Do not let the angelic, gentle faces deceive you. From six years old to well into their teens, some local, fast-punching, high-kicking children are focused on learning karate moves and earning the next level of belt or degree.

Under the watchful eyes of the judges, you can feel the intensity of students’ actions and you can see the focus in their eyes whether moving as a large group, small group, individually or while sparring by twos.

While some of the students at Sherman Shotokan Karate-Do have studied for several months and others have studied for 8 years or more, all of the students are building confidence and character.

The discipline of karate encourages self-control, respect, following rules. Sherman Shotokan Karate-Dō‘s Dojo rules say, students are encouraged to “practice Shotokan as an Art first, as a sport, and as self-defense only if there’s no way out.” Sensei Debra Williamson believes this theology is important when she teaches her students.

Landry Pierce, who just received his third-degree brown belt, said, “I love karate, and it is never boring.”

Other students who recently took a belt or strip-degree test advancement include second-degree brown belt True Shaw, second-degree green belt Ernie Shaw, second-degree green belt Anna Shaw, black belt Dan Wahrenbrock, orange belt Tyson Blackshear, yellow belt Julian Hernandez and yellow belt Aralyn Hernandez.

Adults sign up for karate also. Karate is a perfect challenge for a goal-oriented adult looking to bring more peace and harmony into his or her life through the mind/body connection. With appropriate effort, an adult can expect to achieve black belt status at Sherman Shotokan Karate-Do in four years.

One student was surprised and thrilled to receive a yellow belt and an orange belt recently on the same test day. After working diligently for four months, 11-year-old, Tyson Blackshear was richly rewarded for his efforts.

Tyson’s grandmother, Wilma Bush, said, “It is interesting when he walks into class. He becomes a different child. It (karate) has helped him focus. It has taught him respect for himself and others. It has given him something to work for and he has worked very hard.”

Bush said karate has really motivated Tyson to improve in all areas both at school and at home.

“Deb/Sensei doesn’t give them anything,” Bush said. “They have to earn it. Using karate as a life skill shows students how to apply that energy to other areas. When you work hard you can accomplish your goals. Camaraderie with new students and learning to help each other is valuable. Deb is so encouraging and patient — always positive.”

Debra Williamson has 31 years of experience in Martial Arts and teaches karate at Sherman Shotokan Karate-Do.