Stamina, focus, respect in martial arts

Karate is a disciplined sport full of respect, mental health and techniques that flow like an art form.

There are two Shotokan karate classes offered at Skyline, one for beginners and one for intermediate and advanced students. This semester, combat 404 and combat 405, the beginning and advanced classes, are combined as one class offered on Mondays and Wednesdays.

In an effort to experience a sport that doesn’t get as much recognition as others, I decided to sit in on a Shotokan karate class.

Eric Larson, a college counselor and fourth degree black belt, is the instructor for this class. When he walked into the room that Wednesday, he quietly went to the front and didn’t have to say much to the disciplined group.

The class lined up in rows, knowing where to stand and quietly one by one signed the roll sheet. All I could think was “Wow, Eric Larson should teach all the instructors his trick to keeping such a well-disciplined class.”

The students all faced front, some wearing a karate uniform, or gi, with a belt of their rank, others just wearing exercise clothes. Larson began the class, informing the students they would do a review of the exercises and techniques they learned last class and then learn the next two moves of their technique.

Everyone began to stretch and do breathing exercises. Larson called out moves, instructing the students to inhale and exhale and when to stretch.

Many of the students had their eyes closed, with a peaceful look on their face, looking really in tune with their body.

“You will find it to be a very balancing, very centering exercise,” Larson said to his class about a stretching move.

He then showed the students the next two moves to the technique they had been learning. The moves included a slow punch and a heel bounce.

“This is my favorite move,” Larson said. “It’s Chinese for ‘shaking the body to heal all ills.'” Larson then began to show the move, which included shaking slowly from side to side.

After the technique, Larson led the group in jumping jacks. The students started to do regular jumping jacks as Larson started counting to ten. After Larson counted to ten, he called out a different variation of jumping jacks and a student began counting to ten. One by one in order, students would count to ten until they reached 100 jumping jacks. Most of the students could all do 100, only a couple had to stop to catch their breath.

As I watched, they next began to do slow warm-up stretches. They stretched their arms, shoulders, upper arms, then sat down and stretched their legs and loosened all their muscles. I even found myself stretching out my legs and participating in the butterfly stretch.

People paired up to continue with partner stretches, showing that Shotokan karate promotes good teamwork and helps build relationships.

The pairs then began practicing their fighting techniques. One person of each pair held their arm out with a pad covering their hand, and the other person would punch the pad.

The moves involved stepping and punching, lunging and punching, and reverse punches. Each student did the punches a few times on each side to practice these moves. I noticed a lot of teamwork and students helping other students. All feedback seemed to be appreciated. Everyone just wanted his or her peer to succeed.

The group had a lot of techniques to cover that day and moved rather quickly.

When I left the class I felt Larson had a great class that teaches students the importance of discipline and respect. Shotokan karate is a unique sport that doesn’t get a huge amount of coverage and not many people seem to know about it.

I used an hour and a half of my life to learn about something new and unique that I had absolutely no knowledge of before, and I think it was time well spent. Arigato.