By Wendy Brown, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsFebruary 15, 2019
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Feb. 15, 2019) -- Karen Allen, 8, began taking gymnastics classes through SKIES Unlimited at Camp Zama about two months ago, and so far she has added the front handspring to a repertoire that includes the back handspring, back walkover, cartwheel, handstand and round-off.
"It's very fun, but it's very hard to do," said Karen, who had cheerleading experience prior to joining the class.
From 3-year-olds learning their first forward somersault to 14-year-olds who want to try something new or perfect their techniques, SKIES Unlimited at Camp Zama has a gymnastics class that will help. Instructor Yosuke Kinoshita teaches "tiny tot," beginner and intermediate classes for children on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Camp Zama Community Recreation Center.
Kinoshita has 12 years of experience teaching gymnastics, and he manages to strike a balance between the "very fun" and "very hard to do" by incorporating play into the lessons and making sure students know correct techniques, students and parents said.
"As a parent, I like the instructor," said Roslyn Allen, Karen's mother. "He's very detailed, but in addition to that, you can tell he knows his craft very well … He's very kid-friendly ... You have some instructors where you're doing the skill, but they're not really concerned about it being precise, so he's making sure, if you're going to do it, then you're doing it right."
Kinoshita is very funny, Karen said, but he also makes sure she focuses on her technique. During a Feb. 14 class, Kinoshita hid behind a mat when Karen took a water break, and when she came back, she had to find him. When she did, he jumped up in surprise. Then they went back to perfecting her landing on the front handspring.
Kinoshita, 34, said he started doing gymnastics when he was 12 and began teaching because he wanted to share what he loved about the sport.
"I enjoyed flipping in the air when I was a child because it was something that's an out-of-the-ordinary move, so I thought, 'I want to teach children the joy of out-of-the-ordinary activities,'" Kinoshita said.
Kinoshita said the classes include instruction on mat exercises and tumbling, the horizontal bar, balance beam and vaulting horse, and they are good for children because there are so many techniques in each event that the children learn all kinds of moves.
"By doing so, they learn how to balance themselves [so as] not to fall or fall safely in other sports or daily life without realizing it," Kinoshita said.
His students have a variety of reasons for taking the classes.
William Schmiedel, 10, said he primarily took the class because he wants to improve his balance so he can become a professional snowboarder--but that isn't all.
"It will help with a lot of things," William said. "The second reason is because I knew it was going to be a lot of fun and I like doing stuff in the gym and stuff like that. It's really, really fun."
William's brother Michael, 9, who takes the lessons with him, said he thought the classes could help him with his other sports, which include baseball, football and dodgeball.
"It's really fun, just learning and playing," Michael said.
Elizabeth Adams, mother of Bella Adams, 6, said her daughter started taking the classes when she was 4, and she likes doing all kinds of tumbling.
"She loves it; she enjoys it a lot," Adams said. "I like it because they enjoy it and they learn at the same time and they meet other kids, different friends, and that's why we love them to attend this class."
Parents interested in the SKIES Unlimited program, which offers a variety of classes in the arts, martial arts and more, can call DSN (315) 262-6137 or 011-81-46-407-6137 from overseas for more information. Parents must first register their children with Child and Youth Services to enroll them in SKIES Unlimited classes.