The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

September 1, 2013

How karate students are passing their skills to special needs youngsters

— Karate is more than just a sport at Miller’s Martial Arts in Richland Township.

It has become a way to give back to the community.

For many years, the karate studio has been conducting demonstrations at various fundraising events that benefit the community.

A year ago, it launched a karate course that is designed for children with autism or who are developmentally delayed, said Master Christopher S. Miller, owner of the school and chief instructor.

All of the karate students at the school play a part in teaching the special needs karate students, but two have volunteered to take on the extra duty of giving private lessons to the five students in that class.

Jordan Miller, 11, and Owen Meyer, 12, both said it has been rewarding to teach the special needs students the Tang Soo Do method of karate. Their pupils are ages 7 and 8.

Jordan, daughter of the karate studio’s owner, said her father asked her to help with the private instruction of those students.

“I really enjoy it, and I enjoy watching them learn more and more each week as they go on,” said the sixth-grader at Conemaugh Township Area Junior High School. She is a first-degree black belt.

“It’s good to help others,” Jordan said. “Your community supports you and helps you, so it’s important to give back.

“I have a lot of fun teaching the class. The students are really good.

“They competed in their first tournament in June at Richland High School,” she said. “They all got first place.

“They try really hard and don’t forget what you tell them.”

Jordan is busy not only with karate lessons but also at school, where she plays girls basketball and soccer. She also is an active at her church, St. Anne Roman Catholic Church in Davidsville.

Owen, a seventh-grader at Richland Junior High School, said it has been plenty of fun and rewarding working with the special needs students.

“The students are doing well,” he said. “They are very good sports, and they try their best. They’re good.”

Owen, the son of Jeff and Eva Meyer of Geistown, said it’s fun to work with his pupils and watch the way they react to the drills and techniques that the instructors show them.

Owen, a second-degree black belt, also is busy at school, where he plays on the junior high boys soccer team and plays the trumpet in the Richland High School marching band.

He said his fellow karate students also like to help others and do so through  various organizations.

For their efforts, Jordan and Owen are the Persons of the Week.

Christopher Miller said the special needs program was started in conjunction with a Richland psychologist, Tammy Haslett.

Her research showed that karate is rated the top activity for children with autism or who are developmentally delayed because it helps them to focus on the task at hand, he said.

Owen, being accomplished in martial arts, excels as a teacher, Miller said.

“His general demeanor is easygoing, so he is able to adapt and understand the needs of the children in the autism and developmentally delayed class,” he said.

Jeremy Mostoller, an assistant instructor at Miller’s Martial Arts, said Jordan has been a great help not only with the special needs program, but also as an instructor with the tots program.

“She has a great rapport with the children,” Mostoller said. “She has a great way of getting the children to participate and understand what we expect of them.”

Frank Sojak is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at

Tribune-Democrat editors select a Person of the Week from nominations made by readers. To nominate someone, call 532-5058, 24 hours a day.

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