How can the “spirit of play” be applied to Homework and Personal Growth?

I remember being a small child and looking forward to the opportunity to attend school for the first time. It seemed like a forbidden world full of interesting and unknown things. I imagined that we would just all play with our friends and the teacher in the classroom, where they had even better toys and more games than we had in our neighborhood. When my family visited our local school there was a small kitchen, a small reading area, small chairs placed next to big, round tables and lots of pictures and interesting shapes on the walls. The whole place seemed so exciting and enticing. I wanted to get started as soon as possible.

To a young child learning and play are intimately connected. They learn because it is fun; they do not have to be coerced. There is a program developed by Glenn Doman which teaches very young children reading and maths: it is called Teach Your Baby to Read and Teach Your Baby Maths. Doman was attempting to teach brain-damaged kids how to read, and so he developed a simple program for reading involving two inch red letters on white cards of a particular size. My child was able to participate in this program and at age two she was indeed able to read the words on these cards. One of the cardinal principles of the program was only exposing the child to the cards when she was interested and only for short periods of time. If she showed any disinterest at all, the exercise was stopped immediately.

When my child entered fourth grade, I recall meeting her teacher and being told that play was finished at school for the children and that they would now be required to do “work.” It all sounded very serious and restrictive. The classroom was no longer filled with interesting pictures and the desks were crammed together in a window-less room. One of my child’s papers was marked down because she experimented with her handwriting and decided to write everything in miniature. This novel approach was considered unacceptable.

Current research suggests that students have a variety of learning styles: visual, kinesthetic, auditory, and more. There are ways to evaluate a student to find out what their best learning environment is and how to maximize their potential with this information. Music, art and sports are all relevant to a complete education as they help the mind and body, which are closely connected in children, to develop in a coordinated manner. Hence, purely academic work is only one way to teach material to students

Many psychologists believe that the most valuable thing that a person possesses is their sense of play. In Western society most people are accustomed to being worried about the effort that they have to make to accomplish something. We are taught to be serious if we want to win. And yet, as a person gets more into the spirit of play which leads to the game of “let’s pretend”, a game that most young children naturally play, every day in their life becomes an adventure. Insouciance, a cheerful lack of anxiety or concern, is what helps a person to succeed and to get more done in less time. How can this principle of play be applied to martial arts, and hence, to life?

One way is to “take a break” and do something completely different, such as exercise. Martial arts can be refreshing and rejuvenating to the overworked mind. For those who are very busy with their job or with homework, simply train twice a week. (classes are available 7 days a week)


Sempai of the Month

Sensei Alex Ramos

Sempai in Japanese means Senior, as opposed to Kohai, or Junior. Although we often use the term at the Dojo for kyu rank students, it can equally apply to Black Belts who help more senior Black Belts to teach.

Sensei Alex Ramos, 13, is a Junior Black Belt and our Sempai of the Month.

Sensei Alex is in the eighth grade at New River Middle School; his favorite subject is history which he finds “very interesting” because the teacher explains everything so well.

He likes karate because…” it helps him to feel good about himself, get in shape, have fun and focus on something besides problems.”

Being a Sempai is enjoyable because he likes to teach the kids kata, helping them to do it correctly, while encouraging them to do a good job. His favorite video game is “Super Smash Brothers Melee”, which is a martial arts game. His hobbies are roller-blading, karate, and swimming.

Sensei Bergstresser, who recommended Sensei Alex for Sempai of the Month, commented that...”Sensei Alex works hard with each student in the kata class on the small but important details of technique needed to perform the kata correctly.”


Dave Kopp: Brown Belt, Florida State Champion



We regret to inform everyone of the passing of former UKC student Dave Kopp on October 7th. He is survived by his wife Margaret and son Christopher, also a former karate student, and daughter Tara.

Dave was an energetic and enthusiastic supporter of the program and also an outstanding tournament competitor winning first place at the prestigious international martial arts tournament, the U.S. Open. Dave helped out numerous times at Sensei Mason’s annual tournament, The Gold Coast Classic.

He was the 1993 recipient of the Fred Tucker Award and the FAME Florida State Martial Arts Champion in the Intermediate Executive Fighting Division.

Always an inspiration to those who knew him, Dave will be missed at the karate school and in the West Broward community.


Training in Karate: Lessons from the Sensei

An adaptation of a classic Martial Arts story


Walking towards the familiar structure, nerves shooting off sensations based on past indignities, I stop at the rectangular frame of cedar painted white. Breathing in, I slowly bow my head towards an invisible plane. Eyes forward-shifting your eyes is hazardous! After seven years of training, I am a first kyu, the last belt before black. It is the final, seemingly interminable leg of the journey where most stop. I did. I used to ponder just how much devotion was required of me. I pursued a fixed quantitative quarry instead of lifetime edification.

I finally asked my Sensei how long it would take if I trained five days weekly. He looked at me ominously and retorted, “Two years.” I thought, and asked him how long if I trained every day. A sharpness glittered in his eyes, “Three years,” he answered. “But if I train more often, why would it take me longer to achieve my black belt?” At this he smiled, “You have one eye on what you are doing and the other on the destination-you cannot possibly focus on what you are learning!”. I am back from a short divergence on a long road. Despite the hiatus, I carry every lesson close. I have even kept my fighting record. Zero! Thanks to the discipline instilled in me, I have never been in a brawl. Karate has given me gifts that serve beyond fists and fights, lessons indelibly imprinted. 

Sensei Ben Porras