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“We are taught . . . to protect ourselves on the street . . . while listening to a catchy beat.”

Karate students and instructors

This is a line from a poem by a boy named Kah’sier, describing the karate training he is getting at Crossroads Community Ministries, the service arm of Madison Ave. Christian Reformed Church in Paterson, N.J.

Tom Harris, a member of the church, directs the martial arts program there with several other black belt instructors. Training is offered twice a week, with about 30 people, ages 5 to adult, participating.

Many of the kids come from single-parent or grandparent homes. According to Harris, the instructors are trained to observe the special needs of each student and use innovative training programs to enable them to gain strength, develop confidence, and grow at their own pace before advancing to the next level.

The curriculum is comprehensive and physically demanding, but stays within the protocol of a martial arts system. There is a monthly fee of $25 per student. Members of the church provide donations to cover the cost for those who cannot afford to pay.

Kah’sier concludes his poem with these lines: “So thank you Sensei Martin for all you have taught me. And helping me become the man I’m destined to be.”

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