Indra Lokatama, a senior from Indonesia majoring in psychology, said he is the only certified hapkido instructor on the entire island of Oahu. In addition, the BYU–Hawaii Hapkido Club, which he coaches, is the first and only Hapkido Club on the island.
He said he volunteered to teach local children hapkido classes for free after some children noticed him practicing outdoors and asked if he would teach them. To sign up, parents need only sign a liability form.
Although he is volunteering his time, he said he recognizes the responsibility placed on his shoulders as an instructor, so he prepares quality classes for his students. “You have to look in each child’s eyes and help them grow.”
Lokatama has been involved with hapkido, a form of martial arts, for more than 15 years. “Hapkido is pretty unique because the movements are circular instead of rigid. It’s more flexible compared to other [types of martial arts].” He said instead of focusing on fighting, hapkido focuses on defense without harming others.
“The goal is not to hurt others. We try to find a win-win solution.”
He said this difference is much more apparent in the adult classes than in the children’s classes because the children learn basic movements, such as punching and kicking, while the adults practice dodging the opponent.He said he learned hapkido directly from a grand master from South Korea who has a seventh-degree black belt. The more degrees he more “experience, knowledge and wisdom you have,” he explained.
Back home in Indonesia, he said he coached his homeland’s international hapkido team from 2015 to 2016, where he mentored up to 50 students at one time. His athletes competed internationally and earned a gold medal at the Hong Kong championship in 2019.
Being a good role model
Lokatama began practicing hapkido outside when the pandemic started. Some local children noticed, told him they wanted to learn and asked if he could teach them. “They just came to me, basically,” he explained. He said he first started teaching these free classes in March. In the beginning, he only had one student, but now he has about 12 students ranging in ages 3 to 13 years old.
Khulan Davaakhuu, a sophomore from Mongolia majoring in exercise and sport science, said she enrolled her daughter in Lokatama’s class because her daughter was interested in learning hapkido. She said her daughter would often watch YouTube videos of karate and gymnasts and asked her parents if she could become like the people in the videos.
However, the only karate or gym classes offered on Oahu were quite expensive, running around $180 per class, and were located all the way in Kaneohe or Honolulu, she explained.
When her husband was walking around Temple View Apartments with their daughter, they saw Lokatama teaching some children hapkido. She said her daughter “followed their class even [though] she was not invited. Indra was impressed when he saw her practicing. Then Indra invited her to his class.” She said her family was so glad she could attend.
Sugarmaa Bataa, a sophomore from Mongolia majoring in graphic design and marketing, said she enrolled her son in the class to improve his health, discipline and learn to protect himself.
Teaching a children’s hapkido class taught Lokatama the importance of appreciating children, he explained. “Appreciate your kids. A lot of people these days don’t appreciate them. They are so pure,” he said. “Learn to appreciate them. Accept them.”
Lokatama said he always strives to be a positive role model for the students he teaches because he knows everyone has “learned behavior.” Children often learn from their parents and instructors, he said, so it’s important to be a good role model for them.
“If their role model taught them to be well disciplined, they will hold it in their heart and it will help them for the rest of their life. ... When [the parents] drop the kids in my hands, they are safe. They will learn, and I promise the parents they will be good guys and girls.” He said he strives to help the children have fun but also be disciplined.
Davaakhuu said, “My favorite thing about Indra is that he is very responsible teaching and organizing his class. I noticed he enjoys what he is doing. He is a very impressive person.”
Because Lokatama is so devoted to being a good role model, he said he is also a strong believer in preparation. “A good instructor or coach always needs a plan. You actually need to see each student what they’re good at and the things they must learn to be better.” He said when he is teaching class, he pays close attention to the progress each student is making and spends time outside of class thinking of ways to help them.
“I maintain communication with their parents, ask them [if they’re practicing] at home and ask for feedback.” He said this has been one of the most important things he has done to effectively help his students.
Bataa explained, “[Lokatama] is so kind and thoughtful about the kids. He always tries to help them to be better. He also gives us feedback about healthy eating and being active.”
In fact, Lokatama said one of the parents of a student told him their child was struggling maintaining healthy eating habits. “I told [the children] if they come to class they need to eat. If you don’t eat, I don’t want to teach you,” he told the children. Soon thereafter, he said the child began eating more.
Discipline changes behavior
Lokatama’s first student was always shy and didn’t really know how to speak English. “I had never heard her voice. When she played outside, she doesn’t talk.” Because there are children in the class from around the world, such as Japan, Mongolia, India and the Solomon Islands, speaking English is basically the only way to communicate.
He said he made an effort to model the behavior of communicating by always striking up a conversation with her, even if she didn’t reply.
“Now, she’s talkative,” he said. In fact, in one of the most recent classes, this student could be seen running around, laughing and holding hands with a new-made friend from class.
“Martial arts isn’t about fighting people, it’s about self-development. You meet people and you learn something new. Perhaps she learned how to communicate better in English.”
Bataa said she believes Lokatama’s class is helping her child’s communication skills. “My son is so active compared to other kids his age and is sensitive. I think he is starting to better deal with others. He is growing day by day.”
Lokatama said he has had several experiences that have made him want to focus on teaching and continuing pursuing a career in psychology. He said throughout his years of teaching in Indonesia and Hawaii, he has come across several individuals who struggle because of traumatic experiences in their life.
One particular student of his struggled with drinking and drugs and almost flunked out of high school.
“I told them if they don’t get good grades and study, there is no future [for them.]” After he initially said this, he said the boy quit the team. However, when the boy’s mother later passed away, he fell into a depression.
“He came back on our team and said, ‘I need you to coach me.’ Psychologists are so expensive back home. I’m so impressed this guy trusted me enough to help him. By practicing on a continual basis, it actually became a habit for him to not do drugs anymore. So, learning hapkido is actually a rehabilitation program for him. Discipline changes behavior. People are able to change with true martial arts,” Lokatama said.
He remembers and cherishes experiences like these even as he is coaching the local children because he said he knows some of them have been through traumatic experiences. “I hope in my mind if these things are going to help the kids, I would rather help them now because I know if it helped others before, maybe it’s going to help these kids become better as well.”
Davaakhuu said Lokatama taught her daughter the importance of punctuality. She said her daughter always reminds her she would have to run in five circles if she is late. “She is learning the days of the week and time because she wants to know which day she has practice and what time.”
She also said she has noticed her ability has improved immensely. She said her daughter has “learned a lot of kicking and punching techniques” and practices and stretches at home after class.
Some of the students are now preparing for an online competition, the Asia Pacific Qualifier. Lokatama will record the students performing different hapkido movements and, on the day of the competition, the videos will be played live for the judges.
In March 2021, two members of the BYUH Hapkido Club won awards at a similar competition: one gold and one bronze medal.
Between coaching the BYUH Hapkido Club and the children’s class, Lokatama said he spends about 10 hours per week teaching. Despite the time commitment, he said it fits into his schedule nicely because it is a way for him to destress.