July 25, 2014

Elyria
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Family kicks it up a notch, or two

Schontay Bowen swiftly pulled her opponent to the mat, yelling “Kiai!” at the moment of impact.

The second-degree black belt in karate knew when to stop her movement against her opponent, in this case, her husband, fifth-degree black belt Jeff Bowen.

Apparently, the family that kicks together, sticks together. At least that seems to ring true for the Bowen family of LaGrange.

Jeff and Schontay Bowen each has a black belt in karate. Their children, Alexis, who turns 6 next week and son, Justin, 4, also seem to have the karate gene.

Jeff says it can take nearly five years to earn a black belt ranking. The test to acquire a black belt takes nearly 2½ hours to complete. The test focuses on techniques learned and requires hard work, dedication and patience.

But, not only are the Bowen parents black belts, so is Jeff`s father, Mike Bowen and his sister, Rhonda Bowen.

“It`s in my family,” Jeff, 33, said talking from the Bowen`s Martial Arts Academy in Grafton.

Yet, rather than Jeff watching his father participate in karate and then decide he`d like to try it out, it was a bit of role-reversal.

“My dad started because of me. I was in a class and my dad would take me and then he started to do it with me. It was his decision,” Jeff said.

Since Jeff was 8, karate has been a part of his life. “Karate has taught me self-discipline and self-respect,” Jeff said.

He was quick to point out that in the early 1980s, karate was viewed as strict and almost militant.

“It was not kid friendly,” Jeff said. “But most schools had to change their ways and now there are a handful of adults and a bunch of kids.”

Two of those kids are his own, Jeff noted, as they began to head to the floor with their mother for the 3- and 4-year-old beginner karate class.

“We are here five days a week. Our kids grew up here,” Jeff said.

However, Schontay, 32, a kindergarten teacher for the Lorain Schools, knows that her children might not be as passionate about karate as she and Jeff have become over the years.

“If this is not their path, we won`t force them to do it,” she said.

That doesn`t mean Jeff isn`t hoping one of his children will take over the family business one day – a business that has allowed Jeff to focus 100 percent on karate as he left his 10-hour-a-day job in March.

“You don`t do something (this long) and not enjoy it,” Jeff said smiling.