Martial arts is not new to the world by any means but it is experiencing a surge in popularity. In recent years the Ultimate Fighting Championship has expanded its viewership and has grown into a billion dollar company. Fighters have starred in both big movies and video games and have huge followings on social media.
The campus rec center offers classes in both traditional and modern martial arts. Some of the instructors of those classes provided more insight into what their art is about and why it may, or may not, be for you.
As the name implies muay thai comes from Thailand. It is similar to kickboxing except the style also makes use of elbow and knee strikes. As a modern martial art muay thai has become widely adopted in mixed martial arts fighting for its efficiency.
Kristina Ogden, 29, is the instructor of the muay thai class at CSU.
When she started learning kickboxing and muay thai five years ago it was just a workout. But then it became a real-world skill that she wanted to hone. She has students coming in just for the fitness aspect and students looking for something more, Ogden said.
“I think that a lot of times people are just looking for a place to belong,” Ogden said. “Martial arts is a great answer for that because they’re getting a skill and they’re getting a community. I see that a lot at the CSU program.”
Ogden also competes in muay thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournaments but she said that not everyone has to train to fight nor should they be expected to.
“Because of the UFC [and other fighting leagues] a lot people feel like there’s a pressure to fight…and be tested to the max,” Ogden said. “A lot of people [practice] how to shoot a gun but they don’t put themselves in a gunfight every day.”
Aikido originated in Japan, and it is non-aggressive and non-competitive. It focuses on redirecting the motion of someone that tries to attack you while also trying not to seriously injure your attacker in the process. There are no punches or kicks. This video of an Aikido technique will give you more of an idea of what that looks like.
Victor Hung is the Aikido instructor at CSU and has been teaching the class for five years and has been practicing the art for 23.
The passive nature of the art means that it may not be for the competitive type of person, Hung said. But that does not mean it is not useful. At age 51 Hung has used Aikido to benefit his daily life.
“When you go to a conference or a group meeting you always have people challenging you or putting you on the spot,” said the processing engineer at Budweiser. “The way Aikido has helped me in those circumstances is to not be reactive, [but] more passive, and being more alert and aware.”
Many are familiar with boxing due to its great history in the United States. Though icons such as Muhammad Ali or Mike Tyson may be referred to as boxers before martial artists the sport is indeed considered a martial art.
“Martial arts has always been a part of my life since I was young,” said 26-year-old boxing instructor Chad Volk. “It keeps your ego in check.”
Volk’s martial arts background includes taekwondo, muay thai and brazilian jiu jitsu. Though he never directly learned traditional boxing muay thai taught him enough about it to teach the basics to first-time people.
In Volk’s class students can gain newfound confidence but also a great level of humility.
“[I think] it’s important to emphasize to people the reason you’re taking a class is because you’re not good at fighting,” said the physics major who plans to one day be a professor. “That’s the whole point of learning something, is that you have to admit first of all that you don’t know.”
This is another traditional martial art from Japan and it focuses on using your hands and feet to strike an opponent. It is the most recognized martial art around the world. As a striking-based style it can be adapted to be more competitive. UFC fighter Lyoto Machida incorporated karate into his style, with a signature move of his being a crane kick.
The instructor of the karate class at CSU, Laura Davis, has been practicing the art for 21 years and is a third degree black belt. For 15 of those years she has taught it to others both at CSU and at her own dojo. Aside from the physical benefits of Karate Davis said that it has been an important part of her students’ lives.
“One of my students [at CSU], as finals approached last fall, she was picking up extra training at our local dojo,” Davis said. “I was like, ‘Are you sure you have time for this?’…she basically said ‘I’m not sure I don’t have time for this, it’s the only thing keeping me from falling apart.'”
Regardless of the style martial arts can be for anyone and anyone can be good at their art. And, to a mimic a sentiment you may have heard from an older and wiser person in your life, you get from martial arts what you put into it. Learning a style takes time and patience but it can become a rewarding part of your life.
Oh, and it can also help with stress during finals week. A lot of us need that.