WLAA Spotlight: Families getting their kicks – and positive returns – at Keith Hafner’s Karate (Part 2)

Chris and Melissa Heike’s son, Griffin, started at Keith Hafner’s Karate before his fifth birthday so the Dexter couple had a few reservations about him starting martial arts at such a young age.

“Our reservations were around his ability to focus in class and physically keep up with other students,” says Melissa. “Thankfully, the KHK staff is very engaging and made sure to keep him focused in class and the content catered to his capabilities.”

Many parents first walk through the doors at Keith Hafner’s Karate in Ann Arbor holding hands with their young kids but holding a few reservations or concerns about what the program is all about. But Ann Arbor is a small town and news, especially positive news, travels fast.

“We heard about it through family friends whose son had been in the program for many years,” says Melissa. “We thought it was good for discipline, attention and overall mental health and physical wellness. Much of this was affirmed, but in addition to those preconceived notions, we also found other benefits such as increased confidence and presentation skills.”

Griffin, now 9 years old and already a Black Belt, attends class with younger sister Elizabeth, who is 4 – the same age he was when he first joined. Elizabeth is a purple belt and “likes the fact that while she is usually the youngest and smallest in the class, she still has the opportunity to be a leader as she moves up the ranks.”

It’s been a great fit for the Heike children.

“We are seeing increased confidence, exceptional balance and higher levels of focus than you would expect a 9 or 4 year old to be capable of,” says Melissa. “This has carried over into other areas of their lives, such as school and other programs and sports.”

Melissa says she appreciates how attentive, caring and patient the instructors are at Keith Hafner’s Karate.

“The staff has been very good at understanding the children’s limits while making sure to push them outside their comfort zone and challenge them to learn,” she says. “Additionally, we like how the program forces the kids to work with classmates who are both lower and higher levels. This allows opportunities for them to teach/mentor while also giving them positive role models to look up to.”

Love & Support

Howard and Angela Felice of Ann Arbor first heard about Keith Hafner’s Karate while out shopping one day.

“We first heard about Keith Hafner’s Karate one day while walking through the mall,” says Angela. “Kaiden looked interested in it so we took the information and did a little research. We talked to his teachers at St. Francis of Assisi School who had heard about Keith and recommended it for kids going through focusing issues.”

Angela finds it challenging to put into words everything that her son, Kaiden, has experienced through the love and support of Keith Hafner’s Karate. She says her brother-in-law had taken karate while at a young age and “the grand master was less than a perfect individual and there was a lot of physical contact.”

“My opinion changed based on my first experience with Keith and his instructors,” she says. “They were patient and kind and generally interested in each and every student in the program.

“Our initial reservations were mainly could they keep the attention span of a 6-year-old.  At first, Kaiden was a real challenge to the instructors. He caught on fast enough, but had issues with playing around during class with the other kids. What we appreciated was the fact that there was never any yelling or judgment. The entire staff was interested in what each child had gone through or was going through.”

Kaiden, now 8 years old, says “yes sir” and “yes Mama.” He holds doors open for others and is able to stand still while learning. “One of the biggest positive things we have seen in Kaiden is his ability to help others,” says Angela. “He is a teacher to the young and a student to the older kids.”

Angela says that Kaiden likes that he continues to learn new forms with new moves as he gets higher belts. He very much looks forward to going to karate classes and learning new moves and getting better at the moves he has learned already.

“He likes how the staff and others help him when he is having problems at karate and also with things that happen at school or anywhere,” Angela says. “Kaiden really likes sparing and belt promotion when you can show off. He also likes playing chess with Grand Master.”

Angela says the sense of community and the way the program is designed where the older and more experienced kids give back by helping the younger students is one of the most impressive aspects of Keith Hafner’s Karate.

“We are most impressed with the teaching staff and the older black belts wanting to teach the younger and lower belt students,” she says. “The older kids hold themselves and everyone else accountable for all actions. They use respect and dignity.”