When Anne Forsyth rounded the corner and headed for home in the 3200 meters during her senior year at Pioneer, she was focused on the finish line. And when she crossed it, Anne had broken the MHSAA State Championships record for 3,200 meters, running a victorious 10:08.07.
Now a standout runner at Michigan – she was this past season’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year in cross country for the Wolverines – Anne has made a habit of being first to the finish line. But to discover the reasons for her success one must head back to the starting line and see how things began for her and what she has done along the way to help find that stride of success.
Anne was born – might as well start there – to gifted athletes. She is the daughter of former U-M national champion Ian Forsyth and former U-M cross country team captain Jessica Kluge. So Anne’s parents were certainly qualified to show Anne where the finish line was located and how to best get there.
One of those ways to help get her and her siblings to the finish line was by introducing them to different sports and activities – including karate.
“Anne begged us to do karate because a friend was doing it,” says Jessica. “We were hesitant, but she was so persistent that we agreed to meet for a consultation.”
That first consultation was with Grand Master Keith Hafner, owner of the popular Keith Hafner’s Karate in downtown Ann Arbor.
“We were sold upon the first meeting,” Jessica says. “When Grand Master Hafner explained some of the benefits people report, I laughed and said I should do karate myself.”
Jessica, and many like her, have experienced how karate can provide kids with a sense of focus and discipline that has far reaching effects.
“Our martial arts classes shock parents at the kinds of results their children are seeing,” says Hafner. “Parents bring their children to our center for all kinds of reasons. But most importantly – they want to help their children have fun while growing important life skills.”
Jessica and Ian are certainly those kinds of parents.
“Parents can only do so much,” Jessica says. “We sometimes observe weaknesses in our children, but are stymied as to how we can help. Sometimes we make the problem worse even though we are trying to help. We like having our kids involved in karate because the teachers bring out their very best potential.”
Karate is a family activity for the Forsyths – and we mean the entire family. Anne (18), Sarah (15), Rachel (13) and Laura (8) have all been involved or are still involved in karate at Keith Hafner’s Karate. Even 2-year-old John is kicking to get started.
“John mimics moves on the sidelines and can’t wait to be old enough,” says Jessica, who also is a student. “It is hard to start something new as an adult, but it has been more than worth it to me.”
Jessica says she has seen a big difference in her kids as a result of taking classes at Keith Hafner’s Karate.
“Absolutely,” she says. “There are visible differences, such as better balance, flexibility and strength. But the best part is the invisible differences, such as improved inner character, confidence and kindness.”
And it’s not like Jessica and Ian have to drag their kids to karate – remember, this is a fun activity as well as beneficial. The instructors make sure their students are enjoying themselves while learning the different disciplines and moves.
“They all look forward to karate quite a bit,” Jessica says. “I really like how the teachers celebrate strengths and help the students recognize the very best in themselves. They simultaneously identify our weaknesses. And they don’t do this in a judgmental way. They inspire people to improve. The physical activity of karate is a tool that unlocks physical potential, but more so raises inner qualities to new highs.”
Jessica, who is a black belt, says that Keith Hafner’s Karate gives his students the tools they need “to fill our own cup, so to speak.”
“Many of us, especially girls and women, look for outside validation,” she says. “Training at Keith Hafner’s Karate has helped us all find more strength within, which in turn helps us give more to the people we care about and positively contribute to the broader community.”
Anne is proof that karate can help get people to the finish line – no matter where they are coming from or where they are heading. And her sister, Sarah, is having a tremendous freshman year at Pioneer – following in big sis’s footsteps in more ways than one.
“Because it was so good for Anne, it has been a requirement ever since,” Jessica says. “Kids start kindergarten and karate at the same time! We expect them to at least get a black belt. While I hoped they would be inspired to continue with two classes per week over the long run, we have supported them in new endeavors when they wanted to focus on middle school and high school activities. The best part is the Keith Hafner’s Karate teachers continue to care about and support them.”