‘Trust and respect’ at James Lee’s Karate | PostIndependent.com

‘Trust and respect’ at James Lee’s Karate

Colleen O’Neil
Zoey Worley
Colleen O’Neil/Post Independent |

Zoey Worley, a 10-year-old from Glenwood Elementary School with long brown hair and a cute round face, would look right at home in a Girl Scout troop or a dance class. But after taking a few after-school karate classes, she told her mom that she didn’t want to be a ballerina. She wanted to learn how to throw a punch at James Lee’s Karate school in Glenwood Springs.

Her mother, Tiffany Hyatt, is glad that her daughter has been practicing the sport for more than two years. Since she started learning the martial arts, Hyatt says, “Zoey’s super respectful, and she catches herself when she’s not.”

Manners and self-discipline are among the core aspects of learning karate, says owner and chief instructor James Lee.

After the students spar, Lee tells them to bow to their partners. The class bows. “Trust and respect!” they shout in unison.

Lee, who has been practicing martial arts for 30 years, opened his first karate school in Eagle in 1998. Five years ago, he started another school in Glenwood Springs. He now has about 250 students total, who range from bouncy 5-year-olds blowing off energy after school to 30-somethings honing their skills after work.

Currently Lee’s dojo ranks first in the United States Karate Alliance (USKA), which comprises 300 martial arts schools. USKA ranks schools based on how many points students earn at tournaments. Points are tallied at the end of the year, after the national competition. James Lee’s Karate placed top in the nation for the past four out of five years, and Lee was awarded the USKA Instructor of the Year title in the 2013-2014 season.

The reason behind their success? Lee credits his school’s character development training.

“Manners, discipline, focus and respect,” he says. “That’s the base. The karate techniques fall into place with time.”

The school offers classes five days a week, and students are required to go to at least two of them. That way, they can advance their skills while maintaining a flexible schedule that allows them to have a life outside of karate.

Lee thinks that his classes offer a more structured approach to training than many after-school sports.

“Here, we have paid, professional instructors instead of volunteers,” he explains. “So parents know that we have a plan to help each kid develop.”

Watts Brooks, a fourth-grader who attends the Ross Montessori School in Carbondale, has been practicing karate with Lee for five years. He’s got only five more belts until he earns his black belt, a symbol of advanced understanding of martial arts.

“Self-defense is the most important thing [I’ve learned],” Brooks says seriously, “because you never know what could happen.”

Although the school doesn’t advocate for violence, it does raise its students awareness on bullying and stranger danger, and how to remain calm and confident if they are ever confronted.

Worley agrees. “If I’m in danger, I can protect myself or others,” she says.

The dojo also has a fitness kickboxing class, a full-body strengthening workout that combines kickboxing techniques with explosive plyometric moves.

Find out more information about James Lee’s Karate at http://www.jamesleekarate.com.

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