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Kindergarteners get their kicks with martial arts program

CARLSBAD — Aviara Oaks Elementary School kindergarten students enter the multipurpose room in a single-file line and are reminded by their teacher to “Keep black belt focus.” Students form three rows, shout “Good morning, sir” to their instructor, and stand ready to learn karate as part of their school instruction.
Karate is taught at four schools in Carlsbad and Encinitas as part of the curriculum and is funded with PTA monies.
It helps kindergarten students develop strength, spatial awareness and coordination.
Lessons include warm-up calisthenics, shouts and karate moves.
Rick Jones and Jennifer Jones are co-owners of North County Martial Arts and master instructors. They piloted the “kinderate” program at local schools, and principals saw the benefits of in-school karate lessons.
“We wanted to impact a larger group of kids,” Rick Jones said.
Lessons in kinderate progress during the year. First, students learn the basic moves and earn their white belt. Then they move on to more advanced moves and have the opportunity to test for the next level belt.
“They learn kinderate year-round as part of their P.E. curriculum,” Joanna Costello, director of programs for North County Martial Arts, said.
In addition to physical fitness benefits, students also work to set personal goals, develop responsibility and improve their self-esteem.
“There is a strong emphasis on character building,” Costello said.
Students are asked to set goals for self-improvement at school and at home. When they have accomplished their personal goals they are given wristbands that remind them of their achievements.
“It’s great to hear from parents that they are clearing dishes, making their beds, or being nice to their brothers,” Costello said.
Black belt focus is practiced at each lesson. Students are reminded to focus with their eyes, mind and body — by keeping eye contact, listening and keeping their body still and ready to learn.
Rick Jones said school principals have told him that students show better concentration in the classroom and have significantly fewer fights on the playground.
Bullying is also reduced when children are feeling more confident and not lashing out at others, Jennifer Jones said.
“When their self-esteem builds there is less bullying,” Jennifer Jones said. “They are more empowered and more confident.”