JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — “Climb higher. Dig deeper. Be greater.”

That chant filled the halls of Le Core Christian Academy in Arlington. Tiny bodies with booming voices.

Long before the first bell even rings, a dozen or so students 10 and younger are dressed for practice. Their unsocked feet on the edge of the mat. They are there for a martial arts class centered not on the physical but the mental.

The goal is to teach kids in areas that are surrounded by violence more about respect.

“I’ve got to teach them how to win and show respects. And I need to teach them how to lose and show respects,” coach and instructor Nahshon Nicks said.

He runs the class on Jacksonville's Northside as well as in Arlington where violent crime is a regular headline. Nicks explained through martial arts, kids are learning how to listen, think, and respond. 

“If you cannot control yourself, you cannot control the situation,” Nicks said.

He explained all emotions stay on the mat, out in the real world reason and logic must prevail. In addition to the life skills of self-defense, Nicks said conflict management through non-violence is a key component of the class.

Even though there are clenched fists, words are the way in this dojo.

“At this age level, they’re going to be carrying the same mindset and mentality for the rest of their life, so it’s very important we plant those seeds now,” Nicks said.