***This article was published on March 15, 2013 for NY Press***
Local teen entrepreneur teaches free taekwondo classes for kids
By Vanesa Vennard
In an underground dojo with blue and red padded floors, Will Breslau leads a group of kids through taekwondo training. The 6-foot-2 slender 17-year-old gives instructions on how to do a series of kicking motions and counts, hana, dhul, seht, neh.
“Front kick, turn and kick. Does everybody understand,” he asks. The kids answer loudly in unison, “Yes sir.”
But later, when a young girl can’t remember if the uppercut or hook punch came first during a punching sequence, Breslau motioned with her until she got it right. He’s patient. “Good,” he said.
Breslau is the founder, director and co-coordinator of the nonprofit TKD360 Foundation. The organization gives kids with limited means on the Upper West Side opportunities to participate in a sport that has been a huge part of Breslau’s life since he started at West Side Taekwondo at age three and a half.
“Living here you can kind of see the range in economic diversity,” Breslau said. “And growing up, taekwondo helped me so much to become the person who I am today and help me focus more and calm down a little bit. So I wanted to see if I could give that back to kids who maybe couldn’t afford it.
“On average, Breslau said taekwondo lessons can cost around $1,200 per year plus an extra $50 for uniforms. But thanks to fundraising and Breslau’s long relationship with West Side Taekwondo, kids at TKD360, ages 6 to 10, participate for free.
“It’s really rewarding because when you’re teaching you can see the transformation,” he said. “Sometimes they come in slow and lethargic and they leave talkative and more energetic so it’s really nice to see that.”
The idea for TKD360 blossomed when Breslau was in ninth grade. His parents, Nancy and Neil, helped him set up the nonprofit. Breslau raised money three summers in a row by biking in community service programs, Apogee and Boulders, which took him to Montana, Amsterdam and Italy. Breslau said he raised $30,000 biking and wants to hold a Kick-A-Thon in the fall.
This year, Breslau stopped playing tennis and basketball at school to better focus on TKD360 and the kids. Breslau teaches on Tuesdays at the La Casa afterschool program affiliated with P.S. 84 and on Fridays at West Side Taekwondo every week. He’s had this schedule since TKD360 first started in 2010, when Breslau was 14.
“Having this much responsibility and making sure you’re here twice a week and making sure you’re teaching the kids has made me grow up a lot,” he said. “It just helped me realize you need to put the effort in to everything to make it 100 percent and to make sure you get the best end result.”
Breslau received the Doris Rosenblum Youth Leadership Award two years ago. His mother Nancy said she noticed him change over the course of the program.
“Just to watch your son teach kids, and these kids to look up to him and to see the determination these kids have to prove themselves and show him that they know what they’re doing,” she said. “It was very enlightening for me because I was proud of how he’s transpired over the last three years.”
Breslau is looking to the future now that he’s getting ready for college. He’s not sure yet where he’ll go, but he’ll most likely study international business and he plans on bringing TKD360 to the college he attends by linking up with university taekwondo clubs and community clubs.
He wants his Upper West Side classes to continue while he’s at college and is looking for replacement leaders in the meantime.
Breslau also hopes his efforts will encourage others his age to give back to the kids in their communities.
“I hope the program brings insight to kids who go to New York City private schools that there are people out there who can’t do the things that they’re doing, so they should give the time and the resources they have back to those kids,” Breslau said. “I just hope that kids can give back through what they love to do and help inspire the younger generations to keep pushing. Keep pushing on.”
Find out more about TKD360 on their website: tkd360foundation.org.
Original article post: http://www.nypress.com/martial-arts-for-all/