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Vet teaches discipline, positivity through free karate classes
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Derek Spencer emphasizes discipline to his students as he starts his karate lessons off with a bow.

Army veteran Derek Spencer is giving back to his community by teaching kids at the Turlock Salvation Army something he found beneficial in his own life — karate.

Originally from Manteca where he earned his black belt in karate from a local Girls and Boys Club of America, Spencer relocated to Turlock to pursue his Masters degree in United States History at California State University, Stanislaus. He then approached the Salvation Army in the hopes of offering the same instrumental experience he had as a child to students of the Turlock community.

“My experience at the Boys and Girls Club really gave me structure and taught me self discipline and that’s what I am aiming to bring to these kids. I’ve been where they have been and I want them to have a positive male role model,” said Spencer.

Spencer teaches his students traditional karate techniques and prides himself on not compromising customary methods. He begins each class with a few minutes of meditation before physical warm-up exercises, often encouraging students to forget about the happenings of the day and focus on the present. Through the methodical and disciple oriented nature of martial arts, Spencer encourages students to practice at home as well.

“The main thing I try to teach them is that you can do anything you put your mind to, but all things take time and practice,” said Spencer, who said karate lessons can positively influence all areas of a person's life. 

Spencer’s karate classes are held from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday nights at the Salvation Army gym, 893 Lander Ave. Classes are free and open to the public.