A room full of 40 karate students meets three times a week at Tru MMA Gym in Indio to train under the direction of their sensei, Tamara Canedo.
“Students here from age two all the way to 71,” Canedo said.
Young or old, green belt or black belt, the inclusive open door family environment does not stop there.
“Of my 40, I have three special needs and I am equally as hard on them as I am on everyone else,” Canedo said. “It is nice cause I see sometimes they laugh at it cause I make them feel not different. I make them feel like everyone else.”
In two years, she has changed these students’ lives.
“Sensei or your karate teacher believes in you, and even though they might push you hard, they are just pushing you to your limit.” said Isabella Diaz, a student of Canedo.
“One is Isabella Diaz, we all say she is not normal. She never complains and she will collapse before she complains.” Canedo said of Isabella.
Seventh-grader, Ricardo Diaz, is another one of her students. Ricardo credits the karate classes with helping him improve his schoolwork.
“Stronger. At school, before I started karate, I was falling a lot more than I do now. She tells me to go over the top, I can’t go 100, I have to go 120 or 150.” Ricardo said.
Last but not least, there’s ninth-grader Angel Urtijo.
“He didn’t talk much when he first started. He was shy and reserved; walked a little hunchback. And today he walks straight and he jokes around with us. Been to several tournaments and has won every single tournament he has been at,” Canedo said.
The other students in the class are not only accepting but they embrace the experience.
“Such admiration, they inspire me. They never ever complain, and some days when I am complaining cause sometimes it can be tough here physically so when they are not complaining that teaches you that you shouldn’t be complaining either.” student Connie Golds said.
The doors for Canedo are not going to close anytime soon, in fact, she would like to open them even wider.
“Just because I see the turnaround it has done, not just for us but in school with their teachers. The comments I get from their family. That to me is huge.” Candedo finished.