January 4, 2011

The Karate Way

Lessons learned at Tim Barchard’s Professional Martial Arts Academy go well beyond the sport. 

Sensei Tyler Gianitis, right, of Tim Barchard’s Professional Martial Arts Academy
encourages his students to vocalize with a “kiah” shout during instruction.
Union Leader Correspondent
Sensei Laura Barchard, program director, works on
some moves with brothers Kyle, left,
 and Mark Santangelo during an intermediate karate class.
DERRY -- Sensei Tyler Gianitis lines up his kempo karate students, guiding them from relaxed position to front position. The two dozen shoeless beginners, each wrapped in a crispy white “gi” and belted in novice shades of white, yellow and orange, stand in front of a mirror, which somehow enhances the ferocity of their unified “kiah” shouts. “Keeeee-yaaaaaa,” the chorus of karate kids rises in the room, mirror-image grimaces reflecting approval. 
“Loud is good,” said Gianitis. “But not the falling-off-the-cliff kind of kiah. We want it to be quick. Kee-yaa.” 
From there, the kids are led through a quick lesson on how to offer a polite greeting, and the principles that reinforce personal pride, ending with a game using flexible discs that plays something like dodgeball, only with Frisbees. 
Outside the classroom parents and siblings sit on chairs and observe through a window as if seated in front of a giant live-action hi-def TV. 
“She loves it,” said Erik Witkop, whose 6-year-old Olivia is absorbed in a lesson on deflecting an attacker, while her 7-year-old sister Kaitlin, standing next to her dad, presses her Nintendo DSi against the window and snaps some quick shots of Olivia’s moves. 
Kaitlin would rather be swimming, said her dad. 
“They have different interests based on their personalities. I was actually the one who was going to sign up for classes, but Olivia was interested, and if she’s going to do this, I’d rather watch her,” Witkop said. “It’s only her second week, but she’s already learned about making eye contact, listening to her mom and dad, and not using what she’s learned outside of the classroom.” 
There are endless lessons to be learned in karate, said Sensei Lauren Barchard, who is program director for Tim Barchard’s Professional Martial Arts Academy, an expansive dojo she runs with her husband, Tim, nestled among the downtown storefronts. Despite some of the other empty spaces and frequent turnaround inside other stores, the academy has been a downtown presence for 16 years. It’s where Barchard learned to love karate at the age of 13 — and would meet her future husband. 
“That was 12 years ago, and it really changed my lifestyle — my eating habits, how I exercise. This is a sport you can do for a lifetime,” Barchard said. 
Barchard said it’s likely the growing interest in karate is related to the growing concern among parents with bullying in schools. 
“It can be scary. You don’t want it to be your child who’s picked on,” Barchard said. 
Brandon Rich, 15, of Manchester will attest to that. He attends Manchester Memorial High School and is a current student at the academy who holds a firstdegree black belt. “I was 10 when I started, and I had really bad self confidence. I got picked on in school all the time, but this helped me a ton. Now I know how to stand up for myself, to defend myself if I had to. And it’s impressive — last year in gym class everyone wanted to see me do my kung-fu crescent kick,” Rich said. 
Boosting her kids’ confidence was what brought Jamie Vaughn to the academy with her daughters, Ashlyn, 8, and Julia, 4. The girls have been coming for about three months, said Vaughn. 
“And already we’ve seen a return on our investment — and that’s really what this is, an investment in their future,” said Vaughn. “I can see a difference in them already.” 
Ed Ball of Londonderry is helping his daughter Shannon with her shoes after she bounds from the studio into a chair in the waiting room following the Monday night beginner class. 
“What I like about it is the flexible class schedule. It’s a lot better than most other sports, where it’s a fixed time and day,” Ball said. 
His son, Shane, is also a student. At 8, he’s already a black belt. Although Ball considers his kids to be good kids at heart, karate has made them that much better. 
“This doesn’t allow them to forget how to be good kids — it stresses manners, confidence, how to look someone in the eye and shake their hand, or open a door for someone,” Ball said. “It’s good for both of them.” 

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