When I grow up: Korbin wants to be a ninja

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Korbin is ready to protect people from bad guys

 

“I want to be a ninja so I can protect people and wear a cool headband,” says 6-year-old Korbin Shaddon, who happens to be Student of the Week in his kindergarten class at South Elementary School this week. Korbin thinks it would be pretty cool to break a wooden block, too!

If you ask almost any little boy, he will tell you he wants to be a ninja, but what exactly is a ninja? According to the Ninja Museum of Igaryu, a ninja is a person who uses Ninjutsu, and Ninjutsu is not a martial art but a style of warfare. The job of a ninja was similar to that of a spy and consisted of espionage and strategy and involved carefully gathering intelligence about the enemy. Ninjas attempted to think of ways to beat the enemy without fighting the enemy directly. However, when little boys speak of becoming ninjas, they are usually thinking of the martial art aspect, and Roger Azcona, who volunteers his time teaching martial arts to children in Okeechobee, says that’s not a bad thing.

As a child, he explained he had poor self-image and found himself the victim of bullying. He was fascinated by martial arts and realized a big part of bullying is the aggressor noticing a helpless victim. When he sees that kid isn’t afraid anymore, it helps. Mr. Azcona says many children come into the program with the goal of learning to defend themselves against bullies, but then learn that self-defense is actually a last resort, and first they need to learn to assert themselves by standing up to the bullies and reporting them to authorities. “Martial art students learn that fear empowers bullies,” said Mr. Azcona, “while the ability to defend oneself enables a student to make the appropriate response.”

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
The Okeechobee Martial Arts Youth Program

When he realized there was a need for an after-school program in the Okeechobee community that could help children with this problem, Mr. Azcona began the Martial Arts Youth Program in July 1992. At that time, it was a part of the Youth Program in the Family Outreach Center of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Mr. Azcona is a master instructor in Philippine and Korean martial arts and received his training from the International Philippine Martial Arts Federation, The Modern Arnis Association of the Philippines and The World Martial Arts Academy. In 1995, The Children’s Services Council began funding the program, and it now meets in the Pentecostal Church of Okeechobee, although it is not affiliated with any church. At this time, the program has three instructors: Jose Navarette, Glenn Azcona and Tim Bucio, and has over 1,000 registered participants from the age of 6 to adult. Tae Kwon Do classes are held on the first and third Thursdays of each month from 6-8 p.m., and the Filipino Martial Arts classes are on the second and fourth Fridays of each month from 6-7:30 p.m. “All you have to do is show up,” said Mr. Azcona.

Mr. Azcona said martial arts helps students in many areas of their lives. “Sparring teaches them to deal with adversity in life,” he explained. Martial arts also teaches self-confidence, leadership skills, a sense of belonging, excitement, discipline, good role models, and as they learn to accomplish goals in class one step at a time, he said it teaches them they can use the same type of skills in other areas of their lives. They can set goals at home or at school and take them one step at a time until they have reached the end goal.

“Martial arts training is a tool,” he explained. “It can teach a new way of life — always do your best and be better children at home and in school. We want them to realize what they have is a result of their parents’ love for them.”

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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