SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - A South Mississippi youth Martial Arts team is heading to the United States Karate Alliance World Championship competition. The team is the product of the only fully volunteer martial arts school on the Coast.
Kevin Chu may be small, but don't let his size fool you.
"I am a black belt, and I got there with hard work," Kevin said.
Chu has been a student at the Combat Academy School of Martial Arts for six years.
"I joined the class to learn how to defend myself, because kids sometimes can be a little mean," said Kevin.
Kevin and the rest of these young people have been able to do just that for free. Grand Master Rick Barber helps run the school.
"Yes, we don't charge for classes here. We have local people that come and volunteer. Myself, some doctors, police officers, we all volunteer our time here twice a week. It is a ministry. We want to do as much as we can to keep kids off the streets. We have classes from Bay St. Louis all the way to Moss Point," Barber said.
Along with increasing their speed, stamina and strength, the school also teaches kids self esteem, good sportsmanship and much more.
"It has taught me to keep cool and focus," a student said.
"I learned that it doesn't really matter if you win or lose, it is just the way you do it and to do your best," Kevin said.
Doing their best has helped the students advance to the United States Karate Alliance World Championships in New Orleans this week. They couldn't be more excited.
"I am really hoping that I win," a student said.
Barber agrees and said just being part of the competition is a big honor.
"The last time we were there, we were one of the most winning teams there. So we automatically had a seat there," Barber said.
Barber is hopeful the kids' hard work will help them bring home a victory.
"We are going to represent the State of Mississippi, like we always do. It is a personal goal and personal achievement for the kids and the school," said Barber.
The instructors also teach at local Boys & Girls Clubs across the Gulf Coast.