Hu­man weapon

Lo­cal schools of­fer dif­fer­ent ways for teach­ing mar­tial arts

The Covington News - - Sports - By Michelle Kim

There are many rea­sons why peo­ple join a mar­tial arts group.

Some do it strictly for self­de­fense pur­poses. Mean­while, oth­ers are more in­ter­ested in get­ting into shape or hav­ing an ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­ity that builds char­ac­ter.

No doubt, there’s a “cool- ness” fac­tor that plays a role, as the pub­lic’s idea of mar­tial arts con­tin­ues to be in­flu­enced by images in the pop­u­lar me­dia.

Such images range from the golden era of kung-fu flicks to “The Karate Kid” and, more re­cently, the Ul­ti­mate Fight­ing Cham­pi­onship matches on television.

The res­i­dents of New­ton County are for­tu­nate to have at least three schools of mar­tial arts to choose from within the county’s borders that each of­fer dif­fer­ent philoso­phies, back­grounds and ap­proaches to teach­ing the mar­tial arts. Aikido School of Self-De­fense

Though not the old­est school in the county, the Aikido School of Self-De­fense cer­tainly takes the most tra­di­tional approach of the three schools.

Walk into its Pace Street dojo — or train­ing hall — or its newly opened dojo and you will find a sim­ple, func­tional space cov­ered by a cream- col­ored padded floor. White plas­ter walls are ac­cented with tra­di­tional samu­rai swords and the mock weapons stu­dents use for prac­tice.

Started 10 years ago by Michael and Ginger Sta­bile — a third de­gree black belt and sec­ond de­gree black belt, re­spec­tively — the school teaches Ni­hon Goshin Aikido, a style de­vel­oped in the north­ern Ja­panese is­land of Hokkaido in the first half of the 20th cen­tury which draws upon a

com­bi­na­tion of judo, karate, ju­jitsu, bo-jutsu and other self­de­fense styles.

Ginger Sta­bile, who is a strong, ro­bust fig­ure, also works as a cor­rec­tions of­fi­cer for the New­ton County Sher­iff’s Of­fice. Sta­bile ex­plained that aikido uses a lot of cir­cu­lar mo­tions and doesn’t need a lot of strength to be ef­fec­tive.

“Peo­ple think it’s a soft art be­cause we have fluid mo­tions,” said Michael Sta­bile, a for­mer trucker who now runs Salem Road Dojo full time. “But it’s dy­namic, like a hur­ri­cane — calm at the cen­ter but the arms are dev­as­tat­ing.”

The Sta­biles de­scribed their par­tic­u­lar style of aikido as a hard, “street” style com­pared to other types of aikido be­cause they fo­cus pri­mar­ily on real-world self-de­fense and less on med­i­ta­tion or achiev­ing har­mony. They are con­cerned that the world is be­com­ing a vi­o­lent, dan­ger­ous place and have led nu­mer­ous self­de­fense work­shops for civic and ed­u­ca­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions.

The Sta­biles be­gan prac­tic­ing aikido nearly 14 years ago while liv­ing in up­state New York. Michael was ini­tially re­luc­tant to join. Not want­ing to be out­done by his wife, who was en­thu­si­as­tic about join­ing, he signed up, never think­ing it would even­tu­ally be­come a way of life for them.

By spring of 1997, the Sta­biles were think­ing of open­ing a school of their own. They came to Cony­ers to visit rel­a­tives, promptly fell in love with the area and by fall had moved to Ge­or­gia to open their first dojo on Salem Road. They opened a sec­ond, part-time dojo on Pace Street in 2005.

Chil­dren, adults and stu­dents of all lev­els train to­gether dur­ing prac­tices, with the up­per level stu­dents ac­com­mo­dat­ing the lower level stu­dents, while black belts have their own prac­tice ses­sions. Ac­cord­ing to Ginger, there are no con­tracts and the school does not hold tour­na­ments or charge for mem­ber­ship or test­ing fees. The fo­cus is en­tirely on learn­ing self-de­fense.

