UNION — The Union Karate Center is rebooting, taking its family-oriented teaching style to the Union County Recreation Department.
The word “ohana” is Hawaiian for family — blood-related, adoptive or intentional — and is often used among Union Karate Center instructors, students and parents. The Union Karate Center teaches Kenpo, which is a name for multiple martial arts which developed in Hawaii due to cross-cultural exchange between practitioners of Ryukyuan martial arts, Chinese martial arts, Japanese martial arts and multiple additional influences.
Instructor Jamie Vaughn said his students learn the importance of “ohana” in and out of their martial arts classes. Vaughn organized a hot dog picnic at Foster Park for his students and their parents Tuesday evening.
“Stuff like this is super important,” Vaughn said.
As his young students gradually arrived, he encouraged them to go play together in the park and to be ready for hot dogs, cake and lots of fun.
Vaughn is a member of both the U.S. Martial Arts Hall of Fame and the North American Sport Karate Association Hall of Fame. After years of training as a fighter, Vaughn eventually directed his focus toward teaching. He studied various teaching techniques through the Martial Arts Teachers Association and the North American Professional Martial Arts Association.
“You can’t just have a black belt and teach,” Vaughn said. “Everything is age-specific.”
Vaughn explained that when he began as a student, he trained five days a week under harsh conditions and in an atmosphere where injuries and broken bones were commonplace.
“It made you tough, but very few people got to reap the life-skill benefits such as confidence and self esteem,” Vaughn said, explaining that he still uses the old blood-and-knuckle style of teaching when training students who are competing in mixed martial arts (MMA) cage fighting, but not with young students.
“I’m not trying to teach these kids to be fighters; my focus is teaching them life skills,” he said. “We’re using this training to help develop them as individuals. We’re teaching them to face life’s challenges head on.”
Assistant Instructor T.J. Glenn is a MMA fighter, and his eight-year-old son, Ta’jarion, is a student at Union Karate Center.
“We’re all like family,” Glenn said, as he discussed being in the corner of fellow MMA fighter and Union Karate Center family member Christian Patterson.
Patterson will be in Glenn’s corner during a fight in December. Glenn said he enrolled his son because of the learning experience.
“It teaches you respect for others and yourself,” Glenn said. “You learn control — of your temper and of what you do. We teach them respect most of all. You’ve got to have respect before you learn a good technique.”
That is apparent when talking to Union Karate Center students such as eight-and-a-half-year-old Jamison Alexander — a female Union Karate Center student who has Type II Diabetes. Alexander is one of the school’s tournament champions. Alexander was asked about her favorite part of competing.
“Boys always say girls can’t do it, but when they get out there, the girls kick their butts,” Alexander laughed. “That’s my favorite part.”
Alexander said she likes the challenge of learning various styles of grappling and take downs.
“It’s really fun,” she said. “You get to learn all kinds of fun stuff.”
Vaughn said Tuesday’s picnic marked a new beginning for Union Karate Center after a short break. Starting Monday, Oct. 14, the martial arts classes will be held at the Union County Recreation Department. As of right now, classes will be held each Monday. Little Ninjas (ages 4-7) classes will be held from 4-4:45 p.m.; Junior Beginners (ages 8-12) classes will be held from 5-5:45 p.m.; and Junior Advanced (ages 8-12) will be held from 6-6:45 p.m.
Vaughn will also offer competition team and adult classes at times/days to be announced.
Former martial arts champion Missy Wilkes — whose sons Sebastian and Greyson are both Union Karate Center students — discussed what makes Vaughn and his teaching style stand out among all of the instructors she has seen.
“The development of students should take precedence over commercialism,” Wilkes said, adding that students can only excel under an excellent instructor. “Once an instructor becomes concerned with materialism, he will lose the respect of his students, but you will not find this with Mr. Jamie, which is why he is now at the Union County Rec. He wants to make it affordable to all of his students.”