These kids are kicking cancer literally!
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The young people who learn martial arts at a studio north of Detroit are not considered students.
Their instructors use a different word.
That's because the techniques these children learn will be used not to take on an opponent from a rival studio. Instead, they will be used against the deadly diseases that ravage their young bodies. Their lives are threatened.
The program in Southfield, Michigan, is called Kids Kicking Cancer. It helps sick kids learn to use martial arts-style breathing and relaxation techniques. It helps them to manage stress, anxiety and pain. Those issues stem from their illnesses and medical treatments.
It was founded by Elimelech Goldberg. He is a Jewish rabbi and a first-degree black belt in the art of Choi Kwang Do. Goldberg is known to the children as "Rabbi G." He was motivated to start Kids Kicking Cancer by the memory of his daughter, Sara. She was diagnosed with leukemia just before her first birthday. She succumbed to the disease a little more than a year later.
"My daughter, at 2 years old, contributed so much to this planet, because she brought in this light. And now that's the light that I'm privileged to help spread to the rest of the world," Goldberg said. He spoke before he led a class of 16 preteens and teenagers. Each suffers from cancer, sickle cell anemia and other ailments.
One child in the class of "little heroes," as Goldberg calls them, is Jayson Harris. He is a 9-year-old from Detroit. His cancer is in remission.
"Being in class is like a second family to me," Jayson said shortly before taking his spot on the mat. Then he drove his fist into a striking pad held by instructor Michael Hunt.
The training also is designed to teach the kids to take control of their situations. Or as Goldberg says, to teach them to be victors instead of victims.
Hunt, 27, was the latter when he joined Goldberg's first class in 1999. He had already undergone a year of chemotherapy to treat a cancer of the muscles known as rhabdomyosarcoma. He also had four ribs and a tumor removed from his side. Hunt later had two steel rods surgically implanted on either side of his spine.
Being a part of Kids Kicking Cancer allowed him to cut down on the medications he had been taking to manage the pain. As a trainer, he is an ever-present reminder to enrollees that the program can help.
"I'll tell them my story, and they're like, 'Oh, OK. Now, I know I can do it,'" Hunt said.
Critical thinking challenge: Which experiences made Michael Hunt both a victim and victor?