Karate instructor trains students to be tough
Howard Moring traveled to Japan in October to become a fifth-degree black belt
Published: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 2:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 2:52 p.m.
Howard Moring, who teaches karate at the Wilhelmina Johnson Center to mostly middle school students, thought he would never be able to promote a student to black belt before they were 16 years old until he went to Okinawa, Japan, in October to be promoted to a Godan, which means he is a fifth-degree black belt, the highest level of karate.
While in Okinawa, he talked to instructors from Connecticut, New York, North Carolina and other states, and saw some of their students who were not as good as some of his students. He said he asked the instructors how they felt about promoting young people under 16 to black belt and they all told him they thought it was OK.
"Apparently, I was the only one who was not promoting kids, so when I thought about it long and hard, I said maybe I should," said Moring after one of his 60-minute training sessions. "I talked to a kid in Okinawa who was promoted to black belt and he didn't know a third of what my students know."
Upon his return from Okinawa, Moring, 55, promoted the following students to black belt: Ruthie Petit-Frere, an eighth-grader at The Rock, and Breonah Samuel and Maya Strickland, both eighth-graders at Howard Bishop Middle School.
He also promoted brothers Charles Jones, an eighth-grader at Lincoln Middle School, and Chad Jones, a seventh-grader at Lincoln, to brown belt. Brandon Wilson, a fifth-grader at Metcalfe Elementary School, was promoted to green belt. Class is held from 5-6 p.m. on Wednesdays at the center at 321 NW 10th St.
Moring said he began teaching karate at the center seven years ago after Nkwanda Jah, executive director of the Cultural Arts Coalition, which is housed at the center, suggested it might be a good idea.
Jah said Moring is a great asset to the community who is unselfish with his time and committed to what he is doing.
"Howard has never missed a beat since he started training students here. He has been consistent since the beginning," Jah said. "He was a part of our Gentlemen of Distinction After School Program about 10 years ago and taught karate to the boys in that program, and after they got older and left the program, he continued to have the program here. I think it is a great program."
Moring is married to Tracy Moring, and the couple have four children. The 1975 graduate of Santa Fe High School said he began his career in the martial arts soon after graduating from high school. He trained with a friend before training in Gainesville with Donnie Law, a former Gainesville police officer.
He said he doesn't compete in tournaments anymore, but used to love doing it in past years.
"My tournament days are over, so I just enjoy training and teaching," he said.
Moring teaches the class for free and is disappointed that more children are not in the class. He said there is a lot of emphasis placed on playing basketball and football because some parents want to relive their lives through their children.
"It bothers me that a lot of people don't take advantage of this, because I am right here in the neighborhood," he said.
Moring, a manager at the North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center, said he could charge a lot of money, but he doesn't because it is not about the money. He said there are very few people who teach traditional martial arts, which is what he teaches.
He said his classes are very tough, a fact he makes known to parents when they bring their children to him. He said he trains his students tough because if they ever encounter violent situations they are not able to walk away from — which they are taught to do — they will be able to defend themselves.
"I throw them on the ground, put them in choke holds and all that kind of stuff, and they love it," said Moring, adding that sparring in his class is done with bare knuckles.
Most of his students have been training with him for five to seven years and he said he tells them to "really put it to me when we are sparring because on the streets, people are not so nice."
Moring said most of the students come to his class reluctantly at first, but fall in love with the class eventually. He said Maya came to the class "kicking and screaming" at first, but has developed into one of his better students.
"I enjoy it a whole bunch and I think it is because I got to learn some protective and defensive-type techniques," Maya said. "This is something I like doing after school, and when I got my black belt, I was like, ‘What!,' because he normally gives you a black stripe to put on your brown belt, and I was a brown belt, but when he reached in his bag and pulled out a black belt, I was speechless."
For more information, call the center at 352-372-0216.