ActivePaper Archive Discipline pays off - Chattanooga, 5/1/2006

Discipline pays off

Autistic boy to compete in karate championships

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Staff Photo by Jessica Lowry

Sensei Corey Green, 28, right, leads a karate class that includes Brandon Earnshaw, 10, left, at the Downtown YMCA. Brandon, who is autistic, recently earned his second-degree belt.

Picture
Staff Photo by Jessica Lowry

Brandon Earnshaw, 10, second from left, practices a kick during karate class under the guidance of Sensei Corey Green, 28, at the Downtown YMCA.

Chattanoogan Brandon Earnshaw, 10, recently won two bronze medals in a United States of America National Karate-do Federation competition in Memphis. It’s an accomplishment that would make any young athlete proud, but Brandon, as well as his family and coach, take extra pride in the awards. Brandon is autistic. Taking karate lessons was something that happened quite by chance, said his mom, Alina Earnshaw. "My son had been taking occupational therapy for years when the insurance stopped covering it,’’ she said. "I was devastated. I didn’t know what to do until one of the therapists told me that karate lessons would be a good alternative to therapy." Ms. Earnshaw said the therapist recommended a local karate teacher, Corey Green, owner and head instructor of Green’s Karate. Mr. Green offered a free class to special-needs children once a week at his Downtown YMCA studio. According to the Autism Society of America, autism is a developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder. The condition affects the normal functioning of the brain, including social interaction and communication skills. Children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and nonverbal communication, social interactions and leisure or play activities, according to the autism society. Ms. Earnshaw said that she wasn’t initially interested in getting her son involved in karate. "It was about six weeks after his therapy ended when I noticed that some of Brandon’s sensory issues were declining as a result of not having therapy," she said. "So I called Corey, interviewed him and was very impressed. He encouraged me." Two years and several medals later, Brandon is steadily advancing in his skills. In July, he and his family will travel to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where Brandon will compete in the national championship. "Karate has had a wonderful effect on Brandon," Ms. Earnshaw said. "He’s more focused and better able to control his frustration." Those are two qualities associated with karate, Mr. Green said. "Green’s Karate has home rules for children," Mr. Green said, citing being nice to your siblings, keeping your room clean and not interrupting adult conversations. "We teach manners, respect and self-discipline," self-discipline he said. "Manners is one of the things that children lack today. Green’s Karate also instills confidence, self-defense, balance, flexibility and eye/hand/feet coordination. We tell them every day to do something nice for somebody." Ms. Earnshaw said that her son’s progress is evident not only in his advancing karate skills but also in the way he handles himself at the tournaments. "His first tournament was somewhat of a nightmare," she said. "He did well in the competition, but there was too much going on around him. He didn’t like waiting in the gym. He was very fussy and couldn’t be still. He doesn’t like distractions. But we did make it through it." In March, Brandon’s most recent competition, his behavior was just the opposite, she said. "An autistic child takes everything literal," everything she said. "There can be no confusion. So, before a competition, I talk to the judges and tell them that because of his autism, he has to know exactly what’s going on. At the competition in March, when I asked them to explain the rules ‘exactly’ to my son, they asked which one was my son. For them to ask me which one was my son was big. Before, it was easy to figure out which one of the children was autistic. Karate has done that for my son." Ms. Earnshaw said she is now an advocate for karate. "Get your children involved in karate," she said. "It does so much for them, and it does it in a sneaky way. You won’t notice it at first, and then, one day, it hits you. If therapy is not an option, I suggest karate." Mr. Green, who teaches 50 karate classes each week, advises parents to research karate before enrolling their children in classes. "There’s 220 different types of karate and four major styles," he said. "It’s all about self-improvement." selfimprovement He said that while some schools hand out black belts for minor accomplishments, rarely will a child under 12 earn one at his school. "Nothing good can come from awarding a child a black belt," he said. "Our black-belt test is 16 hours long. You have to perform for eight hours nonstop of everything that you have learned plus military-type conditioning. You also have to spar eight people against you all at one time. There’s also a written test." written Mr. Green said the film "Karate Kid" is an excellent example of the kind of karate he teaches. "It’s important for the public to know about the different style of martial arts and what they offer for each particular student," he said. "The movie ‘Karate Kid’ got me interested in martial arts," he said. "I’m living my dream." "Karate has certainly provided a boost to our family," Ms. Earnshaw said. "It has given my son some power in his life both physically and mentally. I love to see the I-am-in-control-of-myself I-am-in-control-ofmyself look in his eyes. Karate has made that possible." E-mail Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfreepress.com

"(Karate) has given "given my son some power in his life both physically and mentally. I love to see the I-am-in-control-of-myself I-am-incontrol-of-myself look in his eyes." — Alina Earnshaw