Local karate kid packs a kick and the belts to prove it

February 20, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

As his father held a 1-inch-thick board, the child grunted, "Huh, huh," and lifted his foot, aiming it sideways at the board.

With one swift kick, the slight 7-year-old split the board in two.

Zachary E. "Zak" Reeser added the split wood to a stack he keeps in his room.

"He saves them all," said Ron Reeser, his father. "Board-breaking helps kids build confidence."

The broken pieces are "badges of honor" to the young karate red belt, recently named 1993 Student of the Year at the International Karate Academy in Eldersburg.

"How many belts do I have?" he asked himself as he counted off colors. "I lose track."

He raced to his room to retrieve a stack of cloth belts, a testimonial to his prowess in tae kwon do.

"My granddad made me a board to hang the belts on," he said.

He beamed proudly as he spread six belts across the room. Each one is decorated with three stripes marking the steps toward the next degree of expertise.

As a novice, Zak started nearly three years ago with a white belt.

"I kept asking my mom if I could take karate," he said. "When I did, I liked it right away."

Denise Reeser said she enrolled her son in the course "for self-discipline, confidence and physical exercise."

"It comes to him really easy," she said. "He took to it right away. We never have to coax him."

Zak has now progressed through seven levels of achievement to thered belt. The 49-pound child, slightly over 4 feet tall, works out with others of the same rank.

"The class ranges in age from Zak's age to adults," Mr. Reeser said.

Zak recently added another honor to a shelf full of trophies and awards, when the academy chose him from among its 300 students.

"Zak has dedicated himself 100 percent in each class," said instructor Bon Huor. "He is consistent and shows improvement with each workout."

Zak said about each new move he learns in two hours of class a week: "It is hard, but, once you get the hang of it, you know how to do it."

Zak can get a good workout right in his own Eldersburg living room, often with his father coaching from the sidelines.

"Dad can do a couple things but I know more karate stuff than him," said Zak.

"He doesn't get hurt, just sweaty," said his 5-year-old sister, Dana, who recently joined her brother at the karate academy.

"I want to be like my brother," she said. "We practice."

The more-practiced Zak corrected his sister.

"Dana and I play, but we don't spar," he said. "Master Bon told us not to do karate on our family."

But he will gladly show off. Dressed in his blue and green uniform, he shakes his bare feet and prepares to exercise.

In an instant, he is whirling around the living room. With a series of sharp, crisp moves, he is walking on his hands, then tumbling.

His two younger sisters often roll themselves into balls as Zak leaps over them. He kicks and punches the air to show the different moves of the sport he has mastered.

"They have a stretching machine at the school, but Zachary doesn't need it," said his father. "He is that flexible."

Ms. Reeser said the academy places family and school before karate. Students cannot test for the next belt unless they maintain good grades in school.

Zak, a second-grader at Eldersburg Elementary, sees karate well into his future. He is working toward a brown belt and hopes to be wearing the black belt by the time he is 9.

"I would like to be a karate instructor," Zak said. "Learning is fun to do, but it would be funner to teach a class."

He is a member of the academy's "demo team," which performs at different events in the community. He helped make a television commercial for the karate school.

"I want to learn to take care of myself and work through different degrees of black belt," he said.

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