FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Fort Bragg youth can keep themselves in shape, learn discipline and self-defense by taking karate classes with Sensei Don George through the SKIES Unlimited program at Tolson Youth Activities Center.

George teaches youth ages 4 and up in combat jujitsu with a tradition in Shodokan, a Japanese style of karate. Students learn fundamental kicks and strikes from a modified boxer's stance, said George.

The sensei has been studying martial arts since he was 8.

When George joined the Army as a field artillery Soldier, he traveled to different places around the world.

"Wherever I went, I searched for a style (to learn)," he said.

George has studied jujitsu, aikido, hapkido, tae kwon do and preying mantis kung fu in Korea. George lives in Fayetteville and teaches at Overhills Middle School in Spring Lake.

For each session, there are 10, 45-minute classes for students ages 4 and 5 and 10, 60-minute classes for students ages 6 and up. Students can first arrive in T-shirts, shorts and bare feet. Before their first tests, students are required to wear a gi, a lightweight two-piece garment consisting of loose-fitting pants and a jacket that is closed with a cloth belt. When students begin to spar or fight, they will need safety gear such as head, hand and foot protection as well as a mouthpiece and groin cup for boys.

After running around the dojo a few times, George lines the students up to practice strikes and kicks. Christian Harding, 4, is no stranger to martial arts. He's taken tae kwon do before, said his mother, Min who was watching him during the class.

Learning new skills takes a lot of concentration, especially for someone so young.

"I keep telling him, 'pay attention, pay attention,'" Min said. Christian's father is Lt. Col. John Harding, assigned to XVIII Airborne Corps.

Jocelyn Beasley, 5, daughter of Jane and Staff Sgt. Charles Beasley, 27th Engineer Battalion, also seems to enjoy learning martial arts. "She's definitely caught on," said Beasley. The exercise is also a way for Jocelyn to burn up extra energy, said Jane.

George had advice for potential students. "Start young and stick with it," he said. "It's a good source of energy. It's made to fit any lifestyle and space."

After a student reaches orange belt, they can be invited by the sensei to an advanced class. Classes are $32 per session. For more information, call 396-5437.

Page last updated Fri October 15th, 2010 at 15:49