KNIGHTDALE — It’s Wednesday morning at the Cathy Lee Child Development Center and five of the center’s boys are being reminded not to kick their parents.
“Do we do these moves in the classroom?” local karate instructor Nathan Ray asked.
The boys say no. One mentions trying the moves at home, to which another quickly remarks he’d better not kick his own mom and dad.
Ray agreed with them.
Learning when and where to kick is one lesson the boys learned as part of Ray’s weekly instruction at the center. Ray owns and operates World Karate-Do in Knightdale and is beginning to branch out by offering classes at child care centers.
“It’s really good because they really learn how to focus at two or three years old,” Ray said.
At Cathy Lee, parents can choose to have their child in the karate class. The center also offers a dance class and a Spanish class.
“We try to add as much extra to make the curriculum rich for children,” said Debbie Watkins, the center’s owner.
The idea for a karate class began with a parent.
When it was suggested, Wakins knew just who to turn to.
“I contacted (Ray) because I’ve known him all my life, we went to school together,” she said. “I knew other kids who had gone there and I knew that he was good and had good credentials.”
At first, Watkins was worried the classes might make the children too excited. There was always a possibility the karate might carry over into normal classroom time.
“I think they have more self control now in the classroom,” she said. “We haven’t had any problems, actually the total opposite.”
Ray’s program for younger students focuses on the basics of martial arts, not necessarily the exciting kicks and punches seen on TV.
“The thing about the two- or three-year olds (is that) they’re really learning their body,” he said. “We’re teaching them to do all those big words- focus and concentrate- without telling them.”
Becoming little masters
Right now, Watkins said the plan is to offer the classes at the center until parents aren’t interested.
This way, the children can move up and get different colored belts as if they were taking classes at Ray’s center.
For older martial arts students, a new belt signifies a new level of mastery. For younger students, Ray uses a stripe system to visually show a students’ level.
In a pamphlet provided to parents, Ray said students should be ready to advance to the next stripe in about four to six weeks.
In addition to a newly striped belt, Ray said the children who participate in the karate program will walk away with a sense of discipline that will serve them well later in life.
“(They’re learning) more focus and more self-control. Most of us adults probably never had a class like this,” he said. Ray said older students tend to do better in school and have better luck with job or college interviews.
Watkins said for right now, she plans to continue the classes indefinitely.
“The whole principle behind it, the philosophy of it what it teaches (is great),” she said. “(I like) what I can hear him saying to the children, the wonderful things he teaches about life, (like) being kind to others.”
Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews