Cover Story

By Yvette Yeow

Martial Arts have been practised since the early days of our forefathers. Initially developed for self defense, martial arts have evolved into different forms ranging from Tai Chi and Wu Shu to Kick-boxing, Mix Martial Arts (MMA) and many others. The idea of practising martial arts today is no longer purely for self defense; instead it is treated as a form of exercise or sport to enable the practitioner to “sweat it out” or to release stress.

In today’s society, martial arts is also becoming increasingly popular amongst the female population as a form of sport to effectively lose weight. Due to the increasing numbers of institutionalised martial arts schools springing up everywhere, Ipoh Echo took the opportunity to conduct a brief research to introduce some new options as well as to reintroduce old favourites to Ipohites.

Helps to release stress, strengthen the immune system, build muscles and increase flexibility

Taekwondo

Standing amongst the official games for the Olympics since year 2000, Taekwondo is a highly popular form of martial arts that has been institutionalised and turned into a sport. Originating from Korea five thousand years ago, Taekwondo is a form of self-defense that enables one to build strength that follows a distinguished pattern emphasising the use of legs for speed and agility.

Taekwondo emphasises the synchronisation of mind and body movements. While Taekwondo organisations such as the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) and World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) set the rules and define the general style of Taekwondo, individual clubs and schools tend to follow their own style of Taekwondo practices.

The Tiger Taekwondo Martial Arts Academy is an academy that teaches a variety of martial arts such as Taekwondo and Kick-boxing. Trainer William Toh has been teaching Taekwondo for over 30  years. Toh emphasizes flexibility and agility in Taekwondo and believes that it is a sport to train perseverance and patience in his students to achieve harmonisation in body and mind. “I believe that Taekwondo is not just a sport or martial art practice, I believe it is a way of life where students learn about responsibility and independence,” he said.

The academy offers Taekwondo classes every Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7.30pm till 9pm. Located at Taman Song Choon opposite the Kwan Yin Temple, the academy welcomes beginners or experienced practitioners to the class.

 

Tai Chi

Tai Chi or Tai Chi Chuan is an ancient Chinese martial art that is practised for its defense training and also health benefits. Tai Chi involves a series of slow, meditative body movements to promote inner peace and the unification of body, mind and energy. Because Tai Chi is slow and meditative, it may not be as well received as other martial arts but it is one of the most beneficial and least susceptible to injury.

Tai Chi practises a set of martial arts movements that place importance on body posture and alignment separated into three different aspects, health, meditation and martial arts. Health training concentrates on relieving the physical effects of stress on the body and mind. It is the foundation on which Tai Chi sits as it helps to build strength. On the other hand, meditation focuses on calmness cultivated through Tai Chi. Without meditation, harmonisation between the body and the mind would not be achieved.

Lastly, with regard to the martial art aspect of Tai Chi, contrary to popular perception that it is only beneficial for health, Tai Chi can also be used  for self-defense as it is a study of appropriate changes in response to outside forces. Tai Chi is gentle with its graceful pace and low impact movements, placing minimal stress on muscles and joints. It is a sport that is beneficial for all ages and can be practised by all regardless of fitness levels.

Tai Chi instructor, Steven Boo told Ipoh Echo that Tai Chi is very beneficial to a person’s body and mind if practised correctly. He says that the misconceptions that Tai Chi is for the elderly is wrong. Especially with the escalating pressure the public faces in today’s society, Tai Chi is a very good exercise for people of all ages to relax and release stress.

“Classes are conducted in different sessions, with a Chinese-speaking class and an English-speaking class. I believe the practise of Tai Chi can help us maintain emotional health and being a non-religious practice, achieve spiritual balance while being a very good sport for relaxation and rejuvenation,” he added.

Steven Boo began his internal art of the Yang Family Tai-Chi Chuan and training for more than thirty years, learning various routines of internal arts with masters from China and locally. He is proficient in the Internal Arts including Tai-Ji Quan, Qi-Gong, and Holistic Meditation, and the External Arts like Choy Lee-Fat, which are fast explosive martial arts.

Steven is currently giving lessons at the Mindfulness Yoga Centre in English which is a very rare opportunity for English speakers to learn Tai Chi as most Tai Chi classes elsewhere, are conducted in Chinese.

Thai Kick-boxing

Muay Thai, also known as Thai kick-boxing is a combat sport originating from Thailand dating back to several hundred years, which was essentially developed as a form of close combat that uses the entire body as a weapon for self-defense purposes. The traditional Muay Thai practised today, varies significantly from the ancient art of Muay Boran and uses punches and kicks in a ring equipped with gloves, similar to those used in boxing.

