Devils in the dojo: students teach martial arts

By Anisha Dhakal, Staff–

As senior Elliot Chan looks up at the children sitting in a straight line ready for class to begin, he feels a sense of relief washing away the day’s stress.

The relief came to end when a child farted on him. Twice.

“I was shook. He didn’t even say anything. He just sat there like nothing had happened,” Chan said.

Teen black belts such as Chan excel and expand their skills as they teach classes to younger students at Inspire Martial Arts near downtown Davis.

Classes are taught six days a week and are separated by age and level rankings. The belt rankings begin with white, followed by yellow and many other colors in between, then finally a black belt which takes about three to five years to achieve.

The dojo is home to many black belts, many of whom attend Davis High.

Sophomore Will Baca, a second degree black belt, first began martial arts at the age of 7.

“I was sick of trying to do soccer and nothing else entertained me,” Baca said.

Similarly, freshman Griffin Starr, who will be testing for his third degree in the spring, began martial arts when he was 4 because he did not play any sports and was a “wild child.” Currently Starr is a second degree black belt who is a certified instructor at Inspire, along with juniors Molly Leach and Bryant Lee.

“I wanted to teach classes [because I] love working with little kids, last year [I] peer tutored at North Davis and it was one of the highlights from my year. [I also went to] Walker Creek and it was a blast,” said Lee.

Chan says he made the decision to teach because, “When I was training [I] always looked up to my instructors and when I got my black belt [I] decided that it was time to start teaching and give back to the traditions.”

According to Inspire Martial Arts program director Dan Gaskill, one has to have gone through the martial arts program at the center before being able to teach.

The process first begins with being invited to take part in its leadership program, which happens if one is “especially sharp, focused, work well with other students and have good leadership qualities,” said Gaskill.

After students who have been chosen to go to the leadership classes they become an assistant, which is “super easy.” After attending more classes they can move up to assistant instructor, which allows them to help the chief instructor underneath their supervision.

Following a series of tests, one can officially become a certified instructor.

Ultimately, trainees can move up to a full instructor. First, however, they must show they have “dojo vision.”

Dojo vision is the ability to observe everything going on in the class even when they are focused on one person. Gaskill says “it requires an especially high level of skill and training […] it can be very difficult.”

Leach says she learned from teaching classes that “[I] definitely don’t want to have kids, but some kids are super sweet if you just talk to them.”

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