b"Etash Betzer participates in an online class given by Blue Life Karate's Shihan Durand Howard.Zoom and theArt of Online KarateShihan Durand Howard earns a new belt for distance learningBY DONNY LEVITO nalateweekdayafter- hisdojoonSpringfieldAvenueinMaplewood.MaplewoodcoupleTheaKearneyandPeter noon in May, 6-year-oldWhile he hasnt seen his students since the arrival ofSampson have been studying at BLK for seven years. Aila Harris grabs onto herthe pandemic, Howard has broken his classes downTheir son Keir, 11, also trains at the dojo. Ellery, momsarmandeffort- into small groups so he can engage with them on atheir 14-year-old son, has trained there in the past. lessly tosses her onto thepersonal level. Howards work hours have greatly in- The Sampson family is a Blue Life familywhich is living room couch. Mindcreased, including weekly one-on-one Zoom meet- strikingly common for Senseis class enrollment.you, this isnt a domesticings he offers to every student. Martial arts are all about practicing, says Samp-squabbleoverhomeworkorspendingtoomuchEvery once in a while, I get to wave at a studentson. Quite literally, use it or lose it. Keir does the time in front of the TV. The Maplewood residentwho passes by the front door on a bike ride or walkvirtual classes and I have done two myself. [.]The and green belt is in the midst of a distance learn- in the neighborhood, says Howard, who is simplyclasses are shorter but more focused on form and ing class at Blue Life Karate & Kickboxing Centers.referred to as Sensei by the Blue Life community.agility, perhaps two things that get pushed back in And her mom, Tisra DeWitt, crashes down onto theYou have to make this work. Blue Life Karate can- a physical class. It also seems to be beneficial for the couch with aplomb. not close down. students. They get to see each other for a start.On the other end of the Zoom call, Shihan Du- WhilethepandemichasforcedalmosteverySensei got an early start studying the craft of ka-rand Howard is commending Aila for her emphaticbusiness to innovate, Howard has been developingrate. His biography speaks to the rich history of mar-move while practicing a karate evasion technique.ways to re-invent the study of martial arts since hetial arts in Essex County. I was bullied a lot and I The class of five students takes turns throwing theiropened Blue Life Karate (BLK) in 1992. Since then,was nervous around other kids, says Howard, who parents or older siblings onto living room and base- hes grown his dojo into a school that teaches tod- grew up in East Orange. By first grade, his uncle was ment floors while Howard guides his students fromdlers, retirees, and everyone in between.teaching him karate at home while his father lent his 16/ matters magazine / summer 2020"