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Updated: Jun 25, 2021

"Martial arts help kids avoid fighting" by Desonta Holder

Look past the high-flying kicks, lightning-fast punches and submission holds; past the push-ups, squats and crunches. You won't see any battered egos or brazen brutes. You will see self-confidence, perseverance and self-control.

Kung Fu Connection in North Miami, which specializes in troubled children; have been empowering children for more than 30 years.

Their nominal purpose is teaching self-defense, but they also show children how to avoid confrontation, concentrate and stay focused. For one student, the benefit is straight A's on his report card. For another, it's knowing he doesn't have to fight in school and risk being expelled.

And lately, the schools have seen nearly as many adults as children sign up. While some instructors attribute this trend to movies like Rush Hour, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, others think more adults are simply seeking self-confidence and a sense of awareness.

Master Rubio, owner at Kung Fu Connection, was very shy and lacked self-confidence as a child.

"I was getting pushed around and beat up a lot," he said, "When I started martial arts, I developed and projected a certain air of confidence. That made all the difference in the world. I was never a target anymore."

That same air of confidence can be seen in his students.

Many parents bring their children to Kung Fu Connection to calm the wildness, said Alice Billman, Rubio's wife and partner. "You want your child to be assertive, but not necessarily aggressive," she said. It's a fine line and takes expert instructors to teach it.

Three of Rubio's students, Chase Bryan, 11; Billman's daughter, Blaze Gonzalez, 12; and Joshua Eason, 12, signed up for classes after watching other students throw jabs and kicks, then walk away unharmed—and sometimes untouched.

"It just amazed me how some people were able to block hits," said Chase, a sixth-grader at Phyllis Ruth Miller School in Miami. "Kids at school used to try to hit me. Now I know how to move out of the way and block them, so I don't have to fight back.

Girl Power + Boy Power = Empowerment

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