Martial arts training teaches children much more than punches or kicks, says one local instructor.
Kevin Pyles, who teaches jiu jitsu at Northern Wellness and Fitness Center in Mount Airy, said the first thing he teaches the 20 or so children in his program is self-control.
Pyles has been teaching these kids in Mount Airy since January.
The group is diverse, consisting of both boys and girls with the youngest student just four years old. Some children wear white belts signifying they are relatively new to the sport, and a few wear yellow belts. Some may soon tie orange belts around their waists.
Pyles said every practice begins in the same manner. The kids line up and assume their “ready stance.” That stance is all about controlling one’s self and discipline. It’s tough for some to stand still, which is the point. Martial arts teaches much more than an ability to pummel an opponent or physically protect oneself.
“The program is built on several pillars,” said Pyles, explaining the lessons arm kids with confidence, help them to focus and teach manners and discipline.
“We want to arm them with the confidence to make their own decisions in life,” said Pyles.
He noted children must present their school report cards when they are promoted to the next highest belt.
“They care a little more about their grades when we tie their belts to their report cards,” remarked Pyles.
While Pyles believes self-control to be the important takeaway for children in his program, the training is centered around jiu jitsu.
“There is an anti-bullying component to our training,” explained Pyles. “We teach kids how to not become the victim of a bully.”
Physical activity is something missing in the lives of many children, said Pyles. Too many play video games, and too few participate in activities.
“This gets them moving while teaching discipline,” said Pyles.
Clearly, the group has absorbed some of what Pyles teaches every Tuesday and Thursday night at 6 p.m. and at 10 a.m. on Saturdays. “Professor Pyles,” as the kids call him, said the group recently travelled to Charlotte for the N.C. State North American Grappling Championships. They fared well in competition.
Reily Cazares, Jackie Delacruz and Kage Pyles all earned first-place finishes in their age and weight divisions. Alex Cazares, Jessi Delacruz, Dare King and Kaleah Pyles finished as runners-up, and Benjamin Delacruz earned third place in Charlotte.
Given most of the kids have been training for less than a year, Pyles said their finishes are impressive feats.
“It’s one of the biggest tournaments in the country,” said Pyles. “There’s some really good competition there.”
However, the group of beginners rose to the occasion, with every child who entered the competition placing, according to Pyles. That stated, that wasn’t all the “professor” saw that he liked.
“It was really exciting to see the camaraderie that has developed,” said Pyles. “It was really neat to see the kids cheering each other on.”
Pyles, who has black belts in multiple martial arts styles, also trains adults at Northern Wellness and Fitness. Austin Hazel earned a top finish in adult competitions at the Charlotte tournament.
Pyles said he expects the Mount Airy group will fare even better in future competitions.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.
Pictures By Andy Winemiller – firstname.lastname@example.org