Area elementary students received a crash course in American combat jujitsu and karate at the Charles H. Stone Memorial Library on July 21.
The School of Hard Knocks event was taught by Sensei Mickey Heath and was part of the summer reading program. Following the event, kids in attendance were encouraged to check out library books about jujitsu and karate for further knowledge about the two forms.
One of the more popular books among the kids was “Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny,” a book about a jujitsu practicing rabbit named Isabel.
Heath teaches at the Armfield Civic Center and is a 31-year martial arts veteran.
Heath explained to the kids in attendance the differences between American combat jujitsu and karate, noting that jujitsu originated in Japan, while karate started in Okinawa, but later became popular after migrating to Japan.
In addition to their geographical differences, Heath explained that jujitsu is about using someone’s weight against them, whereas karate uses force to stop someone else’s force.
Specifically karate utilizes a wide range of weapons that were originally improvised due to the fact that weapons weren’t allowed during the early days of the form.
Nunchuks, as Heath noted, were originally used to thrash rice, but were eventually utilized as a weapon in karate.
Another weapon that originated from Okinawa is the sai, which Heath noted was once a police weapon used for hitting, rather than puncturing. Heath added that the sai was made out of iron and not steal.
Following a brief introduction to the two forms, Heath encouraged kids and adults alike to practice the moves that he demonstrated.
Before starting the moves, Heath stressed that martial arts is the “economy of motion” and that every movement should set up a chain of events.
Following each of the punches, Heath instructed the participants to yell “hi-ya” in a startling tone of voice. Heath explained that there is a method to the madness of yelling “hi-ya,” noting that the sound can take the opponent off guard and that by releasing the noise, the force behind the punch is transferred into the recipient of the punch.
When practicing punches, both air punches and actual ones that connected with a pad that Heath was holding, the participants were instructed to only hit with an open palm, citing the fact that without proper training, damage could be done to the person both giving and receiving the punch.
Heath said that throughout the course of his teaching, he has promoted more than 100 people to black belt status, with the oldest black belt being 68 years old at the time of the achievement.
Heath explained that people are graded on several aspects of the martial arts work, including how hard their punches are, their balance and their body movements.
Heath stressed the importance of martial arts education, noting that once the students are aware of how easy it is to hurt someone that they will do anything possible to deescalate a situation before it reaches the point of physical violence.
“It’s very easy to start, it’s not all about throwing people on the ground and crashing their heads in, it’s also about good exercise,” Heath said of the universal appeal of martial arts, adding that above all it teaches respect.
The 10 a.m. activity for preschool students at the library was “The Race is on! –Minute to Win It” in which Diane Blakemore, activities assistant, read “The Big Balloon Race,” followed by a wide variety of games that had to be completed in the time span of one minute.
The games included a tossing game an egg roll, marble balancing game, letter ordering game, stacking game, hopscotch and several others.
Aila Boyd may be reached at 336-415-2210.