All four kids in Powers clan
keep jujitsu skills in the family

All four children in a Wilmington family, a first-grade girl without her two front baby teeth and her second-, fifth- and eighth-grade brothers, have teamed up to learn practical street self-defense jujitsu.

The Powers children -- first-grader Jamie Lee, 6, Cub Scouts Shawn, 8, and Scott, 10, and older-brother Steven, 14 -- are students at the New England Small Circle Jujitsu Academy in Woburn.

“I don’t like fighting. I don’t condone fighting,” said their mom, Joanne Powers. “But I’m comfortable with them being in this because Sensei Ed [Melaugh] doesn’t teach them to be bullies. He teaches them to take control of a situation without being hurt and without permanently hurting the other person. If a kid comes up to, say, Steven and tries to start a fight, Steven can just take his hand and say 'no.' “

The Powers children each take part in two hour-long classes each week. And because they’re in different age groups, parents Joanne and Steven have been spending a lot of time at Melaugh’s Small Circle Jujitsu Academy near I-93 in Woburn.

“They love jujitsu,” Joanne Powers said. “There are no fights, no arguments when it’s time to go to a lesson. That’s the complete opposite of what I got from other sports. Now it’s, ‘Mom, I can do this. I learned this.’ They’re out in the yard now trying to take down their father.”

The Cary Street family has lived in Wilmington for more than five years. Father Steven is with the MWRA in Arlington. Joanne is a certified nurses aide at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford.

“Jamie Lee is a little tomboy,” Joanne said. “She doesn't put up with too much. She has a temper. We got her in jujitsu to focus on things, to take it slowly and examine the situation.

“She's not really a fighter -- except with her brothers,” she said and laughed. “It’s like a jujitsu class here. “We bought mats for the house, three padded blue mats. We let them go downstairs and practice. It works and their friends love it too. “

Sensei Ed Melaugh [“sensei” means “teacher’] said he has never had four children from the same family in his Small Circle Jujitsu classes before.

“This is a first. We have had a mom, dad and their two children taking classes but never this many kids from the same family. And I’ve seen only positives with this. It gives the family another thing to bond together with. In a lot of families, everybody’s doing something different,” Melaugh said.

Healthy Competition

He said the competition is healthy. “It gives them an outlet. When we talk about competition, the competition doesn’t turn into a violent way of doing things. It’s a more controlled way of doing things. I have noticed that they control their emotions more. The whole thing in martial arts is not competing against one another; it’s competing against yourself. “

Their father, Steven Powers, has martial arts experience, which is why the children are taking Small Circle Jujitsu, Joanne said.

“They're in jujitsu because it’s not like karate, not a killer attitude. My husband was a brown belt in karate. This teaches them not only how to protect themselves but how to control the situation. It’s really done wonders. “

But twice-weekly lessons, even with a family discount, cost money.

Self Esteem

“Oh yeah,” Joanne said. “But it’s worth every penny. I’ve noticed a big change in their attitudes. Their self esteem is way up and it's a healthy self esteem. They're not going to start anything. And half the time, people don't even know that they're trained in self defense. We didn't want bullies. We tell them, there's always going to be a kid who's stronger than you are. But they're going to stand up for themselves.”

Melaugh, a sixth-degree black belt, said the Powers kids get no special treatment.

“They’re all treated individually, as themselves. They all have to work hard and have to follow the rules of the school. With our new schedule, they’re able to come a couple times a week all at the same time. They’re here for 3 hours. They’ll have an earlier class for the younger kids, a 5 o’clock class for the boys in the middle and a later class for Steve, the teenager.

“Small Circle Jujitsu provides focus and discipline,” Melaugh said. “They learn how to use the techniques. One of the biggest thing is that there are no distractions; they focus on the important things and they stay focused.”

Joanne Powers said her children are handling their new knowledge well.

“Steven and all of them are handling it. My son Scotty is such a quiet, reserved kid. He doesn’t go out there and flip kids; you don't see them trying to hurt anybody. They play like any other kid. But when the situation calls for it, it's there.

“This is something they’re going to have for the rest of their lives. It's their own. You go up for your [skill-level] belts as yourself. This is physical and mental.”

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