Karate Honor Guard transforms youth through mental focus

Published 10:02 am Saturday, May 27, 2023

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RESERVE — Pastor James E. Cosey Jr. doesn’t focus on the fighting aspect of karate. He sees martial arts as a tool to address mental health, school drop-out rates and incarceration problems that exist among today’s youth.

Cosey founded the Kingdom Knights Martial Arts Ministry to provide instructional classes for mental health, physical strength and self-defense. The Ministry’s TCAP division, short for Transforming Community Action Programs, wrapped up a Karate Honor Guard pilot program this week at East St. John Preparatory Academy in LaPlace.

Over the past seven months, a cohort of approximately 25 students have attended after-school sessions twice a week. The Karate Honor Guard students have grown tremendously during the school year with newfound mental focus and cognitive skills derived from martial arts techniques.

“If you learn how to manage your emotions, it teaches you not to react in a negative way,” Cosey said.

Cosey’s first exposure to karate was in the sixth grade when his sister, who was taking lessons, caught his wrist and flipped him while he was picking on her. He dislocated his right knee and vowed to get revenge on her, but those plans for vengeance dissipated once he learned what martial arts was all about. Grand Master Ferdinand Bigard introduced him to a world of tournaments, giving him an outlet to channel his anger and energy.

As Cosey got older, he began to research the positive impacts of karate on mental health, particularly in the areas of self-control, mental focus, self-confidence, problem-solving skills and anger management. His research gained national attention when he was featured on the Dr. Phil show, and he has continued to expand his martial arts instruction throughout the River Parishes and Greater New Orleans region.

“You’ve got the power,” Cosey reminded students this week as the Karate Honor Guard program wrapped up at East St. John Prep. “You’ve got the power of focus.”

East St. John Preparatory Principal Johnika Gayden-Gaines initially connected with Cosey on social media while searching for innovative enrichment programs to bring to the school.

“There is a need to present students with opportunities for social and emotional development, leadership and character. We know it requires more. We wanted to build unique extra-curricular and co-curricular programs that give students extraordinary experiences that they may not have ordinarily tapped into. Kids need a total quality experience. When kids love coming to school, that transfers into the classroom,” Gayden-Gaines said.

The TCAP Karate Honor Guard started with a parent interest meeting. Gayden-Gaines said parents packed the house with interest, and it was never about wanting their children to fight.

“It was, ‘I want my child to feel good about himself or herself. I want my child to improve in self-esteem. I want my child to maintain a positive mindset,’” Gayden-Gaines said.

She said it has been phenomenal to see how Cosey’s instruction has transformed this year’s cohort, which includes approximately 25 active members.

“This cohort is focused, driven, attentive and able to resolve issues harmoniously. They show a great deal of self-control. I have seen substantial growth in those areas compared to when they first started the program,” she said.

Justin Torres is among the students who have come out of their shells this year through the Karate Honor Guard program. He’s enjoyed learning hand and kick drills along with life lessons.

“I always thought about joining karate, and when they started having it at school, I had an opportunity,” he said. “We learned about how to control our emotions when we fight. We can’t spar because we don’t have the mat and the gear, but we can learn. I would like to continue this. I really enjoy the enthusiasm around it.”

East St. John Prep expects to welcome a new cohort for the TCAP Karate Honor Guard program in the fall, and Cosey looks forward to expanding the program to other area schools.

Cosey also offers in-home and one-on-one private lessons, adult self-defense courses, and special interest group classes. For more information, call 985-703-4430.