would stimulate her mind as well as her body.  So a little over two years ago, all three started at Karate for Kids.

And with Peyton and Hannah about to earn their black belts, Dawn says that the discipline of training has been the greatest reward from their experience.  “Often when I talk to my adult friends about karate, they say things like; “I wish I had stuck with it. OR ‘I wish my parents would have made me stick with it’.  That’s why I insist on Peyton and Hannah sticking to it.”

Dawn continues; “Regardless of the personal challenges, whether it is missing a board break or not getting permission to advance or resistance to sparring, I just say to Hannah and Peyton:  It’s not that big a deal, just suck it up and keep going.” This approach has had profound results for both children.  Although Peyton was not as eager to start as Hannah, he recently won TWO STATE CHAMPIONSHIP TITLES and told his parents, “I want to be a 3rd degree black belt!” Just think, if Dawn would have let Peyton—with his limited life experience–choose not to get started, he would have missed this opportunity of personal growth and success!

Here’s another example where parental “insistence” has paid off.  Peyton, like many youngsters, had told his mother, “I don’t want to compete in regional events because there are too many people watching me.” Dawn commented:  “I forced Peyton to try a regional competition, and then he quickly realized that there are MORE people watching him in the small in-school events than in the bigger regional events.” Again, Dawn used HER judgment to help Peyton overcome his challenge and unfounded belief.  With a new confidence and understanding, Peyton has gone to many regional and national events like the tournament in Las Vegas.

Peyton has developed a real interest in XTREME SWORD competition.  He greatly admires John Meyer, a 16 year old leader and Elite Demo Team Member, and is inspired to be like him!

We talked about helping the kids deal with disappointment.  Recently, Hannah did not pass her test for 1st degree black belt.  Dawn said: “She was really mad!!  She cried and said ‘I’m quitting!’  I told her, ‘You’re not giving up!  NO, you ARE going to do it.  You can’t keep crying.  Just stay calm and get focused on what you are supposed to do.’  I even told her before she went to sleep ‘Visualize breaking those boards.’ And I also told her ‘I don’t want to hear, ‘I can’t do it.”

Those of you who saw Hannah test last month know how well this advice worked.  She broke her boards with great confidence and when she had trouble with her form, instead of losing control and crying, she pulled herself together, got focused and got the job done.  She had the support and wisdom of her instructors and parents all along, a team effort that enabled Hannah to succeed.

I asked Dawn about her family’s accomplishments in KARATE FOR KIDS.  Her comments are revealing:  “MY biggest accomplishment has been competing.

It’s been hard trying to support the kids and watch their competition while doing my own competition at the same time.

But I compete because if I expect the kids to do it, then I should too.  And that’s why I do ATA XTREME competition as well.”

The LEADERSHIP program has really impacted the children.  Both Hannah and Peyton enjoy helping other students and do so every week.  And they have put their leadership lessons to use in competition and other areas of their life.  Recently, at her great grandfather’s funeral out of state, Hannah served as a greeter, saying hello to everyone and showing people to their seats.  Dawn proudly mentioned how people who didn’t know her were all asking “Who is that girl?”

Dawn’s advice to parents considering enrolling is very basic: “Make time for the classes, make it a habit and stick to it.  I meet parents all the time that have let their kids quit soccer, baseball, karate, or anything after only a few weeks.  They say, ‘My kid didn’t like it.’  And I think, ‘How can you know after such a short time?’  A lot of kids only want to do things that are easy for them.  If a sport or assignment is difficult, they don’t want to do it, their parents let them quit!  I don’t want my children growing up like that.  Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. The more you keep chipping away at it the easier it becomes.  They need to learn to stick it out.  It’s more fun that way.”

Amanda Teppo 6-2009

Amanda Teppo

Persistence Pays Dividends

Although nine year old Amanda Teppo has not yet earned her black belt, her mastery of black belt skills like SELF CONTROL, LISTENING, CONFIDENCE AND PERSISTENCE have made her a “black belt in heart” for several years now.  Her story is testimony to the value of starting at Karate for Kids at a very early age—even as young as three.

For example, her 2nd grade teacher told her mom, Cindy, that “Amanda has the ability to listen, pay attention and follow directions. As a teacher, what more can I ask.  If all my students did that, I would be so happy.” This comment came after Amanda had spent three years in Tiny Tigers!!  That’s black belt skill #1; FOCUS.

