By: Emily Torres, Contributor
Martial arts are seen all the time in action movies. The courageous hero throws a few punches, kicks around the bad guys and then saves the damsel in distress. There are a few problems with this picture. The first is that there is no need for a damsel in distress because she can save herself with some of those punches. The second is that there is so much more to martial arts than being offensive in a street fight.
The opposite of being offensive is being defensive. Having a good defense is especially important in sparring, just as much as it is in a football game. Having a strong defense is important no matter where you are or what you are doing. Simply walking down the street can cause one to need to be defensive. Being able to protect yourself is often more important than being able to hurt others.
I often find myself using techniques I have learned while training in TaeKwonDo. While I haven’t been attacked while out and about, I have still faced dangers in my everyday life. I have jumped out of the way and blocked a garage door hurtling down towards my head, used proper falling techniques after my brothers have pushed me off the couch, and I have used pressure points to protect my food from people who thought they could take it (less of a danger, but still important!).
Judo and TaeKwonDo are both Olympic sports. Physical fitness is important to be successful in martial arts. Many academies have different ways of making sure their students keep up with their fitness. A Karate Dojo, which is the Japanese term used for the academy of martial arts, in my hometown requires that their students run two miles during testing in order to qualify for their next rank. My TaeKwonDo Dojang, which is the Korean term used for the academy of martial arts, also has a physical fitness aspect to their testings. When preparing to test for the next rank in the series of black belts, testers are given a “Black Belt Book” in which to record how much of each type of exercise they have done in the six months before the testing. There are specific amounts of exercise to complete as part of the preparation. Some examples of what needs to be completed are: 3,000 push-ups, 3,000 sit-ups and 50 miles of running.
In addition to the physical requirements of TaeKwonDo, there are also certain mental requirements to be met. Martial artists are not meat-heads. They must be able to memorize any number of forms and creative defenses and be able to maintain their focus no matter what environment or situation they are in. In an attempt to disrupt our focus, and therefore strengthen it, the masters in my Dojang have us do our forms facing different walls, and sometimes even in the corners, but not while facing the front of the room. While this doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, what we see around the room are memory cues and we end up relying on those instead of actually knowing our forms. We need to focus on what we are doing instead of what we are seeing. This idea extends outward into other aspects of life too. At one point I struggled to focus in my classes, I literally just could not concentrate on what my teachers were saying. However, after a few months of training I managed to listen well enough to take quality notes.
I am a first-dan, or first-degree, black belt in TaeKwonDo, and I will be testing for my second dan this upcoming May. I am not a well-muscled and serious man. I am a petite woman that can and will take on anything and I am living proof that martial arts can drastically improve living styles. Martial arts are not restricted to a small population, but rather are for those who might enjoy them and who are willing to put in the effort to improve. There are several different styles that suit different personalities. Academies aren’t that difficult to find either. Portland and Westbrook have several martial arts academies, making access to training convenient for college students. USM has made martial arts even more readily accessible by having a martial arts club on campus. More information about USM’s martial arts club can be obtained by contacting Jacob Korney at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 207-319-8977.