Teaching kids how to fight might seem a bit counterintuitive, but according to Tommie Little, who is teaching a judo class at the Elizabeth W. Murphey School, judo teaches kids a lot more the just how to throw a punch.
"I'm the boss," said Little. "They have to listen to me, but I don't have to listen to them. They like to know someone that they trust is in charge. They can transfer that to other people with authority. They like me so it will make it easier for them to like others in authority."
The Murphey School is a group home for children in the foster care system in Dover.
Bill Ward, a second-degree black belt and another instructor for the class, said teaching kids judo can actually help keep them out of fights.
"There's nothing like knowing you're capable of fighting to keep you from fighting," Ward said. "If you know you're good you don't have to be obnoxious. The better you get, the less you'll feel the need to push your agenda."
The class teaches students how to listen, how to learn and how to follow instructions, he said.
"Kids have to learn to follow before they can learn to lead," Ward said. "They have to first accept that they know nothing before they can learn anything."
Not only does the program teach the kids respect for authority, it also teaches them how to relax and reflect inward. At the end of each judo lesson the instructors have a 20-minute relaxation and meditation period.
"They teach us to relax with our eyes closed," Chris, a student in the class said. "Now if I want to lay down and keep my eyes shut, it's easier."
For other students, judo has helped them to quiet their minds.
"It's been a challenge for my mind," said judo student Corey. "I can think better about things now."
Little has taught judo across the globe, from Paris Island, S. C., where he worked as a Marine Corps drill sergeant and judo instructor, to Africa where he worked to establish an Olympic judo team. Little chose to teach judo at the Murphey School because the children there hold a special place in his heart. He can relate to them because he has been where they are. He was raised in the foster care system from the age of 2 to 18.
"Whenever I would get depressed or anxious I would go right to judo," he said. "That's why I know it will help these kids. It's a consistent thing."
The class has been up and running for about five weeks with six regular students ranging in ages from 8 to 15. The class meets every Saturday from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and is free of charge. Students in the class are currently training for the Liberty Bell tournament, which will be held in Philadelphia this time next year.
Page 2 of 2 - For some of the students involved in judo, it means more to them than just learning to fight.
"I take this as a family thing," said Chris.
Note: The Dover Post has elected to use only the first names of the children mentioned in this story to protect their identities.