Baldwin City students find multiple benefits from martial arts class
Melinda Shoemaker is looking forward to getting a new green belt in January to replace the yellow one she wore Monday evening.
In late January, Shoemaker and the other students in Tom Christian’s martial arts class will demonstrate their technique to a visiting master and square off against fellow students with the goal of improving their belt rank.
To prepare, the students are attending the Baldwin City Recreation Commission’s Monday and Wednesday martial arts class at Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center. Christian, with his wife, Cheryl, and fellow black belt Alex Carlisle, said the class instructs its students in the Korean martial art of youn wha ryu from the novice white through black belt level.
Shoemaker said she started taking the class in April because as an “empty nester” she wanted to get out of the house. Seven months later, she’s in it for the long haul.
“I want to go for my black belt, but that’s a few years off,” she said.
She enjoyed meeting new people through the class, Shoemaker said, but there also have been physical benefits.
“It’s great exercise,” she said. “I can tell the difference in my flexibility and stamina.”
The workouts build stamina, strength, flexibility and coordination, Christian said. In addition to the class workouts, the students are expected to practice their kicks and movement forms at home, he said. The class is billed as “for the whole family,” and those in attendance Monday included a father and daughter and two young sisters. Christian said those family members taking the class together have an edge.
“They have someone to work out with at home,” he said. “Plus, I think having another person helps keep you motivated when you’re not in the mood to come to class.”
Shoemaker is taking the class alone but with family support.
“My husband supports me in all this because I work in downtown Kansas City and it’s good to know self-defense,” she said.
As a martial arts class, students of course learn how to physically defend themselves, but an equal emphasis is put on learning to avoid physical confrontations, Christian said. Respect is a big part of the class, with all in the class from white to black belts responding with a “Yes, ma’am” when a young student calls out instructions for the entire class. Similarly, exercise routines end with bows and exchanges of thanks. The six training principles behind youn wha ryu call for students to be polite, brave, patient, alert, do their best and respect themselves and others.
That part of the youn wha ryu has benefitted her 12-year-old daughter Ella, said Gwendolyn Conover as she watched the class members go through their kicks and forms.
Ella came to youn wha ryu after trying a number of sports, Conover said. Told she had to do something, she chose the youn wha ryu class. Conover admits she was surprised by the choice and her daughter’s enjoyment and dedication to the martial art.
“A lot of the structure has been helpful in terms of discipline,” she said. “It’s definitely increased her concentration.”
Another surprise was seeing Ella padded up for a sparring match during belt advancement trials, Conover said. Ella has discarded white, yellow and green belts for the blue belt she now wears. In January, she will attempt to earn a red belt.
Christian said those who apply themselves and regularly attend the class can advance through the seven colors to black belts in four years.
The class is open to those age 7 to “107,” and complements one for 4-, 5- and 6-year olds children he also offers through BCRC, Christian said. Those interested can sign up for the class through the BCRC and attend from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday and Wednesday at the Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center, Christian said.