SILER CITY, N.C. — Monday, May 27, 2013 —In a sports culture dominated by youth teams, there aren't too many physical activities that families can do together. Martial arts is a notable exception, and the Adkins family proves the point.
The entire family files into South Eastern Karate Association every Tuesday and Thursday night to learn the art of self defense. After signing in, they scatter around the training floor, warming up in their own ways before class begins. But when instructors call students to line up by rank, they all end up back together once again.
Their ages span more than three decades. Gary and Sarah — that would be Mom and Dad — are in their early 40s. Eric, the oldest child, is 15. Maria is three years younger and Steven is 10. But because all put so much work into their training, even the younger ones are learning challenging techniques in the evening class for adults.
And you know what they say, the family that trains together ....
Dad isn't new to martial arts, having studied judo more than a decade ago, but it was Eric who led his entire family into karate.
Wanting to learn self defense, he was the first to walk onto the training floor and Dad went with him. Maria and Steven just watched at first. Before long, they got intrigued and decided to jump in, too. Mom was interested, but had a work conflict. When that resolved a few months later, she joined the others.
That was roughly a year ago. Now, the first four hold green belts and Mom, who started after the others, is an orange belt. All will be testing in early June for higher ranks. And in a year and a half, if all goes according to plan, some will be preparing to take their black belt exam.
Master Instructor Peggy Jolly, who has taught karate for more than three decades, says family members often train together. In fact, there are six or seven other parent-child teams active in the school right now, though usually only one parent trains. It's been a few years since an entire family has been on the floor together.
Still, how often does that happen anywhere else?
"If you think about it, there really aren't that many physical activities that families do together, especially in a community like ours, where youth baseball and softball are so popular," says Master Jolly. "Karate is one of them because parents and children do train together, but they're all working at their own levels. The goal for all of our students is to develop their own abilities."
Another surprising fact?
You might think that most of the parents training with their children are fathers, but that's not the case. Master Jolly says the number has been divided pretty evenly over the years. A lot of mothers train to develop their own self-defense skills and feel safer on the street.
That was a prime motivation for Maria and her parents. College is still years away for the 12-year-old. But when she does leave home, Dad says, they don't want to worry about their daughter being all by herself with nobody there to protect her. And given crime statistics coming from colleges and universities, Master Jolly says, it's more important than ever for girls to learn how to defend themselves.
Then, there's a benefit many people never consider, but families understand all too well. It has to do with motivation and getting a gentle push at just the right time.
All martial artists have days when they simply don't feel like training. But when the entire family trains together, staying home may not be an option. That's when a little encouragement can help.
"When you don't feel like training, that's when you really can't miss class," Dad says. "But by the time ki ma sae punching (part of the opening routine) is done, you already feel better. Training together is good. We can help each other, enjoy something together and it's good to know they can all take care of themselves."
South Eastern Karate Association has taught Korean martial arts in central North Carolina since 1982 to men and women from 5-years-old to well past retirement age. Schools in Siler City and Liberty feature instruction in self-defense and emphasize confidence, physical fitness and self-discipline.
Classes are held in Siler City on Tuesdays and Thursdays — with one class primarily for children from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and another class primarily for adults from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Liberty classes are Mondays and Thursdays from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Details are available at southeasternkarate.com.