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Kicking Hai!



Forget what you see in the movies. Karate is not just about self-defense. It's also about teaching respect, discipline, concentration and self-confidence. Especially for kids.

Annabel Sherry's bare feet pound against the red-and-blue cushioned vinyl flooring of Rick Zimmerman's Old Greenwich dojo (studio), knees churning like pistons, blond ponytail flapping up and down. Her white robe, reaching to her knees and fastened with a white belt, resembles a Holly Hobbie petticoat.

Screaming Hai! Annabel hurls herself feet-first through the air, gliding weightless a moment until her heel collides against a three-foot-high kicking bag with a resounding smack. A half-second later, the back of her head hits the floor with an equally loud thud.

Bounding up, Annabel fixes her mother, Nicki, with a beguiling smile; no sign of bother from that head knock. Annabel, who turned six in May, is only in her second class but seems to have conquered gravity and head trauma well enough already.

"Did you see me lift myself up in the air, Mummy?" she asks with a dainty English accent, smile bright. "You're not supposed to be a human torpedo," Nicki remonstrates, chuckling. Of course, Annabel was up and charging and yelling Hai! again in no time. Good thing the floor is padded.

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