'Karate Kids' of Falls City

FALLS CITY -- In one after-school class in Falls City, kicking is OK.



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Instructor Brandon Pelky (in orange) leads his third-grade-and-older class through a kicking drill with the help of assistant Brandon Johnston (far back).

FALLS CITY -- In one after-school class in Falls City, kicking is OK.

Falls City School District's Family Academic Clubs and Enrichment for Success (FACES) program began offering a martial arts class this year in which instructor Brandon Pelky teaches self-defense tactics to students in kindergarten through middle school.

Kicking, punching and other defense moves are a large part of the class, but only with proper technique and performed under Pelky's watchful eye.

Pelky went over proper kicking form with the second of his two classes on Wednesday, Jan. 26, during the first week of FACES' third quarter.

"Go!" Pelky yells to his students, all of them poised in a fighting stance one foot behind the other, knees slightly bent and fists up near their faces.

"One!" the students yell back as they throw a kick.

"Go!" Pelky yells again.

"Two!"

"Go!"

"Three!"

The cadence stops when Pelky has his students go on to their next move. Pelky keeps the pace fast and the mood light during class. He wants his students to have a good time.

"That's the best learning, when they are having so much fun they don't even realize they are learning," he said.

Pelky, 30, a Dallas resident, is a mixed martial arts trainer and competitor. While the classes are called "karate," Pelky is actually teaching a combination of several techniques from a number of disciplines he has studied, from jiu-jitsu to kickboxing.

In Falls City, though, Pelky is not preparing youngsters for the competition ring, but to defend themselves, and at the same time teaching valuable lessons in respecting others and building confidence.

"We don't let them say they can't," Pelky said. "I always tell these guys they can take this with them. It shows them the fruit of their work."

The classes are divided into two groups: one for kindergarten through second-graders and another for students in third grade and older.

Pelky's K-2 class has 11 students ranging in age from 5 to 7. That's plenty of energy for Pelky to corral, but he is up to the task.

Pelky has a knack for relating to his students and a teaching style that commands their attention -- most of the time. His class is never derailed for long, as Pelky stresses the need for his students to be respectful to him and their classmates.

FACES director Amy Houghtaling said that discipline is beginning to translate to other classes.

"It's amazing," said Houghtaling. "It's helping the kids build self-confidence and self-control."

Houghtaling said the class, which began during FACES second quarter in November, has allowed the program to offer an active class in an indoor setting during the winter months.

"It's been a lifesaver for the program," she said.

Sixth-grader Luke Cornelison is taking the class for a second time, even though he learned many of the same moves last quarter.

"The practice really does help," he said. "We learned how to defend ourselves when we are sitting and lying down."

He added the classes are teaching valuable lessons about good behavior and staying safe.

"We would know how to defend ourselves," Luke said.

Houghtaling said Luke isn't the only student who is excited about the classes.

"I heard a lot of `That was awesome!' from the students last quarter, especially in the first few weeks," Houghtaling said.



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