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Charity is a real kick for martial arts school

September 16, 2011|By CHRIS COPLEY | chrisc@herald-mail.com
  • Fred Giles, back row left in black, James Smith, back row center in black, and his wife, Marcia Watters, back row third from right, stand with a group of students at White Tiger Martial Arts. Smith led his students to put together care packages for servicemen and women.
Courtesy of White Tiger

James "Mr. Jimmy" Smith is owner and master instructor at White Tiger Martial Arts, a Korean-style martial arts school in south Hagerstown. He teaches gratitude and charity in addition to kicking and striking, and he conducts regular fundraisers supporting local and national causes.

So when he heard one of his instructors talk about shortages of basic personal care products for American troops overseas, including the instructor's son, Smith organized a collection drive.  

White Tiger students collected eight large boxes of items, including toothbrushes, shampoo, deodorant, paper and pens, gum and much more. Smith paid shipping costs, and the boxes went to Sgt. Jeremiah Giles, stationed in a base inAfghanistan.

This week, Giles' father, Fred Giles, met with The Herald-Mail at White Tiger between classes. As students moved in and out of the building, Giles said supply boxes shipped from home toAfghanistan are huge morale boosters for American troops.

"All their basics they have to buy," he said. "You get your uniform issued to you, but if that wears out, you need to buy more. Also personal items — you take care of your own."

He added that foods and items that recall home are especially welcome.

"(The Army) doesn't give you a bag of Gibble's chips," he said with a grin.

Giles, 55, and his wife, Pam, have made Hagerstown their home for 25 years. Jeremiah Giles enlisted in the Army two weeks before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and has served 10 years. He is in his fourth tour overseas — the first three in Iraq  with his current tour in Afghanistan.

Fred Giles got emotional talking about his son's situation. Americans, Giles said, don't know what it's like and don't seem to appreciate the courage and discipline of American military personnel. Soldiers sometimes feel abandoned. So boxes of supplies from home are welcome signs of support.

Giles said his son told him most things from White Tiger's eight boxes were distributed among troops at his base. Other things were shared with the local Afghan community.

"Jeremiah worked with a chaplain and separated things," Giles said. "Some of the things collected and sent they couldn't really use. They took pencils, pens, paper and other things to a local school."

Although Giles himself never served in the military, many men in his family have, including his grandfather, his father, a brother and two sons. Giles said he prefers to compete one on one. He was a wrestler in high school, and once he took his first martial arts class in his mid-30s, he was hooked.

Now a fourth-dan black belt, Giles is one of Smith's instructors at White Tiger. Giles also teaches martial arts classes at his church, Crossroads Church in State Line, Pa.

Martial arts training makes sense at a church, Giles said, because martial arts have a strong moral component.

"There are other things we teach than just how to kick. We're about honesty, integrity, teaching kids responsibility," he said. "It's part of the ministry of the church."

Marcia Watters, Smith's wife and instructor at White Tiger, said charity is emphasized at the martial arts school.

"One of the things Mr. Jimmy teaches his kids is gratitude and giving back to the community that gives to you," she said. "We do drives all year long. He's constantly reminding students to be grateful."

The bottom line, Watters said, is that White Tiger is trying to train students to develop good character, not just good kicks.

"We believe in the concept that it takes a village to raise a child," she said. "We're trying to be part of that village."

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