Because she started so young, she has had many years under the positive influence of Karate for Kids instructors.  The result, according to her mom is “self-confidence.  In Karate for Kids, she has always been encouraged to speak up, she has become very expressive and self confident.  She has taken this skill outside of Taekwondo.  She is the most expressive in her brownie group.  She always raises her hand in school to participate.”  In fact, her 1st grade teacher said that “when the principal comes in to audit me, I always call on Amanda because she always had the right answer and was eager to speak.”  That’s black belt skill #2: CONFIDENCE.

Amanda’s mom also said that math is her most challenging subject in school.  “She will work on a math page for a long time, she’ll erase and erase and try again and again until it is done correctly.”  Her Karate for Kids instructors see the same thing when Amanda works in class.  Sometimes, learning a form does not come easy.  Despite the difficulty, Amanda keeps on going.  That’s black belt skill #3: PERSISTENCE.

So how did all this start?

Amanda began training almost 7 years ago, at age three.  If you watched her at that time you might not have predicted the successes I just described.  Her mom commented; “We spent a whole year with her often falling asleep on the way to class.  And once in class she  was very interested in watching herself in the mirrors.  I remember saying to her before class: ‘Just try to pay attention today.’”

“Many times when we brought her in sleeping, Ms. Birdwell would come over and say simply, ’Come on, let’s get a drink’ and that was enough to get her off my lap and into the classroom.”

Her mom’s hopes in the beginning were simple: just to learn to pay attention.  I asked Cindy why she kept bringing Amanda to class and her response was quick and clear:  “Amanda always had fun and enjoyed coming and everyday there was a little bit of progress.”

I asked Amanda’s mom what she would say to families considering enrolling at Karate for Kids:  “Get started at a young age.  Then the important life skills like RESPECT, LISTENING, PAYING ATTENTION, AND FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS become every day expectations and accomplishments.  Parents who wait till the kids are older will face a greater challenge.”

Aiden Santana 7-2009

Moments of Fear Become Magical Success

Aidan Santana

It’s a sparring week!  As Aidan’s class time draws near, mom, Leslie, remembers all too well: the crying, the arguments, the genuine fear!  Sometimes it’s a combination of things-it’s the gear (“It’s too hot”).  Or the mouthpiece (“It feels weird”).  Or what the truth really was for Aidan, just plain scary!

Leslie says “Aidan is a gentle child and did not adapt quickly to sparring, even in the Tiny Tiger Program”.  Senior Master Babin remembers those days well, “Sometimes we had him just kick a target instead of working with a partner and we always were careful about who his partner was.  We knew he would learn nothing if we allowed him to avoid the challenge, but we also wanted him to know that we were there to protect and encourage him in facing this challenge.”

We asked his mom why she kept coming.  Her response was quick and clear.  “We teach our children that once you start something, you should follow through with it.  Children do not see the (bigger) benefits in anything they do.  Therefore, we—his parents—supported him in facing those moments of fear.  And we always saw gradual progress, baby steps with each belt graduation.  And we also could see that life long skills were being taught at Karate for Kids.”

Aidan got started in classes three years ago when one of his preschool friends, Sam Seylar, who is still training, invited Senior Master Babin to do a “show & tell” at his grade school.  After the demonstration, Aidan wanted to do “Karate” too.

We asked Aidan’s mom if there was anything unexpected that has happened in his training.  “The biggest surprise”, she explained, “occurred when Aidan graduated to the K4K class.  And this was a good surprise.  I was expecting a difficult transition and tears galore.  Instead, Mrs. Babin toughened him in a gentle way.  He knows she is there for him.  She has protected him from a distance (by the way she manages the class) and at the same time, she has expected him to step up to the plate.”

The result has been a “magical, smooth” transition into K4K and huge success in sparring.  You’ll have to watch him spar to see the details, but suffice it to say, this gentle child has added physical and emotional strength to his list of impressive skills at the ripe age of  7.

Aidan’s mom explains further:  “His success is a combination of what his parents expect and what the Karate for Kids instructors expect.  All of the instructors are so conscientious about recognizing him and all students.  When he does something good, he is recognized either right on the spot, or after class, or even by getting a card in the mail!  Aidan comes in and everyone says hello to him and he lights up.”

She continues: “Mrs. Babin has so much foresight regarding advancement and seeing the future for a student.  The key to a great teacher is pointing out BOTH the good and the bad, and Mrs. Babin does both.”

Leslie sums it up by saying, “Absolutely all the things you want for your child are being taught at Karate for Kids in Mesa.  Every skill you want them to have and become.  It is all there: discipline, courage, confidence, respect, communication skills”.