Little NInja learn martial arts |

Little NInja learn martial arts

by Trent Carruthers

Better not mess around with these little kids. They might be small, but they sure are tough.

More than 20 boys and girls ages 4 to 6, wearing fancy white martial art uniforms, practiced their kicks and punches recently at Northwest Martial Arts in Gardnerville.

The excitable young martial artists take part in Northwest Martial Arts’ Little Ninja Program. The program’s detailed curriculum focuses on improving preschool-aged children’s motor and listening skills while teaching them the basics of martial arts.

The Little Ninja’s meet at the gym every Tuesday and Thursday at 4 p.m. for 30 minutes under the watchful eye of their instructors Penny Rubsam and Allen Gumm. After a few minutes of stretching, the students turn and bow in unison toward their black belt instructors, a gesture of respect they have learned at a young age.

Then the real fun begins for the youngsters who can advance through the ranks from white belt to ninja-white and, ultimately, camouflage. It takes nine weeks to advance to a higher belt.

“The ages from 4 to 6 are the most important years of a child’s development,” said Rubsam, who was trained for nearly seven years under the gym’s head instructor Master Nyles Rothfusz. “Our Ninja Program enhances a positive development in a fun and motivating way.”

Rubsam said the program also prepares each child for the gym’s Children’s Martial Arts Program for ages 7-12. One is exposed to positive social interaction and learns how to work with others and follow directions from instructors. The program’s motto is “Little Ninjas today, leaders tomorrow.”

“I’m here to nurture future leaders and good citizens who will someday give back to the community,” she said. “Sometimes youths can flounder with uncertainty. Martial arts promotes strength, discipline and respect for these kids. They can benefit from it at any age. We praise the children constantly and place a major emphasis on effort rather than outcome.”

There is no contact in the Little Ninja Program. Students forcefully strike pads and balloons and swing harmless two-foot-long foam noodles toward classmates. The mental, physical and coordination required and developed in the program will eventually help them in other sports.

“I love to hear them say ‘this is fun,'” Rubsam said. “It gives me a real sense of self accomplishment to know that I can make a difference in the life of these young ones. I want to set a good base for them.”

The students begin each session with five minutes of stretching followed by mimicking animal movements. Then they work on punching and kicking techniques. Midway through the high-energy, upbeat sessions, Rubsam brings the participants’ parents into the workout area to exchange light taps on the shoulder with the foam noodles. It is all part of Rubsam and Gumm’s effort to keep the class fun and moving along for students who don’t have long attention spans.

The curriculum consists of developing skills necessary for participation in any sport or activity as well as eight personal development skills used to reinforce family values.

Rubsam said by the completion of the program, a child will become focused and motivated to achieve any goal he or she sets in life. The benefits derived from participating in the program include building teamwork, focus, control, balance, discipline, fitness and coordination.

Rubsam said the children are taught to use their martial arts skills for protection as a last resort. They learn “stranger danger,” teaching them if a stranger comes too close then they should back off.

“Little Ninjas give them life skills and enhances their ability to properly deal with situations at home, school or in public,” Rubsam said.

For information about the Little Ninja program, call Northwest Martial Arts at 782-8858.