Shihan Joseph Bove, Executive Director of Special Programs for Summit Academy, leads the schools’ celebrated therapeutic martial arts program.

As the school year winds down, Summit Academy’s therapeutic martial arts program kicks into high gear with several celebratory board-breaking ceremonies.

When Summit Academy students first start their therapeutic martial arts instruction in their school’s respective dojo, they begin their journey with a white belt. Students can earn as many as 13 belts over time. Each belt has a different meaning and importance..

However, the program is about much more than fulfilling a school requirement, says Shihan Joseph Bove, Executive Director of Martial Arts/Special Programs for Summit Academy Management.

Sensei Johanna Norris, who teaches students at Summit Academy Community School – Dayton, displays a broken board, a symbol of overcoming obstacles for students engaged in Summit Academy’s flagship therapeutic martial arts program.

“Therapeutic martial arts is about teaching the students self-esteem, respect for themselves and others, and team-building. It gives students the chance to put these lessons into action outside of the dojo and in the classroom,” Shihan Bove says.

Sensei Johanna Norris, who instructs students at Summit Academy Community School – Dayton, says therapeutic martial arts teach students “how to turn ADHD into a superpower. It reduces anxiety and increases motor skills. It gives a place for many of our students to excel.”

Sensei Norris describes a board-breaking ceremony as a celebration for families, teachers and administrators, one that gives them an opportunity to observe students’ hard work and growth within the program.

For a board-breaking demonstration by Summit Academy Executive Director of Martial Arts/Special Programs, click below.

During a ceremony, students bow to guests and the American flag. They then conduct a series of warm-ups. Following that, they perform kata, which is similar choreographed scenes based on the student’s belt ranking.  Small groups of students approach the wooden boards and kneel in front of them. In unison, the pupils each break a board. They then receive a new belt, tied to their waist by their sensei. Teachers speak on behalf of their students’ growth and some even break boards before everyone delivers a final salute at the end of the ceremony.

“The board breaking is a symbolic practice of overcoming obstacles. This year has had plenty of obstacles for all of us, students, staff and families alike. As the students and staff break their boards, we will be reminded we are capable of more than we know and we will celebrate the inner strength and fortitude this year has honed in us,” Sensei Norris explains.

Shihan Bove says Summit Academy Schools’ therapeutic martial arts program encourages and empowers children to put their best foot forward. The program teaches them skills they can apply to their lives outside of school. Self-respect and teamwork are among the many lessons students receive in the process.

By Cam Tenney