Martial arts classes gain popularity with students

By Michael Berg

With violent crimes on the rise and gun-control initiatives rampant, martial arts classes are gaining popularity nationwide.

NIU is no exception. Judo, karate and tae-kwon-do courses are offered by the physical education department, said Judith Bischoff, chair of physical education. About 300 students enroll in these courses each semester.

Sam An, intructor of tae-kwon-do, said the class is the most requested course in the entire physical education department, and there has been a consistent need to enlarge the enrollment quota.

“This course is very popular with the students,” An said. This might be because of the growing trend toward self-defense among crime-conscious students concerned for their safety, he added.

A sixth-degree black belt, An has been teaching tae-kwon-do at the Rockford Academy of Tae-Kwon-Do, 4007 E. State Street, for over a decade. Before that, he was involved in international tae-kwon-do competition. An added he also teaches martial arts at several other schools.

“Karate means ‘empty hand’ and is a Japanese martial art,” An said. “Tae-kwon-do, on the other hand, involves greater use of hand and feet, and a wider range of motions than karate. Unlike karate, tae-kwon-do is a Korean sport which is an event in the Olympics, the Pan Am games and the World games. It is more structured than karate.”

An described judo as a type of Oriental wrestling where the competitor grabs, then throws his opponent. An said all three arts involve both offense and defense, but involve responding to, rather than initiating aggression.

An said he has taught tae-kwon-do at NIU for about seven years, and students consistently have had a high demand for the course. “The course has been taught at NIU for many years, and there is a strong trend toward students wanting to learn self-defense,” he said.

While karate is taught at martial arts academies near Chicago, tae-kwon-do is more avaliable in smaller cities, An said.

“There are no licensed karate instructors outside the Chicago area, in cities like Rockford. There are tae-kwon-do schools there.”

Asked about the future of martial arts instruction at NI, An said he would like some new equipment and more licensed instructors.

“NIU students want this course and I would enjoy teaching it to them,” he added.

Karate and tae-kwon-do are both listed as karate in the course catalog, Bischoff said, because of the computer system used in listing the courses.

Bischoff said three sections of tae-kwon-do are being offered. An said he anticipates enrollment to be around 300 students, and the course could fit 450. In recent semesters, An said, between 250 and 300 students have enrolled in tae-kwon-do.

If crime statistics and recent legislation are any indication, this statistic may be on the rise as well.

“The course has been taught at NIU for many years, and there is a strong trend toward students wanting to learn self-defense.”