Most parents who enroll their children into a martial arts class are not 100 percent sure what to expect. Those parents who enrolled their children into Mang Ho Martial Arts at the Jerome Brown Community Center, headed by sensei Robert Blanton, all have the same sentiments to echo.
"She's more confident now than she's ever been," Steve Green said of his daughter Tiffany Green. "There's also a big difference in her ability to concentrate — she focuses better than ever."
Tiffany, 9, is home-schooled, and when her parents put her into the class, they were looking for a place that she would be able to socialize with other youths while also learning some structure and discipline.
Among Blanton's seven regulars, he teaches kids from ages of 4 to 12. The belt colors vary from yellow to brown. The one black belt student in class moved away in December. The 20-year-old instructor's patience is hailed by parents for good reason. In his class, he has earned the trust of some special needs parents.
The jujitsu-based martial arts class is being taught to two diagnosed ADHD youths and one with autism. The parents of these children are quick to note the vast difference in their behaviors since beginning the class.
Taylor Jordan, 8, has been in the class the longest of all the students. When Blanton began teaching in 2005, Taylor's parents registered him for the class soon after. The Brooksville Elementary student has achieved the rank of red belt.
"Taylor's really laid back, so he's had to take some big strides here," said Taylor's mother, Tonya Jordan. "Robert does such a good job of relating to the kids and listening to what they have to say."
Jamie Kemper, 10, just began his tutelage in Blanton's course five months ago. His father was aware of some concentration problems he'd been having at Moton Elementary, but he hoped that exposure to martial arts might improve that. The results have been better than he imagined.
"Robert offers such positive support to each individual," James Kemper said. "He takes the time to listen and builds up the kids' confidence without dwelling on their shortcomings."
Donovan Wolfe, 10, is the highest-ranked member at Mang Ho. While Blanton uses the hour-long period to instruct on weapons, sparring and bully and abduction scenarios, Donovan assists so that none of the youths have to sit still for very long.
He thinks this helps him advance quicker.
"If someone is having trouble with something and I can show them and work with them, it helps me get better at those moves, too," he said. "This class gets me the exercise I need while I have fun, too."
In the end, that is what every parent is looking for when they put their child into an extracurricular activity.
Not only do they want something that can occupy their time so they can have fun, but they would all like there to be some other value. Mang Ho Martial Arts has offered that to the select few who take the class.
"It's really exciting seeing these kids succeed," Blanton said. "If I can help them get better and teach them how to deal with life's problems, too, then I feel like I am doing a good job."
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