“This is not a fit­ness cen­ter,” said Michael. “Some­times par­ents get mad at me; I’m strict. I’m not their babysit­ter. I’m here to teach kids to de­fend them­selves in the real world.” Jim Fuller’s U.M.A.S. Karate

At the other end of the spec­trum is Jim Fuller’s U.M.A.S. Karate, the school de­signed to have the widest ap­peal to the pub­lic.

Fuller, 48, ex­plained that his schools take a very dif­fer­ent approach to mar­tial arts than most places.

“Our em­pha­sis is on per­sonal de­vel­op­ment,” he said. “It’s not on the art of karate it­self — that’s where we’re dif­fer­ent. Most other in­struc­tors just teach the art. We teach the per­son first, and the art comes later on.”

Fuller, a Rock­dale County na­tive, be­gan learn­ing karate at the age of 14 un­der old­school meth­ods.

“My in­struc­tor was an exMarine,” said Fuller. “If he thought you looked at him wrong, he’d send you to the cor­ner to do push-ups.”

Such train­ing pro­duced strong in­di­vid­u­als, Fuller ac­knowl­edged. “But the only peo­ple who be­came black belts with the old-school meth­ods of teach­ing were peo­ple who al­ready had those char­ac­ter­is­tics in them,” he said. “If you al­ready had per­se­ver­ance (and) dis­ci­pline, you were go­ing to stick with it.”

Fuller’s goal is to in­still th­ese qual­i­ties to kids who don’t al­ready have those char­ac­ter­is­tics. This is done through pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment in­stead of neg­a­tive re­in­force­ment, he ex­plained.

For ex­am­ple, if a child makes good grades at school, they re­ceive a patch to wear on their uni­form. Good be­hav­ior at school or home — ex­am­ples of what they call “black belt be­hav­ior” — is sim­i­larly re­warded.

Fuller found his approach co­in­cided with an in­creased in­ter­est in hav­ing young chil­dren par­tic­i­pate in the mar­tial arts. Though the school also of­fers adult karate and kick­box­ing pro­grams, chil­dren ages 3 to 12 make up ap­prox­i­mately 85 to 90 per­cent of his stu­dents.

“I think the whole at­ti­tude of help­ing chil­dren came around 1995 when the in­dus­try as a whole was try­ing to em­brace the younger-aged chil­dren,” said Fuller. “They saw kids wanted to take karate and the in­dus­try had to adapt and be­come more open.”

Fuller, who was a po­lice of­fi­cer with the Cov­ing­ton Po­lice De­part­ment for two years, started teach­ing karate classes at the Cov­ing­ton YMCA in 1990. Four years later, his classes had out­grown the fa­cil­i­ties, so he opened his first school in Cov­ing­ton in 1994. And five years later, he opened his sec­ond school in Cony­ers, but re­cently re­lo­cated to a newer fa­cil­ity in Cov­ing­ton.

U.M.A.S., or “United Mar­tial Arts Sys­tems,” is based on Amer­i­can Karate and uses an Amer­i­can box­ing stance that draws from a mix of styles such as aikido, kung-fu and karate. Fuller makes it clear that de­spite its ori­gins, his sys­tem is an Amer­i­can prod­uct.

“Some fam­i­lies don’t want their kids ex­posed to dif­fer­ent things,” he said. “We don’t teach the kids dif­fer­ent lan­guages or med­i­ta­tions or reli­gions. It’s from an Amer­i­can view­point, Amer­i­can phi­los­o­phy, but same struc­ture and cur­ricu­lum.”

His next goal is to fran­chise the U.M.A.S. cur­ricu­lum and sys­tem in or­der to give en­tre­pre­neur­ial black belts work­ing un­der him the chance to open their own busi­nesses.

