The plywood boards never stood a chance once Barry Van Over finished teaching his version of the ABCs. At that point, almost two dozen elementary school students demonstrated what they learned -- placing well-directed martial arts sidekicks to break the boards.
Van Over, a 23-year veteran of a variety of martial arts, taught The ABCs of Success to the youngsters attending a workshop at Premier Marts Arts studio in Keystone Plaza on Rote 202 in Chadds Ford Township Saturday.
The ABCs, he said, include aim, backup and confidence mixed with technique and speed. Martial skills apply to everyday life in general and also to a youngster's approach to school, specifically to setting goals, he said.
Van Over, from Tennessee and the vice president of Premier Martial Arts, drew a parallel between breaking a board with a sidekick (the technique) with academic studies.
Aim, he said, is a concentrated focus that blocks distractions. Look at your target when you kick, and look at your teachers in school. He said students who look at the teacher hear 90 percent better.
Backup means asking for help and guidance from teachers and parents. For the kick, backup using one's weight to backup the kick for more power.
The C is for confidence. Van Over likened confidence to the small voice that says, 'Yes I can.' He then told the youngsters, "If you think you can't, you won't.
Speed, he said, is getting things done on time. He told the kids that they should start their assignments when they get them rather than waiting until the day before they are due. "Don't wait until later," he said. "Recognize and act on opportunities."
Anna Flogaus of Wilmington brought her 8-year-old daughter Stephanie to the workshop, was impressed with the demonstration.
"I think it's great," she said. "He's an excellent motivator."
In an interview before the workshop began, Van Over said he thinks it's important to teach life skills through martial arts training, saying those arts teach confidence and self-discipline as well as helping build a strong body.
He added that today's society seems to make those lessons more important.
"There's a violent crime every eight seconds in this country and thousands of kids are abducted. We need to teach awareness and martial arts are a great package if taught properly."
Premier Martial Arts has studios in three countries. There are 81 studios in the U.S. Ernie Kirk, the president, runs studious in Philadelphia, Berwyn, and Kennett Square as well as the Chadds Ford studio.