CRESTVIEW — Two martial arts schools held public events on Saturday, when Gordon Martial Arts and Palmer’s ATA Taekwondo gave free demonstrations of their facilities’ offerings.

Bullying 101

The former, in downtown Crestview, gave two free lessons on how kids can deal with bullies. Thomas Gordon, the owner and a city council member, and fellow instructors gave two free one-hour classes.

“Fighting the bully should always be the absolute last resort,” Gordon told the third- through fifth-grade group. He said there are other ways to deal with bullies. Examples included telling a teacher or adult about the harassment, or simply telling the bully that he or she, in fact, is bullying the child. “Sometimes, kids are unaware of what they are doing.”

Gordon also told kids that they should “find a buddy (and) be a buddy.” Bullies typically seek out “loners” to pick on, he said.

He should know; he had a personal experience with the subject, having been targeted for bullying at a young age.

Gordon said his sister saved him from a couple of bullies on a school bus. He said he was trying stand up to older boys on the bus, who threatened to shove him outside the school bus window. To his surprise, they got him halfway through window, he said.

"I was sticking outside the bus from the waist up" he said. However, his sister intervened and pulled him back inside the bus.

Each lesson also allowed students to practice and improve their kicking and punching skills, with instructors’ input.

Scott Williams, his wife and their son, Cooper, 10, attended the class. Cooper already attends martial arts training at another school, but Scott wanted to see what Gordon’s school had to offer.

“We wanted to see how it could be applied to everyday use,” Williams said. “Not only to benefit him, but those around him.”

Board-breaking event

The latter martial arts school had its first open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event had several activities for kids including an outside bounce house and face painting.

However, the main event was a 99-board “break-a-thon,” which raised money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. The initial goal was $1,000, but Saturday’s event drew nearly three times that amount, according to Darrin Palmer, owner and head instructor.

Palmer, along with fellow instructors Paul and Nathan Carroll, spent nearly 30 minutes breaking 99 boards. The Carroll brothers have been involved with martial arts since their father, Richard Carroll, signed them up for classes at a young age. The elder Carroll made the decision after one of his sons was injured in a school fight. To this day, both his sons have continued working and training others in martial arts.

“I know that they can defend themselves,” Richard Carroll said. “And that makes me feel good.”

He said that, similarly, parents should consider enrolling their kids. “I think it’s good for a child to defend themselves, at the right moment.”

During the event, attending students displayed the skills they have learned. Many parents were on hand supporting their children.

Ray Hoalt was in charge of the cash box of the event. Hoalt’s partner, Sarah Lindsey, is a student at the school along with her 11-year-old son, David-Paul Lindsey. Hoalt said he’s impressed by how martial arts have affected David-Paul.

“He has learned, at a young age, to set goals for himself,” Hoalt said. “It has also helped him focus in school reaching those goals.”

David-Paul said martial harts have aided his self-confidence, the classes provide a tough workout, and he has made more friends since joining. He said he even used his training in preventing a student from harming him.

"(The classmate) wanted to choke me, but I got out of it," he said.

Those who attended the open house could buy tickets for a dollar, which allowed them to play games, eat pizza and enter drawings. Some of the prizes included free classes.