For as long as most of us can remember, society has been fascinated by the varying degrees of combat, whether we are studying the wars of our ancestors or watching our favorite hero locked in a climactic battle with the main villain. Combat has both amazed and horrified us. For as long as combat itself existed, countless people have developed ways to defend themselves and the people they care about. Soon these minor developments turned into intricate fighting systems that we now call the martial arts.
As most of you reading this may know, Salt Lake Community College offers martial arts classes as an option to fulfill your Physical Education requirements that are attached to most programs offered by the college. To date, the school offers styles from four different local martial arts schools. Each style is different, but similar in varying degrees. There are different aspects, both physical and mental, that each style tends to focus on. In turn, certain personalities work well with certain styles and not so well with others. It ultimately depends on what you are looking for in the martial arts. Today, we’ll be discussing the different styles offered by the college and different things that each style may offer to the potential student.
Country of Origin: Korea
Taekwon-Do as we know it today is an amalgamation of techniques and ideas from different martial arts. Its ancestry can be traced from the Hwarang, who were young noblemen that created a patriotic society during Korea’s unification in the Silla dynasty in 600 AD. The Hwarang-do system emerged as a resulted of the Silla kingdom being under constant attack by the two neighboring kingdoms, Goguryeo and Baekje. The art, among most other significant facets of Korean culture, was greatly suppressed during the Japanese occupation of Korea, which lasted from 1910-1945.
At the end of World War II, practitioners had incorporated techniques unique to various Japanese and Chinese martial art systems, resulting in a plethora of new styles emerging across the country. In the 1950’s, the South Korean president Syngman Rhee ordered the various schools to unify under a single name and system. On April 11, 1955, the name “Taekwon-Do”, submitted to the president by General Choi Hong Hi, was accepted and become the official system of the Korean Army. The origin itself is often the subject of debate between the two major federations, the International Taekwon-Do Federation, and the World Taekwon-Do Federation.
Taekwon-Do is known for its emphasis on kicking techniques, the rationale being that the leg is the longest and strongest tool a martial artist has. This style does also have its fair share of hand and grappling techniques, making a more well-rounded style. It also has a lot of set rules and codes of conduct students will be expected to follow, akin to the codes of conduct used by the military.
If you’re getting into the martial arts for the first time, then this is a good style to try out, as it’s equal emphasis on etiquette and technique will help you figure out if the martial arts are something you want to continue with. This is also a great art for children who want to learn basic self defense as well as discipline.
Country of Origin: China
Kung Fu is essentially an umbrella term as there are many different styles of Kung Fu that originate from different parts of China. However, all of these styles trace their origin to the Buddhist monk, Bodhidharma, who introduced the concepts of meditation to the Shaolin Temple, who before that time mostly served to translate Buddhist scriptures. The monks spent most of their days at desks and were in poor shape as a result. In addition to teaching them meditation, he also taught them exercises that would later evolve into the Shaolin style of Kung Fu.
There are three different styles of Kung Fu taught at SLCC, those styles being Wing Chun, Hung Gar and Tai Chi.
Tai Chi: This style focuses on relaxation and moving mediation. The meaning of relaxation in this style is simply efficient movement with little to no muscle tension.
Wing Chun: This style is a combination of hard and soft techniques. The focus of this style is “economy of motion” where little movement on the part of the practitioner can have big results. This style also focuses on close-quarters combat.
Hung Gar: This style can be described as a fairly hard style, with most of it’s emphasis being on deep stances and powerful strikes. It has fluidity like it’s previously mentioned counterparts, but has a much harder edge to it.
Tai Chi is good for people who want to learn how to cope with stress and take time to relax in these stressful times we live in. Wing Chun, like Taekwon-Do, is an “every man” style and serves as a great introduction to Kung Fu. Hung Gar is best for those who really want to push themselves, as the deep stances and forms give your legs and your core an intense workout.
Country of Origin: Japan
Aikido is a small part of a longer legacy in Japanese martial arts and is considered a relative newcomer. The style was developed by Morihei Ueshiba, who had studied various styles of Ju-Jutsu as well as various weapon styles. The art of Aikido was developed as a combination of both the various styles he had learned and the various religious influences he had in his life.
The goal of Aikido is not to subdue an attacker with violent force, but rather redirecting the attacker’s energy to that the attacker is restrained and/or disarmed. This style predominately features joint locks and releases. The focus of the joint locks is to cause pain to the attacker only if they resist and struggle, much like the famous Chinese finger trap. This martial art places equal emphasis on the mental and spiritual aspects of the art as it does the physical aspect.
Aikido is a good style for those who aren’t violent by nature. Much like tai chi, this is also good for those who seek an internal calm. Physical strength is not a prerequisite and age is not a hindrance. So even if you aren’t in the best of shape, you will still be able to perform aikido techniques effectively.
Country of Origin: Brazil
Capoeira is a one-of-a-kind martial art as it combines fighting techniques with dance and music. It was created by descendants of African slaves that were brought into Brazil by Portuguese settlers. The style drew upon both African and native Brazilian influences, resulting in the art being disguised as a dance so that passersby wouldn’t suspect practitioners and so that opponents would be caught off guard. The style is especially effective in situations where the practitioner is outnumbered.
Capoiera features an expansive repertoire of devastating and even deceptive attacks, ranging from kicks to knee and elbow strikes and even head strikes. In today’s time, much of the focus of the art is on the more playful and musical aspects, as there are many songs that a student learns as people participate in a game known as the roda (HO-da).
Capoeira is a great art for those with a lot of energy. If you’re musically inclined, and are interested in things like break-dancing, you’ll greatly enjoy this art. It should be noted that this art is a very physically demanding one, but it’s good if you’re someone who wants an art that keeps your whole body actively engaged.
In the end…
Now this is only a brief look at the martial arts that SLCC offers to its students, but there are a few things one must consider before signing up. Below are two of the questions one should think about before taking up a martial art.
Are you naturally passive or aggressive?
What do you wish to gain from the martial arts?
These may seem like simple questions, but when you think about these two questions, many more begin to pop up, which is often the point, as martial arts are just as much about philosophy as they are technique. Hopefully this piece has given you a little insight into the martial arts so you can find the style that is right for you. Of course, as with all exercise programs, be sure to consult a medical professional before you undergo any training regimen.