Kendo class starts at West Center; gear to be provided

       Kendo, a modernized version of ancient Samurai sword-fighting techniques, is coming to the West Intergenerational Center.
       The first set of eight one-hour beginning classes will start Saturday, June 10 from 10 to 11 a.m. inside the West Middle School gym. The access is through the West Center at 25 N. 20th St.
       The weekly class is open to ages 13 to adult. The introductory cost is $25 for six sessions; if students continue after that, the price will be $35 every month. The equipment, including the bamboo sparring sticks and protective armor, is provided.
       E.D. Rucker said he hopes the class will have the same appeal as the fencing class that he helped bring in several years ago, which has proved to be one of the center's most popular classes. Like fencing, kendo revolves around the use of a weapon, but ties its use to standards of honor and discipline.
       Major funding for the class comes from part of a three-year, $2.5 million U.S. Department of Labor grant aimed at helping rehabilitate young people who have gotten in trouble with the law. The grant program is called the Right Track Project, with administration being handled by Workout Ltd, a 30-year-old non-profit organization that provides community service opportunities for juvenile offenders in the Fourth Judicial District. Workout Ltd. is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aspen Diversified Industries (ADI) and an affiliate of the Pikes Peak Behavioral Health Group.
       Between 15 and 25 such teens are expected to pass the necessary eligibility criteria for the class, which will be offered in conjunction with other rehabilitation training, according to Brian Coram, a vocational counselor with ADI.
       “Martial arts is a good way for young people to learn about discipline, respect and life skills,” he said, when asked about the class being part of the Right Track Project scope. He does not know of instances in which kendo has been been used to help with rehabilitation elsewhere, but he has seen first-hand how the sport can help youth who are seeking direction or purpose in life. Although the immediate allure might be the chance to “whack other people with swords,“ as he put it, the class on the whole “is not fun and games. It's a lot of hard work.”
       The teacher (sensei) for the class will be Carl West, a lawyer and former District Court prosecutor who has practiced kendo for 23 years, teaching for the last 12. His interest in kendo stems from his Japanese heritage - his mother having been from that nation. For him, the essence of the class is not necessarily becoming skillful with the sticks, but learning the “concepts of etiquette which transcend the martial arts,” West said. “The way you conduct yourself in class is the way you should conduct yourself in the world. If you come in with an attitude, we're going to change that.”
       For more information, call the West Center at 385-7920.

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