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Karate lessons give needed confidence

Classes help to bring self-discipline and behavioral changes to all students

Malika A. Wright | 8/14/2013, 12:46 p.m.
Sensei Clayton [back second to the right], the other senseis and youth are photographed together after practice. Photo by Malika A. Wright

More than 30 youth, ages four years old and up, attentively listened and responded as their sensei gave orders on last Monday night at their karate class at Athalie Range Park. Dressed in a black karate uniform, known to them as a “gi,” all of the students warmed up cohesively. The group was positioned by levels: the more experienced students, who wore blue and yellow belts, stood in the front and the beginning students, who wore white belts, stood in the back.

Later, the youth practiced kicks, blocks, and other methods of self defense. The Karate lessons held on Mondays and Wednesdays led by the Liberty City-native Sensei Clayton Powell, 53, not only help the youth with physical fitness and self defense, it also helps them become more responsible, self-disciplined, obedient and confident, according to their parents and senseis.

“It’s not just to come in and kick and fight and punch,” Sensei Brenda Powell, said. “They are our future and it is important to have somebody to guide and lead them.”

According to Sensei Brenda, the number one reason parents sign the youth up for lessons is for discipline. She said their behavior becomes better and although some take longer than others, they all change.

Sensei Clayton said the children change when they see someone who stays on them about their behavior. He said some of the boys misbehave because they are coming from a single-parent household and they no longer respond to their mother’s discipline. Along with discipline, he added that love is the key to having children behave well. He shows love to students by talking to them about their problems before class, calling some of them occasionally to see how they are doing and even taking some to the movies.

“They start behaving better when they see somebody showing love...” Clayton said. “Once they get that love they will change for that person. Kids simply want someone to love them. You got to know when to be hard on a kid and when to be soft. You can’t be soft, soft, soft. It ain’t gon’ work.”

While discussing changes in the youth’s behavior, Darren Lingo, a parent, recalled the time his son got in trouble in school.  It wasn’t a punishment at home that changed his behavior, but rather the punishment of 100 push-ups from Sensei Clayton.

“He didn’t get in trouble no more,” Lingo said, about his son.  Both Lingo and his wife, Hermana, who two children have been a part of the class for about four months, said they like everything about the program.  

They also like that the year-round program makes up for the physical education that has been removed from their children’s schools.

Robin Gore, a mother who signed up her two children and nephew about six months ago, says when her children misbehaves she warns them of calling Sensei Clayton.

“Their behavior has changed,” she said. “He’s instilling in them the importance of being disciplined and that helps me out, especially with school.”

Ericka Mackall, whose daughters have been taking lessons for years and are blue belts, said Sensei Clayton is a father figure to some of the children.

She said having the girls learn from him is like a backup to what she is already doing, adding that them being blue belts, the highest level, has increased their leadership skills.

“Sometimes if you give them a little confidence, it goes a long way.”