, Muskogee, OK


May 9, 2007

Karate kids

Martial arts builds confidence, discipline, flexibility, coordination

Riley Huston, 6, watched with great interest as kids warmed up for their Wednesday night karate class at Flex Time Fitness on South 32nd Street.

She had on her white karate outfit (called a “gi”) and a bright yellow belt showing her rank. Her mother, Jennifer Huston, 28, gently encouraged her to join the other children.

After a few moments, Riley decided she was ready and joined approximately 30 other children, ages 5 to 15. After some stretching, they went through a series of practice moves including kicks, punches and proper ways to maintain balance, agility and efficiency.

“She’s really shy,” Huston said. “She has been taking karate for seven to eight months. She’s a lot more confident; she feels better about herself. She can approach more people. She has come out of her shell. She’s also louder; I’m not sure if that’s a blessing or not.”

Huston and her husband, Jeremy, a 30-year-old firefighter, also have two boys, ages 3 and 1. Jennifer and Jeremy formerly served in the U.S. Coast Guard. They learned the value of fitness and wanted to pass it on to their three children. Riley is the first one old enough to join a program.

“She’s asthmatic, and it has helped her asthma,” Huston said. “I also take karate. I’m a yellow stripe belt and she’s a yellow belt, so technically, she outranks me. Mainly the benefit of the class is just how good she feels about herself. It has a lot to do with the instructor.”

Chief instructor for the three-nights-a-week class is Jimmy Oban, 37. Oban has been in martial arts for 23 years, and an instructor for five. He’s a little reluctant to bring attention to himself, but talking about the kids gets him going.

“I firmly believe that if you are going to be successful as an instructor, you’ve got to be passionate and committed to what you do,” he said.

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