Every once in a while, Dany watches a martial arts movie.
“You see these guys jumping 20 feet in the air, and making it look easy,” he says. “In real life, you can’t do all those amazing things. But you can still protect other people and protect yourself.”
Since he started his kempo training four years ago, Dany has learned a repertoire of very cool moves, but his education transcends his physical skills.
“It’s made me stronger, more flexible and more relaxed, says Dany, 12. “And I was always very healthy, but it probably made me a little more careful about eating. If I saw a burger and a salad, I’d probably choose the salad.”
Dany, an only child, has grown up with healthy role models – his father is a runner, and his mother is a regular at the gym and in Pilates classes. But Dany only discovered martial arts as an option for his own physical fitness when he and his father walked by the dojo one day.
“I had played baseball for two years, and I’d stopped playing, so I wanted to find another activity,” Dany says. “I learned about kempo, took one class and really liked it. In many ways, it was different from any other sport I had participated in.”
Dany doesn’t remember all the details from his first class, only that it was among the biggest challenges of his life. “I was doing things I’d never done before, and I was sweating a lot by the end of the class.”
Nevertheless, Dany wanted more. He began taking individual and group classes, and he made a commitment to continue the training.
“From the beginning, he liked kempo more than other sports,” his mother Ivonne says. “Some nights, he was so tired, but he still wanted to go to kempo. It could be snowing or raining, and he still wanted to go.”
He began training almost every day of the week. Throughout one class, he remembers doing about 500 jumping jacks and 200 push-ups. Although Dany says he likes all the exercises, he isn’t crazy about burpees. His favorite is plank, which he can do for 10 minutes. The trick, he says, is learning to relax your body, focus your mind, and use your core muscles.
Speaking of relaxing, Dany says deep meditation and relaxation before each class has helped him become more relaxed in other aspects of life. “If I’m at school and have a big test, instead of automatically starting it and feeling nervous, I will take a moment to remember that I studied a lot, and that I know what I’m doing,” he says. “Then I’ll take the test and pass it. The kempo training has taught me to think ahead and relax.”
Ivonne notices that her son is calmer, and that he has made a big commitment to making kempo a big part of his life.
Over the years, Dany has advanced to his junior black belt, which he earned this fall. To prepare, he went to the dojo even more often, practiced as much as he could and in the end, just set out to do his best. He says he felt like the test was 20 hours long, even though it was closer to three.
“At his black belt test – oh, I was so proud,” Ivonne says. “I noticed a big, big difference. He had improved enormously.”
Dany realizes that even though he has reached a new level, there is still much he doesn’t know. “When you get in deeper, it’s complex,” he says. “Things might seem simple on the outside, but it’s really complicated – there is always something to improve on.”
One of the things he practices at home is doing kempo movements with his eyes closed. “At the dojo, you are facing one direction,” he says. “But in a real fight, you might be confused about the angle the attacker is coming from. So by closing my eyes, I get to practice in all directions.”
He said his goal is to keep doing his best in the dojo and learn more about kempo.
But Ivonne says the most important thing has little to do with technique. “Most important,” she says, “is that he’s really enjoying it.Please follow us on. . . . . . thank you!