Muay Thai is also referred to as “The Art of Eight Limbs” because it is characterised by the combined usage of hands, shins, elbows and knees. Thus, a practitioner of the art of Muay Thai has the ability to execute strikes effectively using all eight points of contact and at the same time could maintain strong defense.

The formal Muay Thai techniques are split into two categories, the major and the minor techniques category. Both the techniques fully utilise the entire body with its movement, rotating the hip with each punch, elbow, kick and block.

Today, Muay Thai is considered as one of the most popular combat sports in the world, not only is it used in professional leagues, it is also a popular sport amongst the public as an exercise for fitness and agility as well as an outlet to release pent-up stress obtained from daily life.

The Ipoh Head Hunter Gym situated at Jalan Watson offers a number of classes from amateur Muay Thai to professional ones. The head instructor Bernard Radin, 42, has a long history of experience in Taekwondo and Muay Thai and is also the head coach for the Malaysian Muay Thai team for three years. He has brought the team to the recent 2013 SEA games in Myanmar and has won a total of 2 gold and 3 bronze medals.

When asked to provide advice for new Muay Thai enthusiasts, Radin said, “Just jump in. But before that, make sure to choose wisely, observe trainers and try to conduct brief research on different gyms and compare them to each other; evaluate whether they are genuine or not.”

Wushu

Wushu is both an exhibition and full-contact sport derived from the Chinese traditional martial art. Wushu was developed in China  after 1949, in an effort to standardise traditional Chinese martial art. In today’s society, Wushu has become an international sport through the International Wushu Federation (IWUF), which holds the World Wushu Championship every two years.

Competitive Wushu is separated into two different categories, Tao Lu (forms) and San Da (sparring). Tao Lu involves martial arts patterns and manoeuvres for which competitors are judged and given points according to specific rules. The forms comprise basic movements such as stances, kicks, punches, balances, jumps, sweeps and throws. Modern Wushu participants are increasingly training in aerial techniques such as the 360 and 540 degree jumps and kicks to add more difficulty and style to their forms as a means to score better points in competitions.

On the other hand, San Da is a modern fighting technique and sport influenced by traditional Chinese boxing, Chinese wrestling methods called Shuai Jiao and other Chinese grappling techniques such as Chin Na. It has all the combat aspects of Wushu. San Da appears much like Kick-boxing or Muay Thai, but includes many more grappling techniques. San Da fighting competitions are often held alongside Tao Lu or other competitions. Both San Da and Tao Lu also use weapons such as knifes, swords or spears to practise body coordination and agility as well as to preserve traditional martial art techniques that uses weaponry.

The Ipoh Chinese Chin Woo Athletic Association offers a variety of Wushu classes 3 days a week teaching both categories of Wushu, and also other classes such as Lion dance and Dragon dance classes. Wushu instructors Tan Chooi Eng and Chan Chee Kheong are the main instructor for the Tao Lu and San Da Wu Shu and has had decades of experiences in the field. Chin Woo welcomes newcomers especially the younger generation to try out Wushu as a sport for health as well as to train for personal characteristics such as perseverance and patience.

Conclusion

All in all, martial arts is a vast field that offers different types of sport to suit different individuals. With the increasing workload and stressful environment one faces, taking up a form of martial arts might just be the solution to your problem. Not only does it help release built up stress, it also helps strengthen the body’s immune system, build muscles and increase flexibility.

Tiger Taekwondo Martial Arts Academy
2A Persiaran Rapat Baru 20, Taman Song Choon, 31350 Ipoh.
Tel: +6016 565 2560
Classes: Tuesday 7.30-9pm; Thursday 7.30-9pm

Mindfulness Yoga Studio (Tai Chi)
64A Laluan Perajurit 1, Ipoh Garden East, 31400 Ipoh.
Yeshe Dolma: +6012 500 5540
Steven Boo:    +60125552638
Classes: Thursday 10.30-11.30am (rare opportunity for English speakers)
Website: http://www.mindfulnessyogastudio.com/

Head Hunter Gym (Muay Thai)
7 Jalan Watson, 30350 Ipoh.
Tel: +6016 444 3280
Classes: Mon-Sat, 6-7.30pm and 8-9.30pm

Ipoh Chinese Chin Woo Athletic Association
36 Jalan Hussein, 30250 Ipoh.
Tel: +605 254 4019 or 05 241 5561
Classes: Monday, Wednesday & Friday 8-10pm