Despite being taught strikes and kicks, at the core of any karate instruction is how to avoid a fight. That is the philosophy at U.S. Budokai Karate of Clifton Park.

“It’s about learning how to defend yourself so you never have to fight,” said owner Russ Jarem.

But for those children already fighting for their lives, Jarem offers a special course.



At least once a week for the past 12 years, Jarem steps out of his karate school to teach Brave Belts — a karate program for children undergoing cancer treatment and blood disorders at Albany Medical Center.

“I wasn’t able to really hang out with my friends due to my counts and stuff, so doing karate really helped me get my feelings out,” said Ryan Cowan, one of those Jarem trains.

Cowen met Jarem shortly after he was diagnosed with t-cell leukemia two years ago. The 13-year-old from Troy said the instruction helps him find strength during his weakest moments. For the last two months, his illness has been in remission.

Cowen's mother Jennifer said the instruction brought his strength back.



Brave Belts is made possible thanks to a grant from the Paul Robert Carey Quality of Life Fund. It is an alternative form of therapy that gives kids the strength to fight, and the power to heal.