“It’s never been about the money,” said Fuller. “It’s about giv­ing (peo­ple) what they need.

Ev­ery­thing else falls into place.” USA Box­ing, Kick­box­ing, & Karate Cen­ter

The new­est of the schools — the USA Box­ing, Kick­box­ing, and Karate Cen­ter — teaches el­e­ments of mar­tial arts. But founder and owner R. Tous­saint, who started the school three years ago, doesn’t like to call it a mar­tial arts school.

“Not many peo­ple are will­ing to have the dis­ci­pline to take the mar­tial arts the way it’s meant to be taught,” said Tous­saint, 50.

Ac­cord­ing to Tous­saint, he was trained with the old­school method where a black belt meant some­thing.

“I think you get so many schools that are just giv­ing away belts that peo­ple are con­di­tioned now that ‘if I pay my money, I can get a belt,’” said Tous­saint. “They’re ac­tu­ally fal­si­fy­ing a lot of th­ese kids with what they think they can do. Those kids know enough karate to get their butts kicked.

“That’s why I don’t teach kids karate,” he added.

What he does teach is box­ing, kick­box­ing, prac­ti­cal self-de­fense tac­tics and a genre es­pe­cially pop­u­lar with young men known as mixed mar­tial arts. The most well known ex­am­ple of mixed mar­tial arts, or MMA, is the Ul­ti­mate Fight­ing Cham­pi­onship matches seen on television. Fight­ers draw upon a range of mar­tial arts styles and tech­niques, from strikes, locks, throws and grap­pling moves, to com­pete in a glitzy, box­ing-style tour­na­ment.

Box­ing, mar­tial arts and pro­fes­sional fight­ing have been a part of Tous­saint’s life since com­ing to the United States from Puerto Rico as a 9-year-old boy.

“I had to learn how to fight. It wasn’t a choice,” he said. “You grow up not know­ing the lan­guage (and) you go to school not know­ing who your friends are. You had to learn it be­cause you’re an out­sider.”

The fa­ther of five came to the metro At­lanta area eight years ago from Florida when he found out his son, Josiah, had a pre­ma­ture clo­sure of the aor­tic valve. He sold his stu­dios in Florida and moved to At­lanta to be closer to the Eg­gle­ston Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal. Tous­saint is happy to re­port that 8-year-old Josiah is “as healthy as a horse now.”

Tous­saint’s main in­ter­est in­volves teach­ing peo­ple re­al­world self de­fense skills, at this point in his life, he said. But he wor­ries that ev­ery­day life is be­com­ing more dan­ger­ous as New­ton County ex­pands.

“Any­where you have growth, you have good growth and bad growth,” said Tous­saint. He would like to start teach­ing a self-de­fense course specif­i­cally for women, com­plete with re­al­is­tic role-play­ing scenes.

The stern train­ing Tous­saint dishes out is not for the faint of heart and is prob­a­bly geared more for adults, teens and older el­e­men­tary school age kids than for young chil­dren.

“He won’t let you get away with any­thing, but he’s re­ally kind,” said stu­dent JoAnn Turling­ton, 42, who lost a sig­nif­i­cant amount of weight af­ter join­ing his kick­box­ing class. “He re­ally cares about his stu­dents.”

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Take down: Aikido School of Self-De­fense stu­dent D.J. Sta­bile, 12, ex­e­cutes a front wrist throw on stu­dent Klyffe Louis, 13, dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion at the Aikido School Dojo. The Aikido School is one of three ma­jor fa­cil­i­ties in New­ton County that teaches mar­tial arts.

An­thony Banks/The Cov­ing­ton News

Kick with the pro­gram: Mem­bers of the Salem Road Ac­tion Team ex­e­cute side kicks dur­ing a karate tour­na­ment in April spon­sored by Salem United Methodist Church. Mar­tial arts is be­com­ing more pop­u­lar in New­ton County and through­out sur­round­ing ar­eas.

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