Charkeita Anderson comes from a fighting family — fighting as in martial arts.
She, her parents, her brother and a 11-year-old nephew all have black belts.
So when Anderson joined Road to Damascus Christian Church a few months ago, she approached senior pastor Joseph Graham with the idea of teaching a church-sanctioned karate class. Graham liked the idea, and in July, “Kicks for the Kingdom” was born.
The group meets Mondays and Thursdays in a rented University City building where Graham holds worship service. So far, about eight people have joined the class.
Anderson, a first-degree black belt, said she sees nothing ironic about mixing Christ and Karate. For her, it’s all about physical fitness.
“In church, a lot of times, we talk about the body being the temple, and we take that to mean sin,” she said. “As people of God, we take so much care of our spiritual body that we don’t take care of our physical bodies.”
A ‘phenomenal’ instructor’
For Anderson, martial arts is second nature. Her dad, a fifth-degree black belt, operates a karate school in Cincinnati, her hometown. Her mom is a first-degree black belt. So when she and her brother came along, she said, they had no choice but to join in.
“My brother and I couldn’t even have jobs during the school year because we worked with the karate school,” she said.
Anderson recalls a picture she saw of herself in one of her father’s schools. She was 2 years old posing in a karate uniform with a gold belt around her waist.
“I don’t even remember starting,” she says. “It just always was a requirement.”
Over time, Anderson learned to love the sport. She was 18 when she earned her own black belt. She’s now pursuing a Christian ministry degree from the More Than Conquerors College in Charlotte while teaching students at her church twice a week.
Graham, senior pastor at Road to Damascus, called Graham “phenomenal.”
“She’s been consistent and really helpful and patient as an instructor,” he said. “You can learn more in a month with her than an average karate school, I think, will teach you in 6 months.”
Graham has even joined the class himself.
“Years ago I used to be involved in martial arts, and I had been so far removed and out of shape,” he said. “I had been saying to the Lord, I need to get myself together, I need to get going.”
Graham started the church, which grew out of a UNC Charlotte campus outreach, in 2007.
Anderson’s class combines martial arts and self-defense techniques. She uses various genres of martial arts — tai chi, jujitsu and Tai kickboxing – to create a 45-minute cardio workout.
Each class begins with stretching, and students start by learning basic kicks and punches. They also learn to defend themselves — what to do if someone is choking them, or the move to make if trapped in a bear hug.
Anderson said she’ll test her students every two months. Those who work hard and stick with it, she said, can earn a black belt in four years.
Mohammed Bhatti has been one of Anderson’s students since the class began. He said martial arts was something he always wanted to do.
“It builds character,” he said. “It’s another thing used for the glory of God. It shows that everything is submitted to God when it’s done rightly.”
At age 26, Anderson has two children: Trinity, 4, and Judah, 2 — the youngest students in her class.
Unlike her father, Anderson said she won’t force her children into martial arts. Although, she said, her father may have influenced her daughter recently when he bought her a karate uniform.
“Next thing I know she tells everybody she teaches karate,” Anderson said.
IF YOU WANT TO GO:
Location: 7935 North Tryon Street.
Schedule: Each Monday and Thursday at 7 p.m.