Karate interest growing among youth, adults
Vernon Hills Saturday, 7/21/12 Eight-year-old, Joey Miller, of Vernon Hills during Saturday's Karate class at the Sullivan Community Center. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 27, 2012 6:15AM
VERNON HILLS — John Miller of Vernon Hills said his son, Joey, became interested in karate when he saw a demonstration three years ago during the Vernon Hills Fourth of July parade.
“He said, ‘Wow, look at that. I want to do that.’ He saw kids breaking boards in the parade and he said, ‘Wow, that’s cool’,” John Miller said.
Joey is now 8 years old and is in his third year in the karate program at the Vernon Hills Park District. His 6-year-old sister is also studying karate.
“The kids enjoy it,” John Miller said. “They look forward to it. I think it helps them with their concentration and focus. I’m glad they’re doing it. It’s better than them sitting at home playing video games.”
The Illinois Shotokan Karate Clubs has run the Vernon Hills Park District karate program for years and has gained popular among both youth and adults. Classes are offered during the summer, spring and fall. About 350 kids are enrolled in the karate program in Vernon Hills right now, according to John DiPasquale, chief instructor of the Illinois Shotokan Karate Clubs.
Karate classes are held on Thursdays and Saturdays at the Sullivan Community Center in Vernon Hills. The classes include pre-karate/safety lessons for children ages 4-7, youth karate classes for kids 7-14, parent-child karate classes and adult karate classes (for ages 15 and up).
Dave Straza, a karate instructor with the Illinois Shotokan Karate Clubs for more than 20 years, teaches classes in Vernon Hills. He said many people think of karate primarily as a form of self defense, but notes their program also seeks to instill positive values among its young students.
‘Starts with respect’
“We use it as a form of self development and self defense,” he said. “Self development includes things like focus, discipline and respect. We tell them that everything starts with respect.”
The classes start with some aerobic exercises like running and stretching, followed by agility drills such as running obstacle courses and then training in specific karate stances, moves, punches and kicks. Classes start from beginners with no experience all the way up to black belts.
While most of the students are children, there are also some adults in the program, including those who practice karate alongside their kids.
“For the adults, it’s usually more about fitness than self defense,” said Straza. “They are looking to strengthen their body and keep their body mobile.”
John Miller’s wife, Erica, said she has taken karate classes with her two kids and finds it to be a good workout.
“They’re strict, but they also make it fun,” she said. “As an adult, it makes you real sore. It takes a lot of physical strength and endurance to do this.”
Karate sessions typically last about 10 to 12 weeks. DiPasquale said the cost for the classes at the Vernon Hills Park District is reasonable, usually averaging about $8 a class for residents or around $100 per session.
“We’re lucky the program is offered through the park district and it’s very reasonable for families to get involved,” he said.
For more information about the Vernon Hills Park District karate program, visit the park district website at www.vhparkdistrict.org or call (847) 996-6800.