Kids and Karate – More Than Just a Martial Art

CONTRIBUTED BY HEATHER GELORMINE

When I learned that I was pregnant with a daughter, my mind immediately filled with girlie thoughts: butterflies and flowers.  Tea parties and princesses.  Pierced ears, painted toenails, and makeup (way down the road).  Tutus and ballet class.

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My little girl is about to turn six, and I have yet to enroll her in a dance class (that’s my tutu she’s wearing… it’s ancient).  Toddler gymnastics?  Yes.  Swim lessons? Repeatedly.  Beginner’s soccer?  You bet.  Drawing lessons and an international doll making class?  Uh huh.  But karate?!  Yup, that too.

I never imagined that I would ever enroll my daughter in a martial arts class.  Because I knew nothing of the discipline – other than what I “learned” from watching The Karate Kid and the three kickboxing classes I attended when I was 18 – I assumed it was really more of a guy thing.  Not something in which a little girl who loves princesses and Hannah Montana, who plays with My Little Ponies and Barbies, and wears dresses and pearls to school would ever take an interest.

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I was wrong.

It started with an invitation from a friend: “The girls are playing together this afternoon, but my daughter has a karate lesson.  Do you mind if we bring yours with us to watch?”  I had no problem with that, and since she’d just finished preschool with a three-and-a-half month stretch in front of us before kindergarten began, I was hoping she might take an interest in something to help fill our days.  She came home with eyes sparkling and a plea in her voice.  “Can I try, Mommy?”

So two days later I followed my friend to Nix Karate Dojo, where I met the man that my daughter claimed tried to steal her hair because he had none of his own.   Because I hadn’t officially enrolled her in the class yet – I wanted to see if she’d like it first – she wore loose pants and a t-shirt.  Her moves were clumsy and all over the place; she was as completely uncoordinated as I expected her to be.  She moved her right hand when they asked her to move her left; she went up when they went down; she looked baffled by the very basic Japanese phrases and commands issued by Sensei Ron and his wife, Ms. Akemi.  But she loved it.  Every single sweaty, drenched-clothes minute (this was July, mind you).

And so I signed her up, bought her a gi of her own, and the next week I accompanied her to her very first lesson as a white belt.

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In the 12 weeks since then she’s been getting stronger.  More coordinated.  More still.  My child – who has trouble keeping her limbs quiet long enough to let me read a bedtime story without saying “Stop wiggling!” has learned to be still.  To focus.  To harness her own strength and resolve into performing movements that require her to use her body and her mind in conjunction with each other.

(She also initially became more aggressive toward her little brother, but when I asked her sensei for assistance he gave her a pointed talk about how karate is not to be used for beating up little brothers.  Or sisters.  Or friends. Or parents. We’ve had no trouble since.)

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The gymnastics helped her learn gross motor skills.  Swim lessons allowed her to be comfortable in the water.  Soccer taught her the value of teamwork.  Art lessons brought out her artistic side and ultimately assisted her in learning to write the letters of the alphabet.  But karate taught my daughter that she has an inner strength she never knew she had.   Karate taught my daughter that even at five years old, she is capable of learning a complex series of movements after hard work, practice, and sheer diligence.  That she is capable of spending two afternoons a week in practice, adding in a few more minutes here and there throughout the rest of the week at home, and then getting up on a stage to perform those movements in front of a sizable crowd.  That she is capable of earning her yellow belt.

Which she did.  Yesterday.

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Several others commented about Nix Karate Dojo last year, and I can’t say enough about Ron and Akemi Nix as instructors.  They’re both just fantastic with children, and provide lessons for kids, teens, and adults starting at age 5 and up.  They teach American and Japanese children and adult women (with the occasional token guy thrown in for good measure); Sensei Ron is a retired US servicemember and his wife, Sensei Akemi, is Okinawan, and both are fluent in English and Japanese.  The karate style is Okinawan Seidokan.

Lessons here cost $30 per month; at two lessons a week (Monday through Thursday; you pick any two of those days that work for you; times vary depending on belt) that comes out to under $4 per lesson.  Other costs involved here are the purchase of a gi (karate uniform) which we purchased for 3000 Yen at a shop outside Kadena Gate 2, and a school patch to be sewn on the gi ($18).  I also paid $6 to have it sewn on in one hour at the alteration shop on Kadena since I lack a sewing machine or any associated skills to do so myself.  As students progress there is a fee for testing, new belts/stripes, and the certificate.  This school accepts both dollars and Yen.  For more information, please contact them at 090-8626-0593.

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Other options that I know about for karate les sons are through the Youth Center on Kadena, MCCS programs on the Marine Corps bases, and through the USOs on Kadena and Camp Hansen.  From what I can tell, all these facilities require children to be at least age 5 before enrolling in a karate class.  You’ll need to check with each center to learn about class dates/times and fees.

Do you have your kids enrolled in karate lessons here on Okinawa?  Where do you take them?  Do you know of any karate programs for children under age 5? What have you seen as the being the biggest benefit of having them learn karate?  Do your kids participate in other martial arts programs?

25 COMMENTS

  1. Are there and dojo’s that train five year olds with in the Kin/ Ginoza area… And if so what are there locations or contact info.. Thanks in advance.

  2. Ryukoku Seidokan Karate and Kobudo Gushikawa, also known as the Devil Dog Dojo Gushikawa trains out of the Gushikawa City Gymnasium. The gym is located between the 8 and the 10 which is on the way to White Beach. We have a parents and kids class on Mondays and Wednesdays from 17:00 – 18:00 and an Adult class from 18:00 – 19:00. If you would like more information check out our Facebook group: Devil Dog Dojo Gushikawa or email: ryukokuseidokangushikawa@gmail.com

    David Plattsmier

  3. We have been affiliated with Nix karate dojo for about 10 years now. My kids started when they were 8 and 9 (when we first arrived on Okinawa in 2003). They are still in business and going strong. As remarked earlier, their website is Ryukokuseidokan.org This is the organization of which Sensei Nix is the President as well. As I read the post an other comments I noticed it is not mentioned that this dojo is a normal adult dojo as well. While Sensei does have “women’s class” (it is the morning classes), we do have adult classes as well.

    The current adult schedule is Monday and Thursday mornings from 09:00 – 11:00, and Monday and Wednesday evenings from 19:00 – 21:00.
    The children’s classes are Monday through Thursday beginning at 17:00 – 18:00.

    I cannot say enough good things about this family! Sensei truly is the D.D (Dojo Dad!)

    Their main number (with an answering machine in both Japanese and English) is 098-934-0015.

    • Sorry my whole point was to say, my husband and I are also both in the dojo and actually joined before our kids! Please don’t write them off as a “kids only” or “kids and women only” dojo.

    • Sorry my whole point was to say, my husband and I are also both in the dojo and actually joined before our kids! Please don’t write them off as a “kids only” or “kids and women only” dojo.

      Also, there is another class help in Gushikawa! It is called “Devil Dog Dojo” It is also Seidokan and sponsored by Sensei Nix, run by Aya Sensei and Dave Sensei! They have been training with Nix Sensei for many years as well! You can also look them up on Facebook “Devil Dog Dojo Gushikawa”!

  4. Gunners gym on camp foster accepts 4 year olds in the lil dragons class. It’s on Saturdays at 12 and the cost is 35.00 dollars a month.

  5. We are new to Kadena and am looking for a quality karate class for my kids. I am not having any luck contacting anyone or finding a website for this dojo. Does anyone know if it is still in business?

  6. Love the article on the little girl. very nice. I star went i was 10 and now iam 51 so i can say the everything the i am i all to Karate. i also do Seidokan Karate with Sensei Nix Ryukoku. I have my dojo in Puerto Rico so if any one wish to visit are well come ok. Sensei Nix is one of the best sensei out there. well into next time a ex- Sgt Emerson.

  7. I’ve been practicing karate off-base with my son for about 9 yrs. The Sensei is bilingual and welcomes anyone interested. The dojo is located about 5 minutes south of Futenma, near rt 34. If interested please email me at cynthri@hotmail.com

  8. As a black belt myself (one in traditional Shotokan and another in Ryu Kyu Kenpo), and being married to a soon to be black belt (as soon as we can fly back to his father’s for his Goju Kembo test that is), moving to Okinawa held a special meaning for us both.

    We both have training in styles who roots lie within this incredible island, and are now afforded a unique opportunity. We get to train with descendants of the founders of our styles, and watch our children train with them as well.

    For me this means progressing further when I had already hit the limit to the training I could stateside, and my husband will be able to keep his training current so that he is ready to test just as soon as we can go back for a visit. I also get to place our son (not quite 3 yet), and eventually our daughter (not quite born yet) into classes with a far more traditional versus commercial background.

    I can’t wait until our son is old enough to join a formal class (I do train him at home now, but his attention span is not quite there yet for a class), and I can’t wait until I have our baby girl so I can start back up!

  9. My daughter is 8 and has been a champion for her age groups since 6 years old in her martial art. She has traveled to Kyushu and Tokyo to represent Okinawa, and loves it.

    She also started in dance, then gymnastics, but she has really taken off in the martial arts.

    Keep encouraging your daughter, and enjoy!

  10. Two of my kids, ages 11 and 6, attend Kuk sool Won at the Reisner Gym on Kadena. They love it! The school is run by Gideon Juko and his daughter. Currently they have 3 classes a week for kids and 2 adult classes 3 times a week. The cost is $40 and students can participate in all 3 classes each week if they choose. Students are encouraged to attend atleast 2 classes a week. This is a Korean martial art so the students are given commands and count in korean.
    My children are learning discipline and self control in this class. They have also gained self confidence and team work in this class.
    Kids are welcome to try the class for free at any time. Call Reisner gym for information.

  11. Heather I can not thank you enough for this post! My husband and I recently began discussing how much we would like our oldest to start Karate. I just had no idea where to go from there. I will look into Nix Karate ASAP!

  12. I attend Nix Karate Dojo, but unfortunately my daghter is only two so you can’t fully participate. I do take her to practice with me from time to time and Sensai Ron is incredible with her. He involves her when he can and helps keep her occupied. I am sad that we will PCS before she is old enough to join. It is such a positive thing for kids and adults to learn. Congrats to your daughter Heather, I got my yellow belt yesterday too!

  13. Nix Karate Dojo is located in Okinawa City, less than a 10 minute drive from Kadena Gates 2 or 3 off 85 before you reach 329. Not necessarily convenient to Camp McT or Courtney, unfortunately.

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