Martial arts: More than fighting

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 21, 2002

During an interview a few years ago, local karate teacher Jeff Bateman was asked why he taught children to fight. The teacher (or renshi, as he’s called in class) gave a response that surprised his asker.

&uot;I told her that I didn’t teach children to fight,&uot; says Bateman, owner of Jeff Bateman’s karate studio on Portsmouth Boulevard.

&uot;People think that all karate is is learning to fight. But we teach children to defend themselves, and help their attitudes. It helps them deal with everyday life.&uot;


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Governor Mark Warner agreed; he declared Saturday to be Martial Arts Day across Virginia.

&uot;The martial arts help young people develop character, focus, strength, flexibility, and coordination,&uot; Warner explains in a statement. &uot;It can enhance athletic performance, increase work production, and provide benefits at home and in school.&uot;

To celebrate the day, Bateman and his students held several demonstrations for the public at the school. As the strands of &uot;Eye of the Tiger,&uot; &uot;Gonna Fly Now,&uot; and, appropriately, &uot;Hit Me With Your Best Shot,&uot; and &uot;Kung Fu Fighting,&uot; filled the studio, the students showed their skills at punching, kicking, blocking, and weapon use.

Jeremy Hall, who became a black belt at age 8, demonstrated the bo stick – a long, thin stick. &uot;When you’re giving a bo ‘kata’ (performance),&uot; explains the 12-year-old. &uot;You have to have a lot of focus, because if you starting looking at something else or even thinking about something else, that bo can come down and hit you in the knee, which really, really hurts.&uot;

Alex Peters, 9, and Michael Bauder, 7, gave a two-man punch-and-kick display.

&uot;When we do a lot of kicks, especially flying kicks, we all look good,&uot; says Bauder, a student at Kilby Shores Elementary School. &uot;I was really excited, because all those people were looking at me.&uot;

Peters also likes to kick. &uot;Flying side kicks make me feel like I’m flying through the air,&uot; he says.

After the demonstration, instructor Joe Bragg went out to the parking lot to show his talent at breaking boards. Bragg cracked several boards with his hands, feet, and elbows.

&uot;You can break as many boards as you want, as long as you stay focused,&uot; Bragg says. &uot;You have every part of your hand relaxed, except the part that hits. You have to think, ‘I’d still like to write with that hand tomorrow!’&uot;