A sixth degree black belt, 11 time National Karate Champion, USA National Karate Federation Instructor of the Year and U.S. Olympic Committee Coach of the Year in 2004, Herbert Wiles, makes time to help the youth in Jamaica, Queens. He regularly fulfills or supplements the role of father, counselor and/or mediator and has become the backbone of many families.
Often referred to as a “gentle giant” he is sought after by parents with troubled kids who are at their wits end, as to what else they can do to correct their children’s behavioral problems. One very interesting and dare I say shocking example, is the parent of a five year-old boy who came to him because her son was involved in four to five fights per day, at school.
As much as they tried, teachers and parents alike were unable to prevent it. Wiles was able to get through to this child in a way no one had been able to. Within a week there were noticeable changes which progressed and now fighting is a thing of the past. “I am very careful about what I tell children because I know that I have to be consistent and live according to the same standards,” he says.
Students with failing grades, is certainly not off limits for Wiles. In one of many cases, after being approached by the parents, he took a student who was getting grades in the 30’s and 40”s under his wing and spent many hours helping this student one on one, to the point where the student began getting grades in the 70’s and 80’s.
At the request of parents, Wiles frequently visits schools, on their behalf, to discuss with teachers various problems their children have. He says he ensures that the children in question are made aware that he is at the school talking to their teachers and finds that the visual goes a long way in helping to change any bad behavior and/or poor performance. In fact, with the teacher’s permission, he will also briefly speak with the student at the school, his presence, not at all imposing, sending a strong message that he cares enough about them to be there. Wiles says, “I tell them that there is no room for misdeeds or negativity and that they should think and do positive things and good and positive things will come back to them. I live my life by those words“.
Wiles is happy to mediate in homes, when asked. In one instance, siblings were in constant disagreement, fighting and seemingly unable to get along. He noted that when they were bullied or attacked outside the home they would stand up for each other. Using this as a teachable moment, he points out, that just as they are on the same team when they are targeted outside the home, and in the same way they exhibit unity and teamwork, protecting and supporting each other, they should do the same inside the home, remain on the same side, in harmony. Wiles says, “I teach children that “respect (for oneself and others), self-control and discipline has to be number one in their lives”.
The statistics for missing and abused children are staggering, and Herbert Wiles is very committed to helping keep children safe. That is one of the reasons why he offers free self-defense demonstrations, in schools and children are taught, among other things, how to get away if someone is grabbing their arm or how to stop someone from chocking them and how to get away. He has what he calls the ABCD’s for saving themselves. A is to be aware of their surroundings. B is to believe and accept that they are being attacked, C is to cry out and what to cry out specifically and D includes ways to defend themselves.
As a martial arts instructor, Wiles offers free classes to students who cannot afford to pay. He says, “If people who are experiencing hardship come to me, I will help them, I never turn anyone away”. This was the case with a child who came from a single parent household where the mother had lost her job and in another case a set of parents who were on the verge of losing their home. He also gives free coaching to countless students who qualify for international competitions and raises money to help them fund their trip. Sheryl Murphy, a student who came from a single parent home, and whom he helped raise, has grown and developed to become one of the top four female karate competitors in the world.
At Hara Kenkojuku Martial Arts and Wellness Center, Herbert says that the words that he teaches students to live by are strength with modesty and humility towards mankind.
Former special ed teacher and parent to two of his students, Theresa Greer, says she could talk for hours about all the good things that Herbert Wiles does. She says that he is a magnificent humanitarian, he works well with autistic children, builds up everyone’s self-esteem, helps children with weight problems (kids rush to tell him what they ate that day) all without obligation and on his own time. Theresa echoes and sums up the sentiments of many who know Herbert Wiles, she says “That man is phenomenal.”