LaShonda Jones, an Air Force Family member, has routinely enrolled her daughter, Crystal, 6, in various SKIES Unlimited classes, from tumbling to dance. This summer was no different. Crystal is a karate student at Tolson Youth Activities Center.

Designed to sharpen the life experiences of military youth, SKIES (Schools of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration and Skills) Unlimited offers instruction in the schools.

On Fort Bragg, youth are also instructed in activities such as gymnastics, rock climbing, boxing, golf, sewing and fashion.

Why karate for Crystal?

“It focuses on exercise. It teaches discipline and fun,” said LaShonda. “The coordination is good and it’s something different.

“I tease her about if anybody messes with her, she can learn the techniques to protect herself,” LaShonda added.

Besides technique, there is a whole terminology to karate.

Sensei Don George, a veteran and longtime karate instructor on Fort Bragg, teaches youth about moves such as chokes, kicks, grabs, arm toss, and the shoulder throw.

George was working on teaching students to execute a top mount and Superman positions, used as a defense technique when one is pinned to the ground.

“Sometimes in defense you are going to get on the floor, but you have to know how to defend yourself,” said George.

“Even when you become a black belt, you still have to work on basics and you always have to be safe,” George said.

The moves are basic jujitsu, or close combat.

For brothers, Aidan, 9, and Caleb Anthony, 7, karate seems to be fun and challenging.

“I want to learn how to fight, to practice,” said Aidan, who added that he wants to earn a black belt for self-defense purposes.

Youth can progress from a white belt for beginners to a black belt for experts, explained George. During the progression, they learn a combination of shorei (hard) and shorin (soft) moves.

Crystal said she is looking forward to the progression.

“We get to do our gold belts,” she exclaimed.

George encourages more parents to enroll their children in karate class.

Mastering karate teaches youth coping skills, especially important to military youth who often face multiple moves. It builds perseverance, is an anti-bullying strategy and builds self-esteem, he said.

For more information about SKIES Unlimited, call 643-6039 or visit www.fortbraggmwr.com/cyss/skies-unlimited/.