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Originally published Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 5:07 AM

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Parents, kids in karate class together for quality fitness time

You don’t have to choose between your kids and getting exercise if the whole family takes up karate.

Chicago Tribune

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Enough of the cliches: what you call a "chop" is a block. MORE


CHICAGO — I pity the foolish mugger who attempts to rob David Jones’ family with anything less than a grenade launcher.

Jones is a seventh-degree black belt in Shotokan karate. So is his wife. Both of their daughters are black belts as well, and they compete internationally. For the Joneses, karate is a family affair.

And there are good reasons why you should wish to keep up with these Joneses, as karate is an excellent form of exercise that trains both body and mind. At the same time, its practical nature allows parents to punch through their lame justifications like, “I don’t have time to exercise.”

I’ve read numerous surveys of the reasons people give for not exercising, and “I don’t have time” always takes the No. 1 spot. Karate chops that excuse in two, because it’s something that can be done as a family.

Parents often complain they want to spend more time with their children. At the same time, I hear them complain about having to regularly engage in taxi duty to take said children to their various lessons and games. You’re probably not allowed to join your kids’ Pee-wee football or field-hockey team. Instead, you’re in the stands watching practice and possibly consuming some junk food.

But karate, a millennia-old martial art, is increasingly catering to families so you can all exercise together. Beyond the time-management aspect, it gives you that quality time you’ve been seeking.

“The demographics have changed,” said Jones, who has been a karate instructor for 35 years. “What used to be a young, male-oriented activity is now far more inclusive. I have so many families training with me. Usually it’s the children who’ve started first, and they loved it, and then the parents get involved.”

And sometimes, even grandparents.

“We had always planned for our kids doing a sport of some sort,” said 46-year-old Craig Fallis. “We tried soccer and baseball, and there wasn’t much interest there, so we tried karate, and it stuck.”

Fallis, a project manager who has been practicing karate for almost seven years, joined his dojo just a few months after he put his son in it (and his daughter joined not long after). He said having an organized, scheduled regimen was a powerful motivator for him. “It gives you a personal commitment to go; there are no excuses.”

Fallis is just one level away from achieving his black belt.

“It’s been great for bringing our family together,” he told me. “We’ve definitely bonded over karate and working on goals together like preparing for tournaments and belt gradings.”

Beyond that, Fallis said that the increase in core strength has done wonders for his back problems and that he’s noticed rapidly improved hand-eye coordination.

Jones explained that you can have a class with a wide range of individuals who all work at their own pace and gain a variety of benefits from it. And the benefits go beyond what you may realize.

“It’s certainly going to make you stronger,” Jones said. “It is good for flexibility and range of motion, as well as great for balance. It’s all very functional movement. You’re able to use your body in a much more efficient manner, and you develop great core strength.”

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