In 2002, Brendan and Kim Murray launched the first E-Program that didn’t take place on a soccer field.
As people who were actively involved in E-Soccer since its launch two years prior, the Murrays were looking for a way to weave their excitement about community service and inclusion with their passion for martial arts.
Brendan is a black belt and has a masters in social work. Kim has over 15 years of experience teaching both typical and special needs children. This combination of experience made them a perfect fit for expanding the inclusive philosophy into another sport, which opened up the possibility of helping other people get involved who may not have been able to participate on a soccer field.
After planning and discussing with the then small E-Soccer team, the Murrays launched E-Karate in Redwood City with a few families and friends. It was invigorating to see special needs and typical kids have an opportunity to learn a skill that not only was fun (who doesn’t like wearing a gi and belt?) but strengthened solid physical and developmental fundamentals. And, perhaps most importantly, E-Karate was another opportunity for both groups to grow in key social areas.
The Myers’ story
When Lynn Myers, an E-Soccer volunteer with chronic health challenges, first tried out a karate class, it was a test to see if her body could handle the exertion. After some searching, she found an instructor who gave her the confidence that this sport was something that she could handle, and benefit from given her physical issues and limitations. The experience was deeply encouraging for her, and prompted her to pursue attaining a black belt.
Her two teenage sons, David and Daniel, had themselves always liked the idea of taking karate lessons. Having been raised in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles era, they couldn’t think of a better sport to sign up for. Doug, Lynn’s husband, loved the idea of the whole family doing something together. And just like that, karate became a family activity.
The Myers’ had heard about E-Soccer from friends who were involved and had spoke highly of its impact in their community. After hearing that a karate version of that program had launched, the Myers family began attending the Redwood City sessions and served as coaches under Brendan and Kim and their great team.
As they got to know the participants attending each class, they noticed that a good amount of them lived down in the South Bay area where they were from. It became clear that there were enough people to start a new E-Karate chapter in San Jose. They went to work looking for a venue, and it wasn’t long before they struck a deal with the Camden Community Center. E-Taekwondo (the martial art discipline the Myers’ specialized in) San Jose was official.
A family experience
The most encouraging part of this experience for Doug and Lynn was to watch their oldest son David lead the class with help from his family. For a time, the San Jose E-Taekwondo program had more teenage coaches than adult coaches. The kid participants thought it was great that one of the lead teachers was a tall teenage kid (David) who would compliment them and help them succeed.
David’s parents were proud of how well is was able to work with the kids; he exuded patience, confidence and offered plenty of encouragement for them. The students respected him and he showed them they can do it. He believed in them.
Why E-Karate matters
The goal of E-Karate/E-Taekwondo has always been to show the kids how much they can do. Some students learned perseverance, some self-control. Others are just elated when they see that they can do it: learn a form, break a board, defend themselves, and can do something they didn’t think they could do.
As any E-Karate coach will tell you, there is nothing quite like the expression on the face of a child when that wooden board they were convinced would not break breaks, or when they finally land upright after performing a flying jump sidekick (although the fun of a child performing a somersault after landing comes close).
Now that promotions are held under the Myers’ teacher, the American Taekwondo Association officially awards the belts, which allows the coaches not to have to be the ones to judge their own students and gives the belts greater public value.
In June of 2004 all four Myers received their first degree Black Belts. As proud as they were of this accomplishment, they were just as proud of the E-Taekwondo students who tested for and received their orange belts.