Martial arts experts to put bodies to test

By Michael Berg

Students interested in the martial arts can see karate experts from across the country and Canada participate in a 48-hour endurance test at NIU.

The Midwest Winter Special Training Program is open to students, faculty and staff in the NIU Shotokan Karate Club along with members of the Shotokan Karate of America. They will test their physical and mental skills Dec. 6 through 8 in the Student Recreation Center. All three belt levels—white, brown and black—can participate in the event.

Beginning Friday, Dec. 6, at 2 p.m., the first of nine practice sessions will begin, said Bill Kreda, faculty adviser to the NIU Shotokan Karate Club. Each session runs over two hours, and the rest time between sessions gets shorter and shorter until the final one Sunday afternoon.

During the sessions, the students practice a basic movement by repeating it 1,000 times, or perform katas (a predetermined set of movements acting out a battle with an imaginary opponent) 100 or more times.

“The idea behind it is if you put yourself in a situation like this, (continuing) gets harder and harder,” Kreda said. “When your body runs out of energy, you need a mental push to finish. Once you’re exhausted, your body finds the most efficient way to do something.”

Kreda said this form of training resembled Japanese Samurai practice, where warriors would sword-fight for hours and hours to polish and perfect their skills. “They literally lived and died by their skills,” Kreda said.

“Special training has come down to the present from martial artists of the past who sought a way to put their mental and physical powers to a test by calling upon their innermost strengths,” Kreda said. “Participants put themselves into hardship and push themselves to their physical limits.”

Shotokan is a Japanese martial art from Okinawa. In Okinawa, the warriors studied ways to make strong striking and kicking techniques, Kreda said. The rulers had taken away the weapons from the people, so they had to find an effective way to defend themselves.

Shotokan Karate of America was founded in 1955 by Tsutomu Ohshima, one of the last students of the father of modern day karate, Master Gichin Funakoshi. The emphasis is on “realistic fighting, with strong realistic attacks with all weapons of the body, including fists, feet, head and elbows,” Kreda said.

The Midwest Winter Special Training program has been held at NIU since 1986. The sessions are open free to spectators.