John Jenkins brings tai chi classes to Boothbay Harbor

Posted:  Saturday, February 28, 2015 - 12:00pm
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A world class martial arts instructor is imparting his five decades worth of knowledge to students in Lincoln County. John Jenkins, a four-time karate world champion, began teaching students last fall in Boothbay Harbor and Damariscotta. Jenkins is now teaching his second round of the six-week program.

His Boothbay region students are meeting once week each Tuesday morning at the St. Andrews Wellness and Rehabilitation. Jenkins calls his martial arts classes “Tai Chi Tuesdays.”

His students learn the ancient martial art, which was developed in China. Tai chi is similar to karate except for one major difference.

“It’s a different pace,” Jenkins said. “Karate is much faster. It exerts energy. While tai chi conserves it.”

Tai chi has been described as meditation in motion. The ancient Chinese originally developed it for self-defense purposes, but it has transformed into a graceful form of exercise.

Boothbay resident Linda Wacholtz enrolled in the fall and winter sessions offered at St. Andrews. Wacholtz, 64, said tai chi is helping her recover from injuries sustained in a car accident last summer.

Tai chi is helping her deal with the pain in her back and feet. She is also taking tai chi classes at the University of Southern Maine.

“I do tai chi three times per week,” Wacholtz said. “I’m a massage therapist and the exercises make a difference in how I move. It frees the body from stress.”

She also praised Jenkins for his tutelage.

“He’s top notch,” Wacholtz said. “He breaks things down into simple terms so anybody can do this.”

Jenkins described tai chi as a way to train the mind to stay calm and keep the body in balance. Part of that training is to keep the students mentally focused. According to Jenkins, tai chi trains the body to become properly aligned. The body is already out-of-whack because we’re all either right- or left-handed or footed, he said.

“If you don’t properly align you car, the wheels don’t wear properly and you start to have problems,” Jenkins said. “The body is the same way. If it’s not properly aligned then you start to have problems.”

Marital arts have been a major factor in Jenkins’ life. He first used karate to protect himself as a kid growing up in Newark, New Jersey. His mother wanted to keep him out the gangs, so she enrolled him in karate classes and the Cub Scouts. His mother worried about him growing up in a tough urban neighborhood.

In 1970, Jenkins enrolled at Bates College in Lewiston. He began the John Jenkins Academy as a student, and taught martial arts. His skill earned him a spot on the USA Karate team, He earned his first of four world championships in 1977. Jenkins also earned a world championship in ju jitsu.

As world champion, Jenkins earned praise on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

U.S. Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) praised Jenkins in a senate proclamation about his accomplishments.

Jenkins’ exploits also earned him membership in the World Karate, Maine and Lewiston and Auburn sports Halls of Fame.

Later, he entered politics. He became the first person to serve as mayor of Lewiston and Auburn. He served two terms as mayor of both cities. In Auburn, he decided against running for a second term, but won as a write-in candidate. He also served on term in the Maine state senate.

Jenkins received the Maine Bar Association’s top award for defusing a potential difficult community problem in Lewiston. The MBA awarded him the Judge John W. Ballou Award. He is the only non-attorney to ever win the award. 

His John Jenkins Academy also includes his work as a motivational speaker. Jenkins is also a “Kentucky Colonel.” He was granted that distinction by Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton for his work motivating the state’s youth.

He is now looking forward to moving to Boothbay Harbor. When Jenkins arrived at Bates College in the fall of 1970, he said: “I came for the education and stayed for the lifestyle.”

Jenkins was urged to move to Boothbay Harbor by his friends, Bob and Kitty Boyd. Moving to coastal Maine is something Jenkins has always wanted to do. Jenkins decided if he didn’t do it now then he never would.

For more information about Jenkins’ tai chi classes, go to www.peptalk.com or call 888-737-8255.