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The Quad

Julia Otto, Special to The Quad

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When I was a little girl, two guys physically bullied me on the playground, scaring me halfway to death. At the time, I was taking ballet classes in order to become the graceful little flower that I was supposed to be, but I wasn’t a graceful little flower.

Honestly, I had a great time dancing. Don’t let anyone tell you it is not an extremely challenging activity, but it just wasn’t my sport, which led me to taking up karate in second grade.

After rigorous years of training and a challenging written exam on the history of Korean Martial Arts, I became a black belt in Tang Soo Do.

The belt and title weren’t the only things I gained from my karate experience either. I gained a greater sense of respect, discipline, work ethic and, most importantly, I gained a greater sense of self.

I learned how to respect my teachers and how to carry myself through the normal highs and lows of life. Martial arts served as an escape from the stresses that come along with growing up. Plus, it boosted my own confidence and put a spring in my step.

On a physical level, I was working out three times a week; I became more flexible and coordinated, and even became more positive day by day.

Those six years of training have shaped me into who I am now. Sadly, after I reached First Dan, I had to take a leave of absence from my dojo. I still miss the bonds I had with my instructors today. The instructors of my dojo, especially Master McManus, had an enormous impact on my everyday outlook; I have yet to meet a place filled with individuals as inspiring.

Now that you’ve heard my story, it’s time to get you to start your own journey into discovering a martial art that has a positive impact on your life. The reality of the world is that it is not always a safe place. I started martial arts to get stronger and to learn how to protect myself when the occasion arose. Every college student should at least try their hand at some sort of self-defense class.

There are numerous fighting styles to look into, and there are a few gyms near campus who I can bet are looking for new students to teach. Age honestly can’t be a factor; it’s never too late to learn how to defend yourself.

And ladies, don’t let anyone tell you this is a man’s sport. Although I hate to say it, I personally feel that every woman should take at least one self-defense course.

Today’s world is a scary one, and it would be nice to have the ability to keep yourself safer in it. I have found so much pleasure in practicing martial arts in a safe space, among all genders. This is an anyone sport.

Whether you decide to take up boxing, kickboxing, MMA, Tang Soo Do, Tae Kwon Do, Muay Thai, Karate, Krav Maga, Jiujitsu, Jeet Kun Do, Kendo, Wrestling, Judo or even Sumo Wrestling, I assure you that at least trying one will become a way to release stress, feel safer on campus and build muscle in your body in a productive atmosphere.

Although I’m taking a break from studying Tang Soo Do, don’t think that my love of martial arts ends there. Currently I am a new member of the Judo Club on campus in order to experience an entirely different form of martial arts.

Instead of signing up for some crazy workout regimen to get your thighs or biceps to look the right way, try something a bit more energetic and applicable to your real life.

Plus, the people involved in martial arts are the kindest ones I’ve known since they each have an individual reason to be there. Whether you’d like to expand your world, meet some new people, tone your body, learn to defend yourself or even just take up some time to relieve stress, I think any sort of martial arts would be for you.

Julia Otto is a first-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The Student News Service of West Chester University