SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Ashley Stanley and Joyce Ritchie didn’t know that when they walked into Michaud’s School of Self Defense after their shift at the Community Health Center last Thursday, they would be stepping right into their first karate class.
Stanley had always wanted to try karate, she said, but “there was no place nearby until now.” Also, Sensei Jerry Michaud was not taking no for an answer.
While the women took off their boots, brothers Dilon, 9, and Logan, 14, Lemoine practiced their moves with the youngest karate kid in the room, 6-year-old Savannah Mohr.
They were each referring to a binder with exercises that Michaud gives out to his students for practice.
“If they don’t bring their notebooks to class, they have to do push-ups,” said Michaud. “This way, they learn to be responsible.”
Michaud opened a self defense school on Seal Cove Road in Southwest Harbor in December, together with Sensei Brenda Butler.
Butler said she was introduced to karate years ago when she was looking for a shared activity to do with her son.
“When you’re in karate, as you progress, you start to teach the new students that come in,” she said, “so you naturally become a teacher over time.”
Butler earned her black belt in 1992. She and Michaud have a combined 60 years of experience teaching martial arts.
The studio’s white walls are embellished with dozens of trophies and photos of past tournaments.
Butler and Michaud offer classes in a variety of techniques and are Maine’s only branch of the United Ketsugo Karate Association, teaching the trademarked Ketsu-Ka karate style.
Classes are $50 a month for two nights a week. Every session begins with students and senseis facing the American flag for the Pledge of Allegiance.
Unlike some other martial arts classes, where the head instructors lead from the front row, Michaud and Butler make a point to walk around the room as they teach.
“That way, nobody’s left out,” said Michaud.