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Karate offers U students exercise, self-defense

Hundreds of students take martial arts courses on campus every day.

Some students do it for the exercise, some do it for self-defense and some do it just for kicks.

Hundreds of students partake in various martial arts groups or classes on campus every day. Besides keeping them in shape, many say, participating in martial arts changes every aspect of their lives.

Vo lam kung-fu

The instructor claps his hands twice, the group gathers in two perfect rows and everyone bows in unison to begin each practice of one of the most traditional kung-fu forms.

Vo lam kung-fu is a position-based system in which stance and placement are stressed over traditional motion-based kung-fu, instructor Ross Wenk said.

Wenk said vo lam kung-fu, which means “martial art of the forest,” uses preserved power techniques and is considered a middle system of not being too violent or too soft.

One of the most distinct aspects of vo lam kung-fu is the slow progression of the art, Wenk said.

“You never can get to a point where you can’t learn more,” he said.

Wenk said students have to be meticulous about techniques, which helps avoid injuries.

“It’s a slower path, but a safer path,” he said.

University graduate and group member Khai Le said the more often people practice the art, the more perfect their forms become.

“It’s not about the quantity, it’s about the quality,” he said.

Le said the art is a good exercise for life and improves personal health. Other martial art forms force people to retire at younger ages, he said.

“Our style is much better – we do it much longer,” Le said.


When people refer to martial arts as “karate,” they’re usually not using the correct name. But with shotokan, the name is accurate, because it is a form of karate.

Shotokan is an ancient Japanese art that emphasizes blocking, punching and kicking in defense of attackers.

But Shotokan Karate Club President Chris Hanson said it is a noncontact art that specializes in control, self-improvement and character development.

Hanson said participating in the art has helped him improve physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

“It brings about a balance,” he said.

Although basic knowledge of the art would significantly help in a fight, Hanson said shotokan has taught him to see physical confrontations before they occur.

“You start getting foresight, seeing the problems,” he said. “You don’t think that you have to win, you think that you don’t have to lose.”

Communication studies senior Katie MacRunnels said that shotokan makes her feel connected to the earth because it is based on holding stable positions.

“My goal is to keep learning and never give up,” she said. “You really learn by example.”

Tae kwon do

Meaning the “art of hand” and “foot fights,” tae kwon do is one of the most physical martial arts around campus.

“We’re more hard-core,” said psychology sophomore Jacky Weigelt.

Weigelt, who is a member of the University’s Tae Kwon Do Club, said the club includes more practice and is less formal than other martial arts groups.

“We interact with people more often,” she said.

Since joining the club, Weigelt said, she is more physically fit and aware of potential threats in her environment.

“I have much more confidence,” she said. “Despite how big or small a person is, I feel I could defend myself.”

The art uses more lower-body techniques than most martial arts.

First-year mechanical engineering student Katie Lundberg said coming to practice helps her release tension.

“If I don’t come to tae kwon do, because of all of the stress of daily life, I get so depressed,” she said.


Aikido Club President Colin Gan said the most important part of aikido is also the scariest part for him.

Gan said that normally when people get punched, their first reaction is to recoil, then hit back. But in aikido, people need to immediately enter an opponent’s space to disrupt balance.

“It works,” Gan said. “There’s no other way you can off-balance your opponent.”

Aikido, which means “the way of spiritual harmony,” focuses on wristlocks and throws to defend against attackers rather than using kicks and punches to injure the opponent.

“We try to blend in with our opponent at the right place and the right time,” he said.

Gan said that the art attracts women because it does not use as much force and brute strength as other martial arts.

“We want people with different form and shape, different feelings or experience,” he said.

Gan said what he has learned from the art does not only pertain to practicing and performing the moves.

“People who practice for a long time – I see their life transform not only in aikido but in their daily life,” he said.


Some people think judo is similar to Austin Powers-style fighting. But there are no “judo chops” to be found at these practices.

Judo, which means “the gentle way,” is a Japanese art that stresses minimum effort and maximum efficiency, Judo

Club President Don-Felix Ryzek said.

“We put in as little energy and power as possible and get out as much effect as possible on a self-defense point of view,” Ryzek said.

He said that the art looks very similar to wrestling because a basic skill in judo is taking falls properly.

Ryzek said he falls quite often in everyday life, whether it’s off of bikes or stumbling down the stairs.

“I’ve never really hurt myself,” Ryzek said. “Instead of falling on your face, you just know what to do.”

Out of all martial arts, judo is most similar to aikido, Ryzek said.

“It kind of has the same idea to be soft and gentle and still inflict damage as much as necessary,” he said.

First-year microbiology student David Clark joined two months ago because, he said, he wrestled in high school and wanted to join a martial arts group he would fit into.

Clark said the group is very flexible and willing to work with him at each practice.

“It’s a very interesting cultural experience. It’s just a lot of fun to throw people around,” he said.

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