How did you get involved with KHK?
I’ve known Lexi for a long time through karate, and my mom and her mom have been friends. KHK works closely with The Dojo through various events, such as being a location for selling pumpkin breads during the Pumpkin Bread Sale. I decided to be an ambassador for The Dojo and to coordinate events where The Dojo and Kids Helping Kids work together.
What inspired you to begin the Sports Day event?
I’m a karate teacher at The Dojo in Stamford, so I get to work with kids all the time and teach them the skills I’ve learned in order to stay safe. While these interactions are meaningful, the kids at The Dojo typically come from families that encourage a healthy and active lifestyle. Working at the Boys and Girls Club was an opportunity for me to share the valuable lessons I’ve learned from the martial arts with children who don’t have the opportunity or the means to take classes at The Dojo.
Explain your experience as the lead ambassador the Sports Day event:
The Sports Day event was split into two major parts: typical gym-class activities and the karate lessons. I was in charge of the second part. I was lucky enough to have some other senior karate students volunteer to help me out, so between the five of us we were able to put on a mini-performance, and some of the kids got the chance to break a board. From there, we talked to the kids about the meaning of the martial arts.
I think this was, perhaps, the most valuable part of the experience. The martial arts are often perceived as violent and aggressive, when they really foster the opposite traits in participants. I talked to the children about using their karate only as a form of self-protection, and explained that a good martial artist exhibits exceptional mental strength, rather than physical.
From there, we ran the kids through exercises, basic stances, and taught them a beginner wrist-grab move. The response was overwhelmingly positive— most children were eager to join in, and those that were initially tentative quickly learned that the martial arts aren’t about impressing other people. Rather, they’re about self-improvement. The beauty of martial arts is that no kid is ever “not good enough” and no kid ever has to “sit out on the bench.” Everyone has their own skills, and everyone can work harder to surpass the expectations they set for themselves.
What have you learned from working with KHK?
I’ve learned that one person can make change. I incorporated karate into the Sports Day activities on a whim, expecting the reception to be not nearly as enthusiastic as it was. The kids that day were truly excited to participate, not just joining in because it’s something to do or they’re being told they have to. KHK has taught me that I don’t have to offer money or material objects to people to make a difference— often, the things that are important to me are important to other people as well. If I can effectively share these things, then I can make a difference.
Has KHK inspired you? How?
KHK has inspired me to initiate change in the community around me. I’ve done volunteer work in other ways and other locations— for instance, two years ago I went to Africa to provide medical treatment to orphans. While this experience was incredible, KHK has showed me that you don’t need to travel to remote locations to make a difference. Sometimes, the people that you can help the most are the ones right outside your door.
What advice would you give to kids thinking of getting involved with KHK?
Try it! Get involved in projects that spark your interest. Each year, there are a variety of different opportunities to be involved in, and the beauty of KHK is that each project is inspired by a passion that one of the members has. A lot of the projects have widespread appeal and interests can overlap. KHK is a great platform for the youth to make a difference in their community in a way that is exciting for them. Only good things can come from joining the organization.
KHK Adult Facilitator Allison Benzaken