Karate camp brings adventures, exercise and life-skill building - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Karate camp brings adventures, exercise and life-skill building

June 6th, 2017 development
Karate camp brings adventures, exercise and life-skill building

By Jimmy Magahern


Mike Erickson’s karate camp is about more than taekwondo and jiu-jitsu. Every week, there’s a field trip to a top East Valley kids’ destination — and parents get to judo-chop the cost.

At this time of year, Erickson’s karate school is really a kind of magic portal.

Kids walk into the unassuming America’s Best Karate studio, nestled between a row of stores in the Fry’s Food strip mall on the corner of Alma School and Germann roads in Chandler, and are transported to a genuine equestrian hunter/jumper barn in Queen Creek, where they joust with pool noodles on horses trained to jump over obstacles, just like they do in the Olympics.

The next week, they walk into the studio, cleverly disguised with bright red, blue and black karate mats, and are beamed to Amazing Jake’s Food & Fun in Mesa, where they get to ride the Monaco Grand Prix cars, face off with friends in Space Invaders Laser Tag and play all the latest video games. Another week, they reappear playing dodge ball on trampolines at JumpStreet in Chandler; next, they’re barreling down the water slides at Chandler’s Hamilton Aquatic Center. The following week, they find themselves playing Cosmic Bowling at Brunswick Zone in Gilbert; then, slamming into each other in the 360-degree spinning Crash Pods at FlipSide in Gilbert.

The last week of summer, they travel underwater to Sea Life Arizona aquarium at Arizona Mills, where they’re soon watching Atlantic stingrays glide along the sea bed at Stingray Bay, exploring elaborate fish cities in the coral reef and dodging barred flagtails swimming around them in the shoaling ring. Every week, they get transported to Peter Piper Pizza with unlimited tokens, and most weeks they wind up at Harkins Theatres watching a first-run movie (on tap for this summer: “Spider-Man – Homecoming” and “The Emoji Movie”).

Parents get transported, too — back to a bygone era when sending the kids to summer camp didn’t require taking out a second mortgage. Erickson’s Summer Camp AZ (summercampaz.com), runs out of his karate studio through August 4, with a cost of only $169 a week — $149 if you sign the kids up for more than four weeks (do that and he’ll even waive the $49 registration fee).

Sure, there’s a little karate instruction involved. Erickson, after all, is a 4th degree black belt who’s been teaching martial arts for more than 34 years. Just three years ago, he won the grand championship in West Coast fighting at the NASKA Black Belt World Fighting Championships and he has won local black belt championships as recently as 2014 and 2015. Heck, Erickson’s so tough, Chuck Norris hired him to provide security during his 1992 Sidekicks tour. (No meme-ing: There’s a photo in the studio of the two of them together to prove it!)

“We do two hours of exercise a day, and one hour of that is karate,” Erickson said.

But the master’s staff, whom he calls “highly motivated, qualified teachers,” emphasize the side benefits of karate training — from friendship building to goal setting to self-discipline — that reach beyond just learning self-defense.

“Our biggest focus is character development,” Erickson said. “We teach discipline. We foster self-esteem, to smile from within and project confidence to others. Kids are rewarded in front of their peers for making positive choices in all parts of their lives: helping at home, getting good grades at school, and doing well here.”

Because Erickson keeps his classes relatively small, he’s able to focus on each family and learn what their individual values are — his classes tend to include a diverse mix of children. He spends time with each family to learn what their particular goals are for their kids, whether it’s to help a child dealing with severe ADD learn to focus, to give a kid confidence to stand up to school bullies or just to help a quiet kid awaken her potential.

“For working parents today, they appreciate the fact that we’re working with them to give their kids the tools to be successful in life,” Erickson says. “We reinforce the values that parents teach at home.”

Register quickly: Summer Camp AZ is already underway. Go to summercampaz.com or call 480-217-0652. America’s Best Karate studio is located at 2040 S Alma School Road, #18.  


(Photos by Mike Erickson)
Jenna Weisman and Adele Lyman spar during Summer Camp at America’s Best Karate studio in Chandler.