SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — For almost a year throughout the pandemic, children have been navigating a new normal. Battling isolation and going from hybrid learning back to the classroom can take a toll on a child’s mental health.

This past year, Pride Martial Arts has had an increase in kids ages 10 and under enrolling in classes.

“This is really fun. I love this, it keeps me active all the time, it’s really fun,” said Filip Thawng,
a martial art student.

Thawng has been taking classes at Pride Martial Arts for the past nine months.

“I practice Taekwondo, we do forums, we do board breaking, we do self-defense, all that cool stuff,” said Thawng.

But little does he know he’s gaining everyday life skills, too.

“The social interaction, then the way we teach them to interact with other kids and with adults, and then we use competition for another level of training confidence, it’s really one of the big reasons people come here,” said Ryan Johnson, owner of Pride Martial Arts in Sioux City.

Johnson says the core of his program is to provide a safe space for kids to come after school to release any pent-up energy or negative emotions.

“Especially with COVID, and lockdown, and isolation, we see kids that really do have trouble channeling their energy. it’s been a real challenge to figure out how do we channel that in a positive way and in martial arts you get to come here you get to kick pads, yell, run around, and jump and be crazy and really act like the ninjas they see on TV, like Cobra Kai, and that’s been really positive for kids right now,” said Johnson.

Thawng is a shining example of what the program has to offer. He says he continues to grow on and off the mat.

“I want to become a black belt, but I’m really excited after I get camo, I get to do sparing, and I think it will be really fun,” said Thawng.

Last year, kids enrolled at pride martial arts weren’t able to compete due to the pandemic but that changes this summer.

Ryan Johnson says he’s planning a regional competition where students will be able to show off their ninja skills.