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As Seen in the Exeter Newsletter

Karate a family affair

EXETER — Chris Yonker’s karate class may only be once a week, but his students are applying his lessons every day.

“I’ve learned a lot of valuable things — time management and control, learning to control your brain and not allowing your brain to control you,” said 17-year-old black belt Leo Schuster, who’s been part of Yonker’s program in Exeter for three years and commutes about an hour from the Concord area to participate with his parents, also black belts.

Yonker’s Tuesday night class in the cafeteria at the Tuck Learning Campus is packed with people of all ages sporting the white karate uniform — called a Gi — and their colored belts.

The belts — which are awarded in progression from white to black — are 7-year-old Christian’s favorite part of karate.

Christian is an orange belt, and he said in order to earn it, he “had to work really hard.”

The belts are also 4-year-old Camden Wyskiel’s favorite part of the class.

Camden has been coming to Yonker’s class with his brothers Chase, 6, and Conner, 9, and his mother, Laura Wyskiel of Exeter.

Laura said Yonker teaches the same values as those instilled in their home, so she appreciates the reinforcement.

And ever since she decided a year ago to leave the bleachers to join her sons on the floor, she said the benefits have been great.

“Making myself a better person I think makes me a better mom,” she said.

And that result is exactly what Yonker is shooting for.

“The style is personal development,” he said. “We develop limiting beliefs about ourselves; and here we help people realize that the limitations that are created are self-imposed. We teach people they can be the author of their own future. Whether it be a parent or a kid, we teach them the ability to accept responsibility for their own choices.”

Yonker’s program is called Sanchin Ryu Karate, and the name represents a three-part strategy comprised of the physical, mental and spiritual.

“The biggest thing we can teach people is how to control their thinking — do you control your brain, or does your brain control you,” Yonker said.

He began instructing karate in 1980 in central Michigan, working directly with Chief Grand Master Robert Dearman, who founded the Sanchin Ryu program.

His class in Exeter through the Exeter Parks and Recreation Department, which he has been teaching for 14 years, is one of the only Sanchin Ryu program in New England and currently has about 70 students.

There are 1,000 classes nationwide and all are funded through parks and recreation or community education.

Mark Cresitello-Dittmer has participated in the program with his children for more than a decade and still attends.

“One of the things I like about the program is it’s a lot of movement but it’s a lot of discussion,” he said. “With my kids we had a lot of discussion about being honest and doing the right thing.”

Chase Wyskiel has certainly learned a lot. He demonstrated the first 10 moves — called the Basics — that earned him his green belt.

He also demonstrated his favorite karate move on his mother, Laura, by putting his hand on her shoulder and the other under her arm and pushing her forward.

Chase said he likes the move because it’s also called “the dump.”

Venkat Padala, like Laura, decided to join the class two years ago after watching his daughters participate from a seat on the bench.

“It’s been a boost to my self-confidence,” Padala said, adding Yonker’s lessons have helped him in other aspects of his life. “It’s become kind of a family thing. And it’s a good workout for me as well.”

For more information about the program, visit

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