Martial arts goes beyond fighting for Kearney family


A local family is staying active together, not only for the health benefits but for the psychological benefits, too.

The Bickford family enrolled their son in martial arts two years ago. Six months later, the whole family decided to get involved in the practice.

Martial arts isn't just about the fighting. When you step in the dojo and on the mat at the Nebraska School of Martial Arts, mother and University of Nebraska at Kearney professor Sonja Bickford said it's so much more.

"It has opened up a whole other world," Sonja said. "Self-confidence as well as a deeper understanding of who I am as a person."

It's not something the Bickfords set out to do.

"Parents become taxi drivers," said Nate Bickford, Sonja's husband. "In this situation, we're not only taxi drivers, we're actually participating. We can't always do that in other events or athletics whether it's music or whatever. This allows us to be a part of what they're doing in their growth and their development. That adds an indescribable aspect that's really nice to the parent."

Now Sonja is knocking out an analysis to learn how martial arts affects a person psychologically- starting with her own kids.

"It's actually helped me with confidence and i'm not as nervous to do things like I used to be," said Alexander Bickford, Sonja's son.

"How to be confident, how to show my ideas, be aware of what I can actually do and help others," said Tarrah Bickford, Sonja's daughter.

"I've learned to be more confident. I've learned to defend myself better and I've made a lot of new friends and learned to become more social," said William Bickford, Sonja's son.

UNK encourages professors to conduct research, even though this is not her area of expertise.

Like martial arts, she's taken on the challenge inspired by her classes.

"Confidence is a big one," said Bev Channer, NSMA chief instructor. "Being able to face anything that comes their way whether it be school, sports or outside in the community. Being able to take this going out there and setting a goal and going after it."

"Everybody gets something different out of it," Sonja said. "Whether a child is shy or wants to do this for strength training or balance or just to make friends. I've seen it all within just my family."

Sonja said she's hoping to have her analysis completed and literature published within the year.

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