KICKSTART For Health
Chuck Norris' passion is getting kids into the martial arts
Creators News Service
It seems like health consciousness is everywhere. From the latest fad diet to the newest gym equipment, it seems like we can never get enough of trying to lose those stubborn pounds that we accumulate throughout the year.
However, we often overlook those who need health guidance most -- our children. They are the ones facing some of the greatest obstacles and the most skyrocketing rates of health-related problems because of their lack of exercise and consumptive practices.
According to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood and teen obesity in the U.S. has tripled over the last 30 years. They also report one-third of adults are now overweight, with another third being obese. According to their data, those numbers have "increased sharply for both adults and children" since the 1970s.
Helping young and old overcome apathy and master their health is why I included the chapter, "Fit for the Fight," in my new New York Times best-seller, "Black Belt Patriotism: How to Reawaken America" ($27, Regnery Publishing), which is not a political book but a cultural manifesto on eight major problems in our society. The health chapter not only gives eight pillars of staying fit, but in it for the first time I discuss my own family's weekly nutritional and exercise plan.
It's easy to criticize the inadequacies of young people. It's far more difficult to invest in kids, but much more rewarding. Continuing to give back to society and build up our youth are two of the reasons I created KICKSTART (kick-start.org), which is a martial arts program for at-risk students taught in public middle schools in lieu of physical education.
President George H. W. Bush helped me start it in 1992. I also could not have started this program if I did not have my martial arts ability and my celebrity to initiate it. I believe God has allowed me to become successful in the martial arts and successful as an actor, and one of the primary reasons He did so was to start this program.
KICKSTART is a character-building life-skills program, the fundamental purpose of which is to give our nation's students the tools to strengthen their self-image and be disciplined. When children develop a strong sense of self-awareness and inner strength, they are able to resist negative peer pressure that might involve taking drugs, drinking alcohol or joining gangs.
In addition, martial arts training provides them with the core values and philosophies associated with leading a productive and healthy life: Things like discipline, hard work and respect for other people. One of the greatest byproducts of the KICKSTART program, however, is not only how it builds self-esteem and discipline in our youth, but also how it helps them get in shape.
John Kurek, a great veteran leader in the program, explained its health benefits: "KICKSTART provides a safe atmosphere with a controlled structured class, in which even kids who would not normally physically excel can excel. We are able to reach more numbers of students and get them in shape instead of riding the bench in gym class. Another thing is, with the belt ranking system, KICKSTART provides challenges for each student to excel, and with each belt a student becomes more flexible, stronger and faster. Not to mention it is a requirement for our instructors to be teaching value lessons every class, and a big part of the value lessons are eating habits and living a healthy life."
That is what KICKSTART is all about: To give every child a chance for a productive life in which they can make healthy decisions and achieve their goals and dreams. Someday, it is our vision to have this program in every middle school in America. Our goal is to see the 7,300 students we have in 41 schools in Texas multiply into millions of students throughout our country. To date we have graduated 60,000 children in Texas. My wife Gena and I consider this program our life's mission.
I am often given recognition for the way KICKSTART helps young people. But the real heroes of the program and these younger people's lives are the instructors. They are my heroes too, because they are the ones investing their lives into the lives of young people every day. The kids they are teaching in the program score higher academically, and almost 100 percent of them graduate.
I'm still amazed when God uses my life to influence someone else in a special way. I've made plenty of mistakes in my life, and I sure don't claim to know all the answers. I am convinced, however, of the force of one. As Edward Everett Hale put it, "I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will." And the proof of that is KICKSTART.
Editor's Note: The correct format for KICKSTART is all caps, with KICK in bold.