Families get their kicks together


Martial arts training strengthens connections :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Frank Pinc / Chicago Parent Josh Uchitelle-Pierce takes a kid karate class in Oak Park.

Glance into a martial arts training hall and you're likely to find not only siblings and cousins, but also parents and their children working, sweating and having fun together.

Influenced by his daughter Nissa's seven-year commitment to karate, Tom Board of Winnetka recently signed on at Traditional Karate Center in Wilmette, where his now 16-year-old black-belt daughter helps teach his class. "It's very gratifying to see my daughter's confidence and leadership," he says. Nissa says she worries about being too hard on her father, but is proud of his progress.

Elisabeth Ivankovich of Wilmette enjoyed watching her four children train in karate. But she didn't believe she had the time or the fitness level to learn herself-until she joined a class. "It's demanding, but my instructors are very patient. Plus, as parents themselves, they understand that family obligations take priority over karate."

For the Schneiders from Highland Park, karate truly is a family affair. Parents Michelle and Mark, their children Steve, Andrew, Scott and Anna and other relatives have spent a decade training in the martial arts. "It's quite a time commitment," admits black-belt Michelle. "But the pay off has been so great for our family."

Choosing the right martial arts program is one key to success. The Ultimate Book of Martial Arts by Fay Goodman provides a good overview.

"Parents worry that martial arts encourage aggressive behavior," says Anthony DeSardi, the sensei, or instructor, at Mount Prospect's Midwest Shotokan Karate. "In my experience, good training enhances children's self-control." He requires his students to limit their practice to the training facility and only use their skills in self-defense.

Choosing the right school is just as important as choosing the right discipline. Sensei Jordan Scott, five-time U.S. karate team member who began martial arts training in 1978 at age 10, recommends looking for teachers who "set a positive tone-one that is challenging yet supportive."

Before committing your family, observe or try out a class. Martial arts training is disciplined and serious, yet should be fun. Ivankovich recommends a school with a good mix of male and female instructors and students. "My kids see that girls and boys can excel in the martial arts."

For more tips on finding the right school, visit Web site of The Pacific Association of Women Martial Artists at www.pawma.org/tips.html.

Kim Moldofsky


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