At the tender age of 11, I fell in love with the Karate Kid. He was a beautiful “underdog” who, with the help of “Mr Miagi” took on the bullies and won! On the big screen, the fight sequences were breathtaking, but what was more impressive to this younger version of me, was the story of a young man, who faces his fears and conquers them. Not only did the Karate Kid develop the skills associated with martial arts, he learnt life skills such as discipline, respect, courage, honour and perseverance! It's still one of my favourite movies!
So it's not surprising then that after all these years, the bright eyes and clean good looks of the young martial artists in front of me, conjure up all the romance of that long-ago time. Eager to show off their skills, these youngsters who vary in age, move swiftly and with vigour! Their moves are impressive as they practice and rehearse for their upcoming “Extreme Martial Arts” showcase.
Among them are a number of brother/sister combos's, and it's not unusual to find entire karate families in this club. In fact, owners and head instructors, Trisha and Brian, are one of three generations in the club currently. Already in their sixties, these two dynamic golden oldies, inspire the youngsters with their energy, resolve, discipline and compassion everyday.
Seeing the group practising is more than enough evidence, even for an outsider, to realise that there's a special kind of magic happening here. And it's this, these kids are happy! They have a sparkle in their eyes; they are confident, passionate and proud! These are characteristics sorely lacking in conventional society today. Speaking to the team, I learn that they have benefited enormously, both academically and socially, by taking up karate as a discipline. After all, it's holidays and these kids are practising five times a week and enjoying themselves!
Apart from the “usual” benefits, such as improved strength, better concentration, more confidence and self-discipline; these martial artists agree that their grades have improved, they have more friends and are far more popular amongst their peers!
So what inspired these youngsters to take up this demanding sport? Many of them refer to their heroes Jackie Chan, Jet Lee and Bruce Lee. Movies such as Rush Hour, Fearless and the Matrix have done much to make martial arts prominent in the minds of today's youth. Other's have their parents to thank, and/or older siblings.
Something else I pick up is that all these kids listen really carefully and construct their responses thoughtfully. Of the seven, four are young ladies, who are animated and excited about their lives. This kind of friendship is something I've seen amongst school buddies, and surprisingly, none of them go to school together! This camaraderie is something they developed here in this group. And by the way, the group consists of some older and wiser ones, including mums and dads!
According to Trisha, the club offers far more than the opportunity to practice and hone your skills; “It's a community where friendships are forged and families bonds are strengthened.” For those who are not practicing karate, such as other family members, it's an accepting and inviting community.
For Brian and Trisha this is a passion and a vehicle to inspire future generations. Their relationship with their students reflects mutual respect, and a code of honour. It's clear that fairness, encouragement and praise is big on their list of priorities. And for them, karate has always been a way to make friends and be part of a much larger community. “Great for when you move, especially countries”
This club, which operates out of the Oxenford community centre on the Gold Coast, practices daily and holds a number of fundraising events to send qualifying team members to Melbourne in November to train with Shian Lionel Marinus, one of this sport's top five instructors.
And to encourage perseverance, diligence and discipline, top students have the opportunity to go to Switzerland in 2008. No doubt, there will be many contenders!