SMC Martial Arts Society Kicks Clichés and Stereotypes

Crane kicks, broken cinder blocks and seemingly gravity-defying acrobatics are just a few of the images that come to mind when one thinks of martial arts.

While these aspects are indeed part of the realm of martial arts, the clichés and stereotypes that saturate the media continue to undermine these venerable practices which have countless practitioners around the world.

"Martial arts is a way of life," says Santa Monica College student Irving Arias, 19. "People get the idea that it's about fighting, but really it's not about that at all."

Arias and the rest of SMC's Martial Arts Society aim to quell the banalities perpetuated by the media, as well as to provide a better understanding to not only club members, but to any student willing to participate.

Many of the club's 50 members had no background in martial arts prior to joining the club.

As expected, many of them don't look like your typical martial artist, yet their unassuming appearances should not be taken as a sign of weakness.

At their official meetings on Tuesdays in HSS-252, the club members teach and practice numerous styles, including karate, drunken boxing, shaolin kung-fu, and ninjutsu.

However the club often meets outside of the designated club time on the quad. The most popular style among members appears to be the martial arts-dance hybrid Capoeira.

Club co-founder Arias says that his involvement with Capoeira has improved his life greatly, and has taken him around the world, including El Salvador and Brazil. He has been practicing for only two years but has already exceeded his own expectations.

SMC speech professor and club advisor Darryl-Keith Ogata uses a light approach in overseeing the club.

"I think one of the things in college is we have to give students enough control so they find what they want," says Ogata. "Usually good things happen with that."

Ogata says that the club's high level of enthusiasm has often drawn the ire of professors who have had their classes disturbed.

"They were nice college police," says Ogata of an incident in which campus police were called. "They just wanted them to tone it down."

Club member Yoseph Asfaw says that the club intrigued him after observing them practice around the clock tower. Soon after, Asfaw decided to join the club, despite his inexperience.

"I could barely do a kick; it was pathetic," says Asfaw, 21.

Asfaw says that he initially practiced Drunken Master before moving on to Capoeira. Asfaw cites his participation with the martial art in improving his confidence.

"I'm not as antisocial as I used to be, and I can kind of show off a little bit," Asfaw says.

Fellow club co-founder Jassi Patayan has been practicing martial arts for most of his life. In addition to boosting confidence, Patayan believes that martial arts have other benefits as well.

"One of the biggest things we actually saw was the great stress relief," says Patayan, 19. "I encourage it all the time. About a week before finals starts, come by here. You will see us practice our butts off," Patayan says.

Patayan says that the philosophical aspect of martial arts inspires the club members to be gracious not only in combat, but in their everyday lives as well.

"Share your knowledge, gain your knowledge, says Patayan. "You come in here, you share your knowledge with us, you leave here with gaining a new knowledge."

The Santa Monica College Martial Arts Society meets Tuesdays from 11:15-12:45 in HSS-252.