Paging the UFC: Start looking at the College of William and Mary for your next fighters, because there is a strong martial arts presence on campus.
From Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to Tae Kwon Do, there are five clubs that practice martial arts regularly, and they welcome students with any level of experience.
Most of the clubs are student-led. Robert Bohnke ’17 is the president of the Tae Kwon Do club.
“We have a constitution that’s from 2006, so there was a Tae Kwon Do club a long time ago, but when we came to school at the beginning of last year, there was no Tae Kwon Do club to speak of,” Bohnke said. “A senior who graduated last year restarted the club halfway through first semester, so I joined and was really happy about that. When he graduated in May, I took over the club. I’ve been doing tae kwon do since I was six years old, so it’s been a constant in my life.”
As a black belt, Bohnke leads practices and shares his skills with 10 other club members.
“Tae Kwon Do, more generally here in Virginia, and maybe in the United States, seems to be something that people do when they’re little,” he said, “It’s fantastic for little kids to teach them discipline and get them exercise. It seems to be something that people do as little kids and then stop, so it seems that most people who have any knowledge of Tae Kwon Do when they come to the club were doing it when they were a lot younger.”
At practices, the club members participate in sparring drills and preparation, as many are not yet at the full-on sparring level.
Bohnke says that Tae Kwon Do differs from other martial arts in that it is more kicking-focused.
“We’re more likely to kick you in the face, rather than punch you in the stomach. For that reason, it’s good for flexibility,” Bohnke said.
Stefan Edemobi ’17 leads the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu club, and says that he has received interest on Facebook from students who have learned about the sport via the Mixed Martial Arts Ultimate Fighting Championship. Jiu-Jitsu is the groundwork for much of the UFC fighting.
“For me personally, it’s definitely something I want to carry through my whole life,” Edemobi said. “In a lot of martial arts, like Tae Kwon Do, to get your black belt, it takes about three or four years. Jiu-Jitsu on average takes 10 years. I’m trying to reach out to a school in Newport News and see if we can get an instructor to come once a week to teach. I have my own school in Woodbridge, where I’m from, where I practice.”
Edemobi leads every three-hour practice himself, demonstrating moves for the six other club members, and then having the members pair up and practice the moves. They practice Jiu-Jitsu as a form of self-defense, rather than a sport, completing wrestling-like moves on the mat and being conscious of giving their opponent opportunities to strike them in the head.
“Jiu-Jitsu has more of a zen quality. It’s more relaxed,” Edemobi said. “You don’t have to hurt your partner as much as you would with Karate and Tae Kwon Do. In elementary school and high school, they have a zero-tolerance policy for assault. So even if you’re defending yourself in the fight, you’ll still get suspended. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a more peaceful alternative.”
Jackie Tyra ’15 is the president of the Martial Arts club.
“I had been doing a little bit of martial arts back in high school, and wanted to continue when I came here,” she said. “Our club is unique because it offers Aikido, which is kind of a self-defense art. I had been doing that at home, and was really excited to get involved in that here.”
Adult members of Dai Nippon Butoku Kai, a Japanese government-sanctioned martial arts organization, lead the club practices. Most club members come in with no experience, and even faculty members participate.
“I think martial arts is a very practical way to stay active. It’s something you can use in a scary situation, like a self-defense situation,” said Tyra. “We’re pretty low stress without the commitment of a sport.”