Five-year-old Mariana Jimenezs ponytail bounced in the air as she followed the older kids fighting stance.
Aaaa, she yelled, as she practiced a side kick during a class at the Spartan Village Community Center.
I like the kicks we do, she said.
Jimenez is one of about 20 kids participating in free Tae Kwon Do classes for residents of Spartan Village, Cherry Lane Apartments and University Village.
The classes are part of several activities provided for about 400 children and their families by the Council of Residents.
We want to show the residents that we support the community, said Gaibriela Saldana, a University Village representative.
Funding for the class and uniforms comes from a tax included with rent and support from the MSU Family and Child Development Center.
Veronica Joseph, an assistant instructor, said its been rewarding to work with the kids through the program, now in its second year.
You should see their eyes light up when theyre getting stronger, said Joseph, an MSU alumna. I hope they take the feeling with them through life.
Joseph said the sport builds self-confidence, coordination and respect.
Theyre doing great. The little ones come in and it improves their concentration and focus. They learn to respect others and follow the rules, she said.
Master Sid Singer, owner of Tae Park Tae Kwon Do in Jackson, teaches the class, which focuses on basic skills that are learned and then applied.
Singer said Tae Kwon Do is a form of martial arts thats more focused on defense and counteracting the attack.
The participants earn belts determined by their technique and skill level, which range from the beginning white belt to a prestigious black belt.
Most of the students have the second (yellow belt), Singer said.
The kids thrive on the challenge and appreciate the awards, Singer said.
Ashraf Shahrizal, a blue-belt student who was born in Malaysia, said hes made friends and earned medals from being involved.
The class watched as Shahrizal and Fermin Jimenez, a red belt, sparred without pads. Afterward the two bowed and discussed their fight.
They have gained self-confidence and respect for each other and the other kids, said Fermins mother, Saldana Jimenez.