TIGARD - On a recent morning at Fowler Middle School, a combined sixth-grade PE class was learning Jackie Chan moves along with lessons in self-confidence.
Bob Ellis, owner of Seishinkan Karate on Main, has 45 years of karate experience, and he has taught the art and philosophy to all the sixth-graders in the Tigard-Tualatin School District in two-week stints.
'Let's talk about the importance of behavior,' he told the students sitting on the gym floor. 'Karate is about feeling good about yourself, being strong and self-confident. In life, you get to make choices.'
He asked the kids if they smoked or did drugs, and amid laughter, they said no.
'You will face these choices,' he said. 'Some kids will drive too fast. If they drive too fast and kill a kid, will they go to prison? They made a choice. People with no confidence make bad choices.'
Then it was time to switch to karate moves.
Ellis had everyone stand up and go through a series of neck twists and then wiggling their shoulders, hips and knees. After loosening up, the kids thrust out arms, legs and fists at Ellis' commands before trying a really hard move - squatting with their hands on their hips while kicking out one leg at a time.
From there, the 75 kids made slide-and-punch moves back and forth as the karate class continued.
'All the kids thought they would be able to beat up their brothers and sisters when they heard they were going to learn karate,' said PE teacher John Adams. 'Bob quickly explained the philosophy - it's not aggressive, it's not offensive, it's defensive.'
Once the class was over, Ellis said that he has taught the two-week classes to 1,500 students since December.
'I try to give the kids an introduction and teach them about safety,' he said. 'The key is giving kids self-esteem and teaching them self-confidence and self-discipline. It's important for kids to develop a love for exercise.
'Karate is about building character, acquiring physical fitness and learning self-defense.'
Ellis added that he gives students some information about Japanese culture on the last day of class.
Ellis is a personal student of Higaonna Morio, chief instructor and chairman of the International Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Federation, which has more than 80,000 students in 45 countries.
Ellis is a certified IOGKF senior instructor and a member of the IOGKF-USA Executive Committee and National Grading Board.
For more information, visit www.karateonmain.com or call 503-968-1600.