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Ultimate Kicks Tae Kwon Do part of Chamber's Health and Wellness Fair Saturday

Lanessa Lewis, 11, and Brayce Howlett, 7, practice combinations during an Ultimate Kicks Tae Kwon Do session Monday in Mitchell. (Chris Huber/Republic)

A local gym is promoting more than just physical fitness.

At Ultimate Kicks Tae Kwon Do in Mitchell, each workout incorporates self-discipline and respect in addition to a full-body workout.

"We try to teach honesty and integrity while teaching students self-defense moves and promoting physical fitness," said Matt Howlett, head instructor and owner of Ultimate Kicks.

Ultimate Kicks Tae Kwon Do will demonstrate the ancient Korean martial art at the 19th annual Mitchell Chamber of Commerce Health and Wellness Fair on Saturday at Mitchell Christian High School.

More than 40 booths by health care professionals will offer advice on a wide variety of topics including dental care, exercise and nutrition. The fair runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and admission is free.

Ultimate Kicks has been a large draw for the fair, said Janelle Thiesse, of the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce.

"It's always a hit -- it's brought back by popular demand," she said. The group of students will perform a series of self-defense techniques, boardbreaking and sparring, or point-fighting. The demonstrations will hopefully entice families to try tae kwon do, Howlett said. "It's good for kids who aren't interested in traditional school sports, and it's a nice way for adults to stay active. It's more active than walking on a treadmill," he said.

Howlett began tae kwon do 13 years ago at an Ultimate Kicks gym in Watertown. Once he started the program, he realized he had a passion for it. After he and his wife moved to Mitchell four years ago, he found an opportunity to open his own Ultimate Kicks Tae Kwon Do facility. Fifty-six students ages 4 to adult are taking classes this year. That number keeps growing.

"I've been able to add a new class of students each year," he said.

Erica Weeks, a teacher at Mitchell Middle School, got involved in tae kwon do lessons five years ago, from the encouragement of her brother.

"I was really sore," said Weeks of her first workout. "But it was the good kind of sore. It was the kind where you know you have done something good for your body."

Howlett said each class starts with a warm-up -- cardio like running and jumping jacks and stretching. Each class incorporates kicking drills, too.

"We keep everybody really active," Howlett said.

Students start with a white belt and advance every three months until they can test for the 10th belt, a first-degree black belt. An advanced degree black belt is tested for each year after.

Weeks is a first-degree black belt, having earned the honor a year ago.

"It feels good to have accomplished something that is not a cake walk to obtain," she said. "(My black belt) means I have shown a great deal of perseverance and indomitable spirit to achieve something that I could have easily quit trying for just because it got difficult at times."

Like Weeks, Howlett's 7-year-old son, Brayce, has excelled in the program. He began tae kwon do training 2½ years ago and will test for his first-degree black belt this summer.

"I like seeing how I'm learning," Brayce said. He also enjoys that his grandparents come to watch him at each of his tests.

The tests to move to a new belt are perhaps some of the largest rewards of the program.

"I am able to do things I never really thought I could do. You have to be dedicated to practice outside of the gym and train hard," Weeks said.

In addition to Ultimate Kicks, demonstrations will be given Saturday by Zumba instructors and Avera Queen of Peace's Get Fit While You Sit program. The CHIPS Identification Program for kids will be available to parents. The program compiles dental impressions, fingerprints and voice recordings of a child on a CD. If a child were to get lost, parents would give the CD to the police.

There will also be screenings at the fair, including cholesterol, prostate, blood pressure and hearing.