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Martial arts class teaches students discipline, self-defense

A.J. Lefferts 7, of Edinburg has a light moment with instructor Rick Edge during Okinawan Martial Arts class at St. John Bosco Roman Catholic Church in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Caroline Eye, 5, of Woodstock, throws a kick during Okinawan Martial Arts class at St. John Bosco Roman Catholic Church in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Gabrielle Fox, 8, of Toms Brook, throws a kick at instructor Rick Edge. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Caleb Lefferts, 5, of Edinburg, follows the lead of instructor Rick Edge during Okinawan Martial Arts class. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Brady Hecker, 6, of Woodstock, takes a defensive stand during Okinawan Martial Arts class. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

By Katie Demeria

Okinawan Martial Arts instructor Rick Edge believes there is nothing his students cannot accomplish.

Edge teaches both his martial arts class and a women's self-defense class with Shenandoah County's Department of Parks and Recreation. A karate student for 31 years, he has been teaching for the past 25 years.

"Your mind is your only limitation," Edge said. "The philosophy of karate is to allow the mind and body to work as one, and understand respect and honor. Karate is in the head."

Students in Edge's class range from 5 to 46 years old. He said learning discipline is one of the most important parts of martial arts.

Violence, Edge said, is rarely the right response in a situation. Rather, he teaches his students not to lose their tempers, urging them to keep their heads in stressful situations.

"You never have to prove anything to anyone else," he said. "People are just looking to provoke a response. If they call you a crybaby, for example -- everybody cries, and everybody was once a baby. There's nothing wrong with it. But they're looking to get a response out of you."

Edge teaches his students not to give in to that response. In the women's self-defense class especially, he encourages participants to use their voices.

"People looking to attack you can be deterred by the tone in your voice," he said. "It's your attitude, everybody has it. Let them know you're serious, and that no means no."

Martial arts is about learning technique, he said. Anybody, regardless of any physical limitation, is capable of participating and learning how to defend themselves and control their emotions.

Family participation is also encouraged, Edge said. He started teaching his daughter karate when she was 4 years old.

"Kids are all about electronics these days," he said. "And when parents go to classes and just sit there, they create a distance between them. But when they get involved, and practice too, the kids get really excited about it."

Karate allows individuals a way to stand up for what they believe in, Edge said. It gives his students the confidence to know they can defend themselves.

That philosophy is especially useful in the women's self-defense class, he added.

"By the end of the class, when they can throw me -- and I'm 100 pounds heavier than them -- that's a huge ego boost," Edge said.

"We all have it inside us," he added. "Everybody's stronger than they believe."

Getting kids involved, he said, is also useful because it removes a lot of the fear they may encounter in the future.

"Especially for football and sports like that, it teaches them not to be afraid to take a hit," Edge said.

Physical conditioning is also part of martial arts. Participants go through agility drills, though most of the work comes from learning the techniques, and what areas on the body are weakest -- as well as learning to condition the mind.

"One of my favorite parts is getting to help people, and teaching them that they don't really have to fear anything," Edge said.

Edge's women's self-defense class is running from April 2 - 23. Those interested in registering can go to www.shenandoahcountyva.us/parks.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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