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Cambria Heights sensei seeks to calm Boro youth

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For most of them, the martial arts lessons they learn at the Life of Tae Kwon Do on Linden Boulevard is their only extra-curricular activity.The center's sensei, Bruce Charles, 48, said he started the business last year because he saw the lack of respect and discipline in the neighborhood's youth."The kids are out of control now," said the diminutive Charles, a Haitian immigrant, citing the youngsters he has seen hanging around Linden at 11 p.m. on a school night. "Maybe they'll be less hyper" through learning Tae Kwon Do, he said."In the blink of an eye, (the children) can be affected by their peers," said Charles' associate, Willie Hardin. "Our goal here is to have a school that can be a positive force in the community and can teach the children an attitude of success throughout their lives. (Charles) works so hard in the dojo that he kicks himself when things are not going good."A graduate of Springfield Gardens High School, Charles studied the arts of Tae Kwon Do, Jujitsu and Kung Fu in Chinatown and has achieved the rank of second-degree black belt. He will be going for his third-degree in June. The seven students who participated in the classes Monday night range in age from 4 to 11 and all have seen a change in themselves through Tae Kwon Do that they could not get from school.Charlotte Thornton, the grandmother of 8-year-old Marcus Patterson, said she sought out a martial arts school because her grandson was easygoing and would get picked on at school.But ever since Marcus began to learn Tae Kwon Do, his life at school turned around."He walks taller and has more confidence in himself," Thornton said. "He's more sure of himself. And he listens more." Seven-year-old Alayna, the daughter of Ronica Dumas, has improved her schoolwork since training at the dojo."Her self-confidence is tremendous, especially after (she got) her (yellow) belt," Dumas said. Hardin's daughter Hope also benefits from the classes, which helped her to lose weight."Each time they achieve a belt, it gives them high esteem," Harden said.Deborah McFadden's son, Gabriel, is now more cooperative and respectful.But despite the success of the children, the dojo is in danger of being unable to continue to provide for them. There are no mats for the kids and no mirrors and some of the parents are unable to afford the $50-a-month tuition for three days a week of classes. The white walls are in need of a paint job and the only warmth comes from a small space heater in the rear of the facility."Without the community, we can't keep the dojo going," Hardin said.Charles said the dojo can be rented out for legitimate social gatherings when it is not in use but is still looking for more support to keep it afloat.Recent efforts were made by parents of the students to form a fund-raising committee to help out the dojo and to develop a program where students can receive partial and full tuition scholarships."We really appreciate any help we can get from the community," Hardin said. Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173

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