Martial Arts, the term elicits different reactions, outsiders usually assume that it means fighting, hand-to-hand combat, kicks and punches; but, to those involved it is so much more.
“Martial Arts is a lifestyle; you learn your morals and your values when doing it,” said Kimdinh Tran, sophomore at Hofstra University. “It’s not fighting, it’s self-defense.”
Tran started doing Kaze-kai Shotokan, which is a branch of Japanese martial arts, when she was 10-years-old. She explained that while many people argue that self-defense is fighting, one of the first principles taught to those participating is to refrain from violent behavior. The classes are modelled around the concept of a mutual respect and a desire for everyone to succeed. In fact, two of the key principles taught by the sensei, martial arts instructor, are respect and discipline and students are learning it at all ages.
A typical class for Tran starts with bowing to the shoman wall. This action is meant to calm and relax everyone so they can start the class fresh without the frustrations they may have been feeling that day. Tran describes this as a freeing exercise that makes her feel good every time she does it.
When class starts everyone is mixed together, something that was Tran’s favorite aspect of martial arts. Not only are the boys and girls treated the same, but age was irrelevant as well. Young children were mixed with older ones and even adults; the children were never treated as if they couldn’t do something because of their age.
“They didn’t expect much from us but what they taught us they expected us to do,” Tran explained.
Tran, as a strong and confident girl, especially appreciated that she could compete with boys as she would often beat them.
“I was the first girl in my dojo to receive my black belt at the age of 17,” Tran said. There are three categories in which Tran competed to reach this status throughout
those seven years of fighting. They are the same for others competing in martial arts:
Kata: form, there is a kata for each belt that must be learned in order to proceed on to the next one. This is when the martial arts student stands alone in front of judges and performs the skills and techniques of certain moves.
Kumite: fighting or sparring, for young children there is no contact allowed however they go through the motions and steps of fighting. For older students, controlled contact is executed.
Kubodo: this is another form of Kata, except it is used in the higher levels because it involves the use of weapons.
Performing in competitions, practicing martial arts, is not something that those involved easily forget. It is something that sticks with them even during periods when they stop practicing it. Tran explained that she thinks it is something that could help a lot of people especially children, because it teaches discipline and respect, but also women.
“I would recommend it to females especially. Every female should know how to defend themselves,” Tran said. “It’s a simple kick, a simple punch, and a simple technique that can make all the difference.”