As someone who has done Tang Soo Do karate for the past 13 years of his life, I’m not certain what I expected to see when I walked into RPI’s martial arts clubs in the Armory. The first thing I saw, and should have expected to see, was the freshmen going through a warmup.
From 9 am until 5 pm, these students were shown demonstrations from each of the martial arts clubs at RPI, including the Taekwondo Club, the Kung Fu Club, and the Kendo Club. These demonstrations were strategically planned at 10:30 am, 1:30 pm, and 3 pm in order to give the new students time to rest, as martial arts can be physically taxing, especially since the event lasted almost eight hours.
The demonstrations also served two other purposes: to showcase each style and to describe how sparring with these different styles works. For example, Liam Wingert ’15, president of the Taekwondo Club, explained the rules and point system of Taekwondo fighting. Points are earned for hits to the body and head. A clean blow to the body, with your hands or feet, earns you a single point. A combination of techniques or a spinning kick to the body earns you two points. Three points are earned for a standard kick to the head, while a spinning kick to the head earns you four points. The goal is to get more points than your opponent.
There are, however, some things you can’t do. You cannot kick below the belt, punch to the face, or leave the designated ring area. Each of these will earn you a reduction in points, generally losing you half of your points. After explaining all of this, Wingert acted as the center judge for a sparring match between two of the black belts from the club. They did not seem to keep points, or perhaps the judges were keeping them mentally.
The students seemed eager to begin sparring themselves. In fact, the first thing Adrian Collado ’19 asked me was when they were going to get the chance to spar themselves, not knowing I wasn’t actually there for the event. When I asked him why he chose this event, Collado stated that “martial arts are really good for keeping you in shape and keeping you mentally disciplined.” I completely agree with both of those statements, after 13 years of martial arts myself. Collado mentioned that he had been doing Sho Do Kan for several years, which encouraged him to see the RPI martial arts clubs for himself, and he seems eager to join one of them.
Each martial arts club has a different emphasis, with Taekwondo displaying the sport-like aspect, Kendo displaying the weapons aspect, and Kung Fu displaying the physical fitness and mental training aspect. There’s something for anybody who is interested in the martial arts, whether experienced or not. Each of these groups strives to teach the ways of its martial art, and help to keep the students in top physical shape. Martial arts is for almost anybody, whether you want to stay in shape, become mentally disciplined, or just want to learn some way to defend yourself from danger.
If you’re looking for something new, try giving either the Taekwondo, Kendo, Kung Fu, or even all of these clubs a try! Visit their respective websites: Taekwondo: http://tkd.union.rpi.edu, Kendo: http://kendon.union.rpi.edu, and Kung Fu: http://kungfu.union.rpi.edu.