Martial arts do not sit well at academic institutions such as Lakeside School. They are, after all, martial, the practice of fighting, something no school hopes to encourage. Nonetheless, the student body, diverse as it is, is home to a number of current or former martial artists. So, in honor of all those whose fighting skill has thus far remained extra-scholastic, a simple question has been posed: “What brought you to martial arts?”
Among martial artists, stories concerning entry into their style can vary. Unlike sports like soccer or basketball, fighting is not commonly supported as a schoolyard game, so those who found a martial arts school generally sought it out directly for a reason. Four-year Taekwondo practitioner Benjamin H. ‘20, for instance, was simply searching for a sport to improve his overall fitness when he started learning the Korean fighting style. Today, he continues to practice, though he admits his motive for doing so has since changed. In his own words, “taekwondo became a time where I could destress. There’s something just so liberating about being able to kick and punch a target.” Benjamin is currently taking a hiatus from Taekwondo to focus on college applications, though he hopes to return soon.
Meanwhile, wrestling team captain and black belt in Shotokan Karate Bryent T. ‘20 followed what one might call a more “typical” martial arts journey. Born a “scrawny and introverted Asian boy,” he began to learn to fight by the advice of his mother for self-defense. He recounts the first day at his dojo crying, fearful of making a mistake and of his playful teacher’s teasing. As Bryent progressed in Karate, he overcame his fear of failure, now expressing one of the main things he learned from practicing was the importance of constantly seeking improvement through correction: “My senseis will compliment me rarely because I always have a minute detail that needs work. My right foot may be too far to the left by an inch or my hips may be turned too far forward by a few degrees. We are rarely satisfied with ourselves and must continue to improve.” Now a practitioner for nine years, Bryent enjoys mentoring new students at the dojo, though like Benjamin, has not been able to come often. He plans to return after the college application process concludes.
Though niche, martial arts have been a recent and present part of Lakeside’s programs. For Aikido practitioner Teresa Y. ‘22, experience with martial arts began with former middle school English teacher Mr. Law. Adored for his over the top and unconventional demeanor, Mr. Law also founded and led the Kung Fu club, which amassed a small yet devoted group of attendees. Through intense and rewarding practice sessions, the club members built a shared sense of comradery. I admit, I speak intimately about the club as it was my own first entry into combat sports. For me, the Kung Fu club embodied the idea of “martial arts.” Though the Kung Fu club taught me how to fight, more introspectively it was—almost ironically—artistic: combative punches, kicks, and elbows strung together into elegant, dance-like forms. After each practice, fatigued from sharpening our capability to inflict harm, we reiterate our commitment to self-control, respect, and non-violence.