MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — -- Kiai! Students in white uniforms yell in unison as they practice kicking and punching to forge their bodies into weapons. In this dojo, children and adults practice the art of Okinawan Seidokan Karate and Kobudo, which is the art of traditional Okinawan weapons, at a class offered to service members and their families at the Midway Park community center every Tuesday and Thursday from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Each class begins with a warm-up of calisthenics, stretching and basic techniques such as punches and kicks. After the warm-up, the students practice kata, which are different traditional training drills. The katas are a prearranged series of offensive and defensive techniques, according to Keith James, head sensei or instructor of the class.
The class atmosphere is laid back so people can have fun and concentrate on learning, according to Staff Sgt. Jerome Krejcha, the assistant sensai of the class and an analyst with 2nd Radio Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force.
“I want to say [Keith] is a typical okinawan teacher for being American,” said Krejcha. “He is very laid back and makes learning fun.”
The practice in the children’s class is made to be fun for the children and designed to be more like playing than rigorous training, mirroring the way it is taught to children in Okinawa, according to Krejcha.
“They make it fun for the children and it makes them want to stay and keep practicing,” Krejcha said.
The adult class is also fun but it is more structured and deals more with the self defense side of karate, according to James. The adults learn to defend different attacks such as punches, kicks and chokes. They also learn the different applications of the different techniques practiced in katas.
Seidokan is different from many other karate styles because along with teaching different punching and kicking techniques, students also learn different throwing and joint-manipulation techniques, according to James. This also makes it a better-rounded self defense art.
Secondary benefits also come along with the practice, according to James.
“The thing I really learned first was confidence. The confidence that if someone attacked me I would be cable of defending myself,” James said.
There are also several other side benefits from learning karate. Even though the class is not a cardiovascular class or meant for physical fitness, the class can offer the benefit of toned muscles and flexibility, according to James.
The dojo also follows the dojo kun which are rules of behavior not unlike the core values of the Marine Corps which are honor, courage and commitment. The rules of behavior are: to endeavor to complete personality, to keep sincerity, to cultivate spirit or effort, or learn to never give up, to respect courtesy and rebuke hot-blooded courage or to not fight with anger, according to James. These are rules to be followed in and out of the dojo to promote good character.
James also teaches his students different types of weapons once they get to a certain skill level, which is usually the fourth belt they earn, which is a green belt. The weapons that are taught include the staff, the sai, which is a three pronged truncheon, the tonfa, which is adapted from the handle of a rice grinder and the kama which is like a sickle.
Different students learn different ways and certain methods easier, according to James. The instructors try and teach students in different ways to help them learn and engage their minds and their bodies.
Class prices start at $20 depending on ability and age of the student and increase to $35 for adults. The first class is free for people to decide whether they wish to participate in the class. For more information a person can call the community center at 451-1807 or email Sensei Keith James at email@example.com.