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Thursday, April 11, 2024

Martial arts teaches more than self-defense

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Martial arts is defined as “any of various fighting sports or skills, mainly of East Asian origin, such as kung fu (Pinyin gongfu), judo, karate, and kendō,” according to Encyclopedia Britannica. With over 180 martial arts styles, forms vary widely from striking or stand-up styles like karate and taekwondo to grappling or ground fighting styles like sumo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

“Martial arts isn’t just about learning forms and doing all these moves together. Martial arts is like one big family. It doesn’t matter who you are; we’re a family. We love each other, and we support each other,” said martial artist Natalia Silk.

Silk, 11, holds a second-degree black belt in taekwondo and is working toward her black belt in karate. Her grandparents enrolled her in taekwondo when she was 4 years old, and Silk has been involved ever since.

In 2022, she traveled to Wales, UK, to represent Team USA in the WKU World Karate Tournament at the age of 10. Last year, she traveled to the WKU World Tournament in Calgary, Canada, where she won five medals.

“We started her with taekwondo because, at that age, she was very small in stature and very shy. So, we wanted her to come out of her shell. We didn’t want her to be shy. We wanted her to stand up for herself because sometimes, the smallest person in the room gets picked on,” said Silk’s grandmother, Lorraine Jackson.

Silk now teaches some classes at her dojo, has more confidence, excels in the classroom and even sticks up for kids who get picked on in school, according to her grandparents.

“Everybody thinks that martial arts is all about fighting, and it’s really not. It’s really about building a person’s self-esteem,” Jackson said. “It teaches children about being respectful. They have children’s home rules, such as children shall greet their parents when they enter the home. They teach them about good hygiene. They tell them to be clean about their body and brush their teeth. They teach them to do your homework.”

Indianapolis mother Zuwena Muhammad has been involved in martial arts training since she was 5 years old. She now holds a black belt in one style of martial arts and is working toward a second black belt in karate.

It started even before me. My father started it, and then he put all of my siblings and me in it,” Muhammad said. “I started when I was five years old, and I have a black belt in one style, and I’m working on a second black belt in karate right now.” 

Muhammad decided to enroll her children in Marital Arts for many of the same reasons her father enrolled her and her siblings. 

“He wanted the discipline aspect for all of us. He liked the principles of martial arts. So there was the physical activity, but also the principles that you learn and the morals that you learn. It was lessons that we could take outside of the dojo into the classroom and into any of our real-life situations. So he liked that and then the kind of spirituality of it. So all of those additional lessons to the physical activity is what drew him, and that’s why I continued it as well,” Muhammad said. 

Learning self-control, body control, responsibility, humility and determination are all things Muhammad credits martial arts with teaching you, and no matter your age, you can get involved with this art. 

“I would say they’re all fun and go for it. They all have different principles and different focuses. Taekwondo was a big focus on kicks. Karate kind of encompasses lots of different things. You have jiu-jitsu and Judo that are grappling and more stuff on the floor. So it’s kind of like whatever you feel best fits you, but they all have really good principles, they all have a spiritual aspect, and they all have physical components,” Muhammad said.

Contact Racial Justice Reporter Garrett Simms at 317-762-7847. 

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