Teaching Karate to three, four and five year olds certainly advances in a very different direction than it would in a class of teenagers or adults. Meandering might be a better way to describe all the inertia coming from a group like this, according to Donny Angiello of Premiere Martial Arts in Bedford Hills. "It's a little like herding cats," he says, but the martial arts class of participants he is instructing at Mt. Kisco Child Care presents an even more interesting angle that probably cannot be found in many other places.
Under the same roof with the child care
As the children spill into the room, extending the limits of their normal attention span is the first element of Karate they kick into gear. Assuming the "attention stance" on cue from Mr. Angiello, the preschoolers toe the line with attentive feet, focused eyes and sturdy spines. "It's just a great avenue for them to learn how to follow directions," he says.
At the other end of life span, attention span can sometimes mirror the same level as the little ones. Karate provides the chance for seniors pick up their interest with a little of the same kick. "I think it's something that just stimulates their day," he says, and being called grandma and grandpa by the kids never gets old either, he adds.
Both groups then listen up and get in their horse stance. In other words, they square up, scrunch down and bring their elbows into their stomachs. With their fists turned up, everyone is ready to defend.
Issuing the “block” command, the group knows to raise their left elbow to protect the head. Mr. Angiello then lightly brings down the blocking cushion on each, leaving a strong forearm (and a big intergenerational smile) to soften the blow.
Able to protect themselves and in accumulation of three basic commands, they are ready to go on offense. Each child comes to the middle and responds (as best they can) to "attention, horse stance and block." With that, they are rewarded with the kick command and a stomp to the cushion.
Of course, any martial arts training must address the appropriate use of the discipline. “We only do it here,” he says to the kids, but at this age, it’s not so much about them possibly kicking their classmates.
“We’re more worried that they are going to go home and kick the cat,” he says. In turn, four year old Joey Cicchelli puts it right for all of them. Gritting his teeth, he says, “They might growl or bite you.”
But way beyond all that stuff, from the safety of their chairs, the seniors give a kick too – even if the practical application isn’t really on the agenda. “They mostly come to see the children smile,” he says.
On the other hand, the children can take what they are learning into martial arts expertise or just about anything else. "After a month, you see a lot more poise and a lot more confidence," he concludes.
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