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Winder karate academy teaches kids citizenship

POSTED: June 18, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

Two of the Twin Tigers’ young ladies demonstrate one of their basic holds at an event Tuesday afternoon to inform parents and children about the schools’ anti-bullying programs for children ages 4- to 14-years old.

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A pop-up thunder storm sent the demonstration inside, but the Chick-fil-A in Bethlehem hosted an eager group of children and young adults Tuesday afternoon determined to solve one of the worst plagues in schools right now. 

The Twin Tigers Martial Arts gym, which has been a mainstay in the community for 18 years, put on demonstrations for families and interested parties Tuesday night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. while handing out flyers and promotional materials which all asked an important question: “Is your child bully-proof?”

For the Twin Tigers, martial arts are about more than learning a cool new skill. The Twin Tigers want to help root out bullying in schools outright.

“The goal of our program is to give children the tools to disarm a bully and the confidence to stand up against a bully,” Jeana Jones, who teaches the children’s program at Twin Tigers, said Tuesday night.

The children’s jiu-jitsu program at Twin Tigers is for children ages 4-years old to 14, and Jones has been involved with it from the beginning. Owners Nick and Matt Coffman brought Jones in to help start the children’s program after she joined the adult program two years ago and wanted to teach her children the same skills that she had learned. 

While students at Twin Tigers have traditionally learned Tang Soo Do, a Korean martial arts form commonly taught in karate classes, the unique nature of jiu-jitsu makes it perfect for teaching children about self-defense.

“The art of jiu-jitsu is about the smaller and weaker opponent being able to beat and defend against the larger opponent,” Jones explained. “Our kids are taught that just because the other person is bigger, it doesn’t mean that you can’t take them down or control them. We teach our kids how to use your bodies against them.

“It gives them the confidence to know that just because the kids are smaller, it doesn’t mean they can’t defeat the larger opponent. That’s what jiu-jitsu is really about.”

For Jones, that family environment is a large part of what makes Twin Tigers such a great environment to work and train in. 

“Family training environment is really big,” Jones added. “We do competitions, but we want it to be fun, especially for the kids. We’re really focused on a family-oriented training environment, real world self-defense, situational self-defense and overall awareness of your surroundings.”

With such an emphasis on family and constant encouragement, it should come as little surprise that the gym wanted to train children to bring a model of encouragement and mutual uplifting into their worlds as a whole.

More and more children are finding themselves as victims of bullying, so it becomes necessary that people work to end bullying. While the teachers and school administrators are likely the best resource, it can be difficult for one adult to monitor what 30 kids under their care are doing. So, the children themselves learn how to stand up for themselves and others in order to offset the imbalance between the bullies and their innocent victims.

In order to do that, the best thing for children to learn is how to throw off that victim mentality.

“So many programs focus on the children not being a victim. Well we don’t want our children to have the victim mentality. We want our children to feel empowered by their skills and their knowledge,” Jones acknowledged. “We teach our children jiu-jitsu both for sport and for self-defense, but those two things are so important because they can utilize the self-defense aspect but still have fun.”

While it may sound to some like Jones and her program want to welcome violence with more violence, the immediate goal of jiu-jitsu is always violence prevention.

“It’s not about the contact,” Jones said. “Jiu-jitsu is a gentle art. It’s about learning how to control the situation. One of the first things we teach them is strong base, to use their voice and to not back down. They can say, ‘Back down, or I’m going to defend myself.’”

The children do learn, however, what they need to do should a bully not back down. According to Jones, one of the earliest lessons a student learns is how to perform a basic mount where they bring a bully to the ground and can exert physical control over the bully.

Even from that position, though, the finishing move, so to speak, is a verbal request to stop bullying behavior. 

“Once they put that person in control, they’re instructed to say, ‘Are you going to leave me alone now?’ Usually, that’s enough to get a bully to stop,” Jones explained. “They’re not instructed to hit, kick, punch or humiliate. You don’t call the bully names.

“Once you have that established, you can start building on the sport. What if you’re grabbed from the back? What if you’re grabbed by the wrist? What if you’re put in a headlock?”

While contact is considered a last resort, the students do learn how to respond should physical force be necessary to defend themselves or someone else. 

“Will a kid have to kick or punch? Maybe,” Jones admits. “We teach our students to avoid punching or kicking, but if they’re physically attacked, we don’t tell them, ‘Well don’t do anything.’ We teach them to use minimal force.”

While the program could easily become stressful for children when they start to consider dangerous scenarios in which they might need self-defense techniques, Jones is mindful of this possibility and actively works to circumvent any feelings of fear and danger children might face.

“Our goal is to teach it in a fun and encouraging way. We want children to understand the safety aspects of it, we want children to understand the self-defense aspects of it, but we don’t want to scare them. We don’t want them to fear what might happen in the world, but we want them to feel really confident that they can handle what may happen in the world,” Jones explained.

A regular session for children consists of a high-intensity warm-up before two distinct sessions. The warm-up is not a wasted time, either, as the students will spend time working on skills they use during class.

“The kids do some exercises, and all of the exercises they do point back to jiu-jitsu. You’ll see them using moves that they will later use during the sport,” Jones noted. “Sure they could do jumping jacks, but that doesn’t really apply to jiu-jitsu.

“Those moves they learn in warm-ups will quickly incorporate into their jiu-jitsu.”

After warm-up, the class moves on to drilling where the children learn a couple of new skills or positions for that day depending on how well they seem to be handling the lessons that particular class. From there, the participants will move on to what may rightly be described as the most fun part of class, and that’s the head-to-head competition.

“We spend time working on those moves, and then we roll,” Jones added.

The students will go into two minute head-to-head bouts where they will work on what they have learned and apply it to a fluid scenario.

“We are filling their toolbox with tools, and what they get to do in rolling is…they’re getting to use the toolbox,” Jones elaborated.

The jiu-jitsu classes do not have a set start date or end date, though, and operate on a rolling and constant atmosphere where any time is a good time to join.

“The best time to start is now,” Jones said. “They can come in any time. What we focus on in their first couple lessons is what we call the bully-proof scenario. We teach them how to use their voice and to stand strong with a solid base, then we teach them how to look confident. Even at the very beginning, the first thing we focus on is their confidence.

“The first things we teach you could make a big difference the next time that kid goes out onto the playground,” Jones added.

After children have a good base and understand how to use their confidence as a defensive technique of its own, they can start to learn moves and skills that will serve to back up that confidence and help them defend themselves or someone else should the need arise.

“Then we have them learn their techniques and use what they know,” Jones expounded. “Someone who’s been in the program a little bit longer might have more in their toolbox, but they’re still encouraged to use what they know and learn what they can from their partner.” 

While Twin Tigers may not be able to train every child in the ways of jiu-jitsu, they hope the program can be a benefit for every student who even goes to school with one of their students. 

One of the most important lessons for the children at Twin Tigers is to be someone who will stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

“One thing we focus on in our classes is kids being upstanders, not bystanders. We teach our kids to grab their friends, create a swarm, and say, ‘Hey, it’s not okay what you’re doing to this person,’” Jones explained. “They also know that if you stand up to somebody, you may very well have to defend yourself as well as that other person.”

Jones hopes that through Twin Tigers and through the lessons that her children and others like them are learning, no child will need to fear bullies at school or elsewhere. 

“Sadly, one in four children are bullied on the playgrounds or in schools, and that’s just not okay with us.”



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