Kurt Frankenberg recalls that the first karate class he ever attended was intimidating. The kids were all lined up, facing the door, wearing uniforms. They seemed to know what they were doing. The 7-year-old grabbed his mother's leg and cried.
"So my mom went and bought me an outfit, and I got a friend to go with me, and I figured if we were going to look stupid, we'd look stupid together," said Frankenberg, who, at 32, has obtained black belts in Chinese kempo karate and jujitsu. In 1993 he began to experiment with several other forms of martial arts. Soon afterward, he founded the Freedom School of Martial Arts, naming it in honor of the freedom to pursue and experiment with different styles. For the past six years, The Freedom School has held a Spar-a-Thon, a fundraiser to benefit Colorado Springs children from families who cannot afford full-time tuition for such activities as dance, gymnastics or martial arts.
How many different styles of the martial arts are there? Many. Many. Martial arts' roots can be traced back to A.D. 525. Personally, I've experimented with Filipino martial arts, African martial arts, Indonesian martial arts, Brazilian martial arts and even Old Testament biblical martial arts. The thinking is that you really can't master anything but one style, and I believe that's true. But there are, I think, six main elements that all martial arts share.
What are those? Balance, yours and your opponents; conditioning, not just body but also mind; footwork, mobility is just as important as stability; believing, having an attitude or look that says "this is what I am going to do"; strategy, like what you are aiming for; and offensive tactics.
How does the Spar-a-Thon work? The kids do go around the neighborhood and get pledges. They'll spar for five rounds, so they get people to pledge 50 cents or $1 or $2 a round. They rack up the pledges and then come and spar. It's a competition setting, which is great, because not everyone can afford to do competitions on top of investing in lessons. So this serves as an event where people can compete [as well as raise money]. We also have a scholarship board at the school for that reason. I won't allow anyone, especially a kid, who has a sincere desire to train, to not train because of financial reasons.
What can children gain from participating in martial arts? Oh, a lot of things. But mainly confidence and self-respect. And knowing that someone believes in them.
How realistic were the Karate Kid movies? I really loved those movies. I just loved them. Even the third one, which was really cheesy. I loved the principle and the work ethic, and I loved the whole picture that they painted -- humility and respect. It wasn't that accurate as far as the striking though.
What is the craziest thing in karate you've ever done? When I was younger, somebody dared me to break some bricks with my head. I did, and I got a concussion. I know better these days.