- Associated Press - Saturday, December 8, 2018

FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) - Fairmont’s Jerry Eagle had been performing and teaching karate for years, but had normally taught adults until a moment of inspiration.

At home he had kept a set of boxes which he used to teach his students exercises in lessons, and one day watched as his daughter jumped on and off the stack when she was only 2 years old.

“One night after class she took those three boxes and she slid them out in the middle and jumped on, jumped off,” Eagle said. “I didn’t know that when she was running around playing that she was actually paying attention to me.”

After this revelation, Eagle began developing a curriculum to begin teaching young children in the martial art, which led him to teaching a variety of ages and skill levels in Fairmont in the Central Christian Church gym.

“Anyone can teach you how to kick and punch, I’m more about teaching the background and philosophy,” Eagle said. “Allowing the kids to have fun in my classes is a good teaching tool because then they want to come back. As a result it gives me the opportunity to continue to teach them.”

Eagle explained how he first entered the world of karate, a journey that began in college when he originally gave it a try.

“When I was 21 I used to run around the basketball court every Sunday; thought I was in good shape,” he said. “A couple guys said ‘Hey, there’s a class we’re going to go and take: karate.’ That was 48 years ago.”

Despite the initial challenge he faced in really getting into shape, Eagle found the practice invigorating and managed to stick with the art, earning more prestigious belts until he reached the top.

From there, he got into teaching. He taught lessons to a myriad of students while he lived in Ohio, and started again in Fairmont in October.

“I just held my first class on October 1 and I already have 20 students which surprised even me,” Eagle said. “Word of mouth is getting out there and people are starting to come in because they’ve heard the parents are happy with the results.”

So far Eagle’s class sessions host about a handful of students each, which helps him home in on each kid to assure that he or she is learning the messages of his dojo. Because to him, the message of honing and building one’s character is the true value of learning karate.

“I wanted to get back into teaching because there’s a lot of things that I have to share,” Eagle explained. “I’m finding that there’s a great need for what I’m teaching here, the courtesy, the discipline, the respect, the responsibility.”

During a session with his students aged 5-6, Eagle asked those in attendance to recite the creed of his dojo, to which the students responded in unison. Already, he said his influence on the kids has resulted in positive change and habit forming.

“They’re like little sponges,” Eagle said. “I insist that the parents allow me see the report cards, and make sure they get good grades; I back the parents up all the way.”

In the past, Eagle also noted his influence. His students refer to him as “Sensei Eagle,” and through this simple act of respect, the value is passed on by way of practice.

“Over the years of having schools, I’ve seen a lot of success with students,” Eagle explained. “In changing their school grades, in changing their general life thoughts, self confidence, self-esteem. Because of the positive influence that I have in their lives, it’s made a big difference.”

On the side of physical and practical application of karate, Eagle uses instruction to guide students through the motions until they understand the execution. He first had them run back and forth across the gym before tripping them up with more complicated commands.

“From the physical side, the timing is the most important value,” Eagle said. “You’ve got to work on that timing and you’ve got to work on eye and hand coordination, and those are the two that make a difference whether it’s in a tournament setting or in real life situation.”

While this was a group of young kids, Eagle also teaches some adult classes, where he still follows his philosophy of passing on values. He said because he just started a month ago, all of his lessons are aimed at beginners of the art, and he hopes to progress the lessons to a more fulfilled skill level.

In reference to the philosophy of his dojo, Eagle recited the core idea he hopes to give his students.

“Give yourself permission to try,” Eagle said. “If you never try you can never fail; if you never fail you can never learn; if you never learn you can never grow and if you never grow then you never reach your full potential.

“That’s my job is to open up their minds and not only receive things from the physical standpoint of martial arts, but from the mental aspect as well.”


Information from: Times West Virginian, http://www.timeswv.com

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