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Kiai! Karate Kids learn skills for life

News Photos by Darby Hinkley Above, Carson Price, 7, strikes a forward punching pose after his karate class last week at the APlex.

ALPENA — Some do it for fun, some do it for self-defense, but karate is more than just exercise.

It’s a skill you can use to help focus your mind, body and spirit in many areas of your life, according to Thunder Bay Martial Arts co-owner Deb Schackmann.

“It’s all connected,” she said.

Schackmann and her husband Dan own Thunder Bay Martial Arts, which recently merged with the APlex to provide services from a central location that is already a sports hub in Alpena.

Schackmann, a black belt (the highest belt you can achieve in karate), has been teaching martial arts for about 20 years, she said. She has been doing karate for about 25 years.

From left to right, sisters Aileen Higgins, 5, and Lillian Higgins, 7, and Carson Price, 7, follow directions during beginning karate class last week at the APlex in Alpena.

“I met my husband, and he was doing judo, and he didn’t have anybody to work out with, so he asked if I would help him,” she said. “So, we started to do judo together, and that go me interested in the whole martial arts thing. Then we got married and we created the whole martial arts school.”

Thunder Bay Martial Arts features karate, judo, and use of different types of weapons as well.

She loves teaching karate to youngsters and watching them catch on as they go.

“The best part about it is when you have kids who come in and they have zero ability — they don’t know their left from their right — and after 12 weeks, the difference in them is amazing,” she said. “Parents say how much they’re concentrating better at school, and they just have a better attitude. Just the overall change that kids have, just after a few weeks.”

Carson Price, 7, said he joined beginning karate to learn how to defend himself, but he also enjoys learning new moves.

Above, Elliott Skuse, 4-1/2, participates in karate class last week at the APlex.

His favorite move is the side kick.

Price added that he is learning skills that help him focus, while having fun exercising.

Sisters Lillian Higgins, 7, and Aileen Higgins, 5, participate in beginning karate class together.

“I like that we get to do kicks,” Lillian said.

They got into karate because their dad participated in it when he was younger.

Above, instructor and Thunder Bay Martial Arts co-owner Deb Schackmann teaches karate class last week at the APlex.

“Our dad used to do it when he was a kid, and he really liked it, so he thought that we should start doing it, and so we did it,” Lillian said.

The girls enjoy being in class together, learning alongside each other.

“I like that we get to do some exercises, because I like when we do jumping jacks,” Aileen added.

Instructors are called senseis in karate, and the practice area is called a dojo. Students and senseis “bow in” when they enter, and “bow out” at the end of the class as a sign of respect for the dojo and the senseis who have gone before them.

“We want kids to recognize that this is not just a regular classroom, and they’re not going into a gym,” she said. “It’s got something special about it, and they’re not going to do any damage to it, and it’s a safe place where they’re going to be respected and respect other people.”

Above, Clark Moore, 6, right, follows Levi Kindt, 6, during an exercise at karate class last week at the APlex.

Sensei Schackmann said karate should be used as self-defense, only as a last resort.

She added that setting goals and achieving them in karate can help build confidence to set and achieve goals in other areas of your life, such as school or work.

Karate is not just for kids, either. Schackmann explained that it is a lifelong practice that can keep you healthy, focused and strong throughout your life.

“We have kids who are 4, and our oldest student was 80,” she said. “So anybody can do it, if they want to do it. It’s something for everybody, and that’s another thing I like about it, is you don’t have to be super coordinated, you don’t have to be really athletic. It’s for anybody.”

She said the average age of their students is 12.

This semester, which began in February, ends in May. At the end of each semester, students have the opportunity to test to see if they can move up and receive the next color belt. It can take five to six years to earn a black belt, Schackmann said.

Schackmann explained the relationship with the APlex.

“We are a nonprofit, and we are in the process of transferring this over to the APlex, so the APlex is taking it over as their nonprofit,” she said.

She added that there are currently about 80 students enrolled in classes at what is now called Thunder Bay Martial Arts APlex.

For more information, visit Thunder Bay Martial Arts on Facebook, or call the APlex at 989-354-6164.

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