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Kids Kick Cancer With Martial Arts and Karate Program

Kids with cancer, their siblings, and parents learn relaxation, meditation, and breathing techniques. 

BY Lacey Meyer
PUBLISHED September 16, 2009

Children with cancer have a new tool to use against the disease, and it doesn’t involve medication or an I.V. Nonprofit martial arts program Kids Kicking Cancer (www.powerpeacepurpose.com) teaches the children and their siblings to use karate, relaxation, meditation, and breathing techniques to help them deal with cancer and treatments.

The KKC program aims to help pediatric cancer patients heal, while empowering them physically, spiritually, and emotionally. KKC pulls the kids’ focus away from their cancer and illnesses and instead helps them focus on all the things they can do and control. Most of the work with the children is aimed at resolving feelings of pain, anger, anxiety, fear, loss of control, and diminished self-esteem.

“Pain is a message you don’t have to listen to,” says founder and national director Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg, known as “Rabbi G” to students.

Weekly martial arts classes, uniforms, and transportation to classes are provided free of charge to all participants. General classes are open to patients and siblings age 6 to 22 years old and a “Little Heroes” program for children from 2 to 5 years old. The program also encourages sibling participation in all classes to provide a shared, positive experience for both patients and siblings.

Three words—power, peace, purpose—guide the program lessons. “They use their breath and their mind to bring in an extraordinary power of life and energy,” says Goldberg, a clinical assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Wayne State University Medical School in Detroit. “They could create through that martial arts power an inner peace, become very calm, breath out pain, fear and anger. And we teach them that they have a purpose; they are teaching the world."

Children learn stretching, breathing exercises, traditional karate moves, and guided imagery/meditation techniques, which can help reduce anxiety, pain, and discomfort during difficult clinic and hospital procedures. Goldberg says KKC participants report successfully using these techniques to calm themselves, have courage, and cope with the fears and trauma associated with their medical treatments.

“One of the best examples are when children normally have to be held down for procedures in the clinic and they are able to use their breath work to be totally calm and blow out the pain,” Goldberg says. “We just had a mom who normally her child had to be anesthetized for her MRI,” he says. “She was able to spend several hours totally calm, meditating while she was getting her scan with her martial artist standing nearby her—totally calm, totally focused, 4 years old.”

Goldberg started the program more than a decade ago while he was serving as director of a New York-based summer camp for children with cancer. The program has expanded to 16 locations and serves 2,000 children a year.

KKC partners with several hospitals in Michigan and New York regional areas. You can find a full list of partner hospitals at www.powerpeacepurpose.com/kids-kicking-cancer/hospitals.  

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