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Martial arts class becomes popular at Pompano Beach school

Students see improvements in behavior, grades

POMPANPO BEACH, Fla. – Sensei Ray Doucette has been practicing and teaching martial arts for nearly half a decade, but he has never quite had a class like this.

"Most of our students in our school come from high poverty backgrounds,"  Pompano Beach Elementary Principle Steve Larson said. "They don't have a lot of means to sign up for a program like karate. "

In a makeshift dojo inside Pompano Beach Elementary School a free summer pilot program wraps up with a karate demo and they are learning more than just how to punch and kick.

"We are going to learn the four cornerstones of karate. Respect, discipline, courtesy and honor, " a student named Leila said.

And some of these students’ teachers and parents have noticed a change in behavior.

"I am respectful to them and I am not rude to them anymore like I used to," fifth-grader Heydi Carrasco said.

Fifth-grader Jeremiah Cannon said he enjoys learning about new ways to protect himself.

"You can protect yourself out in the world because some people could snatch you and try to fight you," Jeremiah said.

And the "karate kids’" families are noticing a change.

"You take a child that is used to being bullied now he is gaining confidence because he knows in the future he will have a way of defending himself," Lillian Orr, whose grandson takes class, said.

Doucette said the teachings transgress the training.

"The benefit is discipline, respect, courtesy. Better grades, better behavior. They are learning to make smarter choices in life so they can be more productive and independent citizens," Doucette said.

The program,  which receives donations from sponsors in the community in order to function,  has gotten so popular they have enough new kids for two more classes this school year.

The students put in some sweat equity by holding a car wash to pay for their uniforms.

Just remember it's "wax on, wax off."