It's Wednesday evening at Lee District RECenter and Andrea McElvaine
has arrived with two of her three children, 7-year-old Alex and
5-year-old Evelyn. Rather than just watch them take part in a
RECenter fitness class, she's participating with them in Karate for
Families. "I think it's a good way to spend time doing something
active together," she said. Alex, now an orange-belt student,
says taking the class was his dad's idea. "My dad asked me if I
wanted to do it with him and I thought it would be pretty fun and it
is," he said. It wasn't long before Evelyn wanted to try it, too,
and now the whole family, minus the youngest who is still too young
to take the class, enjoys training and getting fit together.
Karate is a martial art in which an attacker is defeated by kicks
and punches. It is performed barefoot in loose, padded clothing with
a colored belt indicating the level of skill, and it involves mental
as well as physical training.
"For kids who take it, the benefits go beyond exercise,"
said instructor Murray Bloom, a 4th degree black belt. "It helps
teach them that if you work hard to achieve a goal in steps, you can
achieve tangible results, and that lesson applies to other areas of
life, like school work. It's a good lesson for kids."
No one knows that
better than Paula Bell, a black-belt student from Occoquan. She
started taking Karate lessons with her family as a child, and she put
her skills to the test in numerous competitions over the years,
earning the rank of 3rd degree black belt. Now, decades later, she
enjoys practicing her skills and staying fit in the classes at Lee.
"Besides the exercise, it's fun and I enjoy the people," she
can be learned by almost anyone at any age. Barry Brown, owner and
chief instructor of Brown's Karate, which provides the instruction at
Lee, remembers one student who started after retirement. "He was
a 68-year-old grandfather and four years later, he was a 1st degree
black belt," Brown recalled, "and two years later, at age 74,
he was a 2nd degree black belt." Brown himself is a 74-year-old
8th degree black belt and has been training in karate since the
1960s, and he shows no signs of slowing down. "This is what keeps
me around," he said. "I'm still sparring with my
The meaning of Color Levels in Martial Arts
Colored belts represent levels of progress, or ranks, for martial
arts students. Colors vary between martial art disciplines, and they
may also include ranks within colors. A black belt is the highest
level of belt in judo, karate and taekwondo -- though there may also
be levels of black belt, such as 1st Dan or degree or 2nd Dan or
degree to indicate degrees of experience and proficiency. The black
belt is the opposite of the white belt, signifying completion and
maturity in the student. These are the colors/ ranks associated with
the karate style taught at Lee.