Central Holds ‘Self-Defense Using Martial Art’ Class

Gabriel Anton, Staff Writer

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America today is wildly entranced with the concept of martial arts, being abundant in popular media through mediums such as action spectacle films like “The Karate Kid,” “Bloodsport” and “Enter the Dragon.” This invigoration into American society started in the 1970s and 80s, when martial artists like Bruce Lee and later Jackie Chan popularized their fighting styles and culture through blockbuster Hollywood films and further by their showings at the summer Olympics.

This coerced the breakthrough of big American action film stars such as Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris. At this point many martial arts training programs and schools began to develop in America, solidifying martial arts as a fine subsidiary to the wider sports industry.

However, for a while people only understood martial arts by the glorious fight scenes and not by the reasoning behind its practitioners’ usage of it. Popularized martial arts such as Kung Fu hold a different meaning in Chinese society, which is, given to China by right of conception, its true meaning.

As Master Lei, an instructor for Central Connecticut’s own Self-Defense Using Martial Arts class, describes that “in China, the primary functions of martial arts are health and education.” It essentially is a vital part of Chinese livelihood, and shows that occasionally, the real benefits from martial arts are overlooked due to the flair of their execution and usage in popular media.

“The routines in Chinese martial arts take a long time to learn, so every day I practice and learn how to study and maintain good relations with my partners and teacher, while also preserving a leveled healthy lifestyle,” Master Lei continued.

Master Lei teaches three different fitness classes at CCSU, each that embody an outlook martial arts has on a healthy lifestyle.

One of her classes, Qi Gong, is a variation of Tai Chi.

“Chinese martial arts come in many different styles, many of which are variations of others.” Master Lei explains. “I practice Qi Gong every day because it helps me stay refreshed and awake from the start of the day.”

This class is similar to Yoga, ensuring the relaxation of the mind and body, while improving core flexibility. This is important to have when attending her Shao Lin Kung Fu class, where she has students practice routines and movements every day with partners. Some of the kicking and shifting that accompany most routines are improved with higher energy levels and flexibility.

Her third class focuses on the ability to defend yourself through the use of martial arts. This class trains the students to use various parts of their body to deter kicks and punches, or even weapons. All of her classes are primarily fitness classes which she describes as “warming up every day by doing various exercises before class and by stretching.” The students are actively learning ways to block and counter attacks by partnering up and assuming the roles of an assailant and defender.

The skill of defense is mustered up in films like “The Karate Kid” as the primary motive of martial arts usage.

“Martial arts are mainly a performance. You show off your skills from the many routines and movements you practice and memorize every day,” Master Lei stated. “But, they rarely use their skills to fight each other.”

Chinese martial arts are rarely on the offense, and more on the defensive as a skillful way to confront assailants that choose to pick a fight. Each offensive movement has a defensive countermovement in Chinese martial arts and the demonstration of these movements between opponents is what it is all about.

“I started practicing martial arts ever since I was in third grade. It was a variation called Tau Long,” Master Lei said. “We began by practicing many arranged routines with our arms and legs before later transitioning into practicing with weapons after two years. Some of the weapons we used were a sword, stick and a whip. We used wooden swords in the beginning and practiced many arranged routines with a partner.”

Master Lei has had much experience on both sides of the game throughout her life.

” We both knew what the other person’s move was going to be,” Master Lei continued. “We transitioned to real swords later in our training.”

She also has competed in Chinese tournaments where she implemented her skills in countless variations of Chinese martial arts, like Kung Fu, and eventually became a master of the arts.

Her Self-Defense Using Martial Arts class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 to 11:00 in Rec Room 1 in Memorial Hall. You can find more information about her classes at www.ccsu.edu/recentral/fitnessClasses.html.