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Mr. Aristede Dukes: Right Place, Right Time, Right Skills

Instructor on a mission trip finds receptive audiences for ATA Bullying Prevention aboard ship and at destination

By Mr. Brian Myers, 3rd Degree Black Belt Certified Instructor

You might not have reason to believe it yet, but sometimes the “best laid plans” only get better. For Mr. Aristede Dukes, a 5th Degree Black Belt Certified Instructor from Westmont, IL, a winter mission trip that uses a cruise ship for transportation provided surprise opportunities to help others in a way which he was uniquely – and just recently – trained to perform.

On his fourth Cruise with a Mission a couple of winters ago, Mr. Dukes encountered a moment where his Songahm Taekwondo leadership training would be put to the test. One afternoon aboard ship, the Cruise Director told mission leaders of a need for positive, youth-oriented programming in a short time frame. The island was experiencing widespread problems with bullying and requested education on bully prevention. Mr. Dukes offered his expertise in bullying prevention techniques, recently developed training in the American Taekwondo Association. He knew that with a little help, he could provide a fun, useful, impromptu seminar for all the kids based on ATA-Olweus Bullying Prevention curriculums.

“I don’t believe in accidents. I don’t believe it was an accident that, by this time, I had taken both of the bully prevention seminars offered by the ATA. I don’t believe it was an accident that my instructor, Senior Master Patti Barnum (owner of ATA Martial Arts in Darien and Homewood, Illinois), was a co-author of the program,” Mr. Dukes says with conviction. He felt guided by God into that moment with the exact skills and access to materials to entertain and educate the youth on Cayman Islands with life-changing information.

Children can often be a tough audience. Reaching them often requires more than field expertise and a loud voice. With the gift of modern technology, Mr. Dukes was able to access the ATA Bullying Prevention program materials at the spur of the moment aboard ship far, far from home. “It was no accident that the program was written by the only ATA school owner whose email address I had memorized and would be able to get the necessary materials from,” he says.

Once at their destination, the mission team was surprised to learn of a pressing need at one of their Cayman Islands ports of call. They normally tackle everything from free medical and dental clinics to light construction and environmental projects, but the apparent need and high demand for widespread bullying prevention education was something new. The schools where they worked those days – one a small Christian school, the other a large public school – had special requirements and a small time frame which the ATA Bullying Prevention presentations satisfied to a tee, allowing Mr. Dukes to address almost 500 students.

“It was not an accident that the time spot they had for me was an hour and the bullying prevention seminar is designed to take an hour to deliver,” says Mr. Dukes.

Another “non-accident” was his career training in the American Taekwondo Association. Mr. Dukes has invested time, energy, money, and personal commitment – to better himself in certain capacities and to reveal opportunities to lead and aid. As a Certified Instructor, he is accustomed to continuous training and martial arts growth. He did not expect the knowledge he gained from ATA Bullying Prevention seminars to suddenly be needed by audiences within his reach, far from the do-jahng where he normally teaches. Being prepared though, Mr. Dukes stepped up to satisfy some of the many (N)eeds of (O)ur (W)orld at pivotal times and places – demonstrating outstanding Leadership NOW. Along with the good news and deeds of his gospel mission, the ATA-Olweus lessons about standing firm against bullying may stick with those children and aid them far into the future, a worthy mission indeed.

About the Author:
Mr. Brian Myers is a 3rd Degree Black Belt Certified Instructor and co-owner of Pilsung ATA Martial Arts in Greenwood, Indiana, specializing in Bullying Prevention, Child Safety, and Leadership Training. Mr. Myers is also a Certified Anger Management Educator, Certified Verbal Judo for Youth Instructor, and contributing writer for He also writes for as a National Martial Arts Examiner and Indianapolis Martial Arts Examiner.