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Everybody at the Jones School was “Kung-Fu Fighting”

Youth martial arts instructor Ben Warner came to the Jones School for a series of classes over the last three weeks, using Kung-Fu techniques to help preschoolers improve their coordination and balance. Scroll down below for the full article.

There were more than your fair share of punches, kicks and the customary “hi-ya’s” associated with youth martial arts, but none of the preschoolers at the this past Wednesday afternoon were training to become future black belts. And this was not an early self-defense class.

Instead Ben Warner, a martial arts instructor at Yang's Martial Arts Association (YMAA) in Boston, was using Kung-Fu techniques to teach the children coordination, balance and spatial awareness.

Wednesday marked the last of Warner’s three weeks of classes at the Jones School.  He had visited the various classes twice a week over the last three weeks, building on his routine over the period of time.

Many of the movements were animal-based, Warner explained. In one of the exercises, the children made tiger claws and “growled,” moving from side-to-side, left-to-right in the process.

“Having the idea of animal movements in your mind, the imagination helps link the mind to your body and helps coordination and development grow much more quickly,” he said. “That’s one of the things Chinese martial arts does incredibly well.”

Lateral movements and cross-body awareness were stressed during this program. Warner, for example, had the kids touch their right hand to their left foot and vice versa.

“A lot of kids and even adults have challenges with cross-body types of patterns,” he explained.

These fast-paced and active training sessions kept the children jumping up and down and moving from side to side. The classes may have been physically demanding, but the preschoolers were up for the challenge and even maintained their customary wit.

As Warner was warming up one of his classes, shaking his arms side to side and back and forth, he asked the children to make “spaghetti arms,” and in response, one of the children yelled out  “and meatballs!”

Jones School teacher Nicole Sutka said the program “supplies an extraordinary opportunity for young children to gain access to an ancient form of physical and mental discipline where the whole mind and body must be engaged in order to participate.”

Sutka credited Warner with providing adevelopmentally appropriate version of this deeply historic art.”

“He has a calm and positive demeanor with the children and they have been increasing their overall abilities with each session provided,” she said.

Warner, known for his work with youth martial arts, is behind the 2009 DVD “Kung-Fu for Kids.”

The Jones School was able to provide this program thanks to a grant from the Stoughton Cultural Council. Sutka said this is the fifth year the Council has provided an enrichment program for Jones students.

“These types of programs would never reach this population without the ongoing support of the Cultural Council,” Sutka said.

“[The martial arts program] has been a lot of fun. The children love it and I think they are getting a lot out of it. They love the gross motor movements and follow right along with Mr. Warner,” Jones School teacher Jen Lombardi added. “I think it is a great activity for the preschoolers. “

Christine Iacobucci contributed reporting to this article.

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