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Martial Arts classes at the Youth Center teach self defense and valuable life skills

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Amber Kelly-Herard
  • 375th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
"I am somebody, I am important, I control my life." 

Underneath all the kicks and punches, these words are the core message of what Gentle Dragon Kung Fu brings to children at the Youth Center, as taught by Master Sgt. Jimmy Evans and Staff Sgt. Michael David. 

Sergeant Evans is with the 932nd Airlift Wing (Reserve) and Sergeant David is assigned to the 126th Air Refueling Wing (Guard). They spend every Wednesday and Friday from 5-6 p.m. teaching children ages 7-18 the art of Wing Chun Kung Fu. 

"Wing Chun is the only martial art developed by women," said Sergeant Evans, who has practiced this art for 27 years. "It's similar to Chinese boxing and is fought at a close range. The goal is for them to never have to fight, but if they have to at least they have confidence." 

At age 50, Sergeant Evans said he may not fight as well these days, but he can still teach. 

"I teach them to beat me ... and the more I teach, the more I learn. And, I enjoy teaching students (because) within six months to a year they get that epiphany moment and it just fits. That point is what I live for because their confidence goes from a 1 to a 10. I love it."
To keep his students sharp, Sergeant Evans takes them to other studios for training. He said he does that because after a certain amount of time, people learn each other's moves, but when they go to a different studio, it's like fighting an opponent for the first time. Students who can win there are "the real winners." 

He said that Helen Jacobson, the 9-year-old daughter of Lt. Cols. John and Carolyn Jacobson, is one of his students with a lot of potential. 

She said, "I've been here for four months and it's really cool. My favorite thing is sparring because it lets me test all the things that I've learned." 

In addition to learning self defense, Sergeant Evans also teaches valuable life skills.
"'Kung fu' means practitioner of good deeds, so I try to teach them about doing good things," he said. 

Throughout his teaching career, Sergeant Evans has had a few proud moments. One of them is when his son won a tournament in Springfield, Ill., and the other is when one of his students was asked to be a stuntman in Hollywood. 

Sergeant David, a student of Sergeant Evans who has won numerous competitions and has been teaching for three years, added that their course "teaches discipline. It's fun and it flows well." 

Kung Fu classes at the Youth Center are $25 a month for members or $60 for non-members. Sergeants Evans and David also teach adults at the James Gym.