More than learning to defend themselves, the students in Master Kim's Martial Arts & Fitness school in Midland Park were fighting for money to help a former student in his bout with cancer.
"We're all a family, so when we found out one of us was ill, we came together to help," said Richard Deraney, a student at the fitness school.
Master Jonathan Kyumba, 62, was diagnosed with cancer in June and when Deraney, a fellow student of 16 years, discovered he was ill, he approached Master Chunghee Kim, owner and founder of the martial arts school for the past 32 years.
Even though Deraney, a fourth degree black belt, speaks to his friend two to three times each week, he learned he had cancer only after a visit to his home in Sacramento, Calif., in November.
Two months later, the school held a Kick-a-Thon to help with his escalating medical costs. They far surpassed their goal of $4,500, raising $9,400 for Kyumba, who was in need of a special bed to regularly rotate his body to prevent bedsores.
"He had no idea we were doing this for him," Kim said. "He is a very strong, very spiritual man."
At the Kick-a-Thon, each student performed 700 kicks - 100 kicks per minute in a joint effort. The students participated in two sessions, each one and a half hours long, in order to complete their tasks. Students age 4 and above were allowed to collect funds per kick or collect a flat donation.
"I sent out an email to my family and friends, and the response was phenomenal," said Deraney. "I have never been so moved in all my life.
"The students helped a man that 90 percent of them have never met," he added. "All the credit goes to Master Kim and his master students for organizing the event."
Kim says he talks to Kyumba during regular telephone meditations.
"The success of the effort is measured not only in the money we raised, but also by the love expressed by all of the students in my school," Kim said.