Karate club offers unique style

The karate club at MU has been active for more than 20 years.
Kevin Bradshaw, senior and Sho Rei Shobu Kan Karate Club president, stands in front of the columns. The club sport, sponsored by the Student Recreation Complex, focuses on self-defense.

Although countless Hollywood films have depicted karate as a compilation of flashy flips and kicks, MU’s Sho Rei Shobu Kan Karate club commits itself to training members in the art of self-defense.

The club’s president, Kevin Bradshaw, said the club's techniques would help end a fight or hold off an attacker.

"You learn about yourself and how to apply the moves outside the Dojo," Bradshaw said. "We try to incorporate moves that would be the most effective."

Club Vice President Holly Ziobro said in an e-mail the club has been at MU for more than 20 years. Jeff Firman, a professor at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, founded the club at MU in the late 1970s. He practiced karate and learned the self-defense style in Lincoln, Neb.

Instructor Ryan Kenkel has been a part of the club since September 2001. He said in an e-mail the club's style could be traced back to man named Chojun Miyagi, of Japan. Bradshaw said one of his major issues is low membership. There are only a handful of people who join the club each year.

"There were 10 to 14 people in the club during the summer, and there are usually 20 to 30 people during the school year," Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw said the traditional levels of belts has been removed and replaced with four different colors of belts and stripes. The order of the belt colors is white, green, brown and black. Each belt has one to three stripes, depending on the skill level of the student. In order to gain another color or stripe, the student must pass a test.

Ziobro said the tests are easy in the lower levels but become more difficult in the later levels because of higher expectations.

"The first time you test is hard because everything is new, and the next several times you test are easier because everything builds off of what you have already learned," she said. "But as you get even higher it gets harder because the expectations are higher."

Kenkel said a part of gaining a color or belt stripe is by practicing the moves at home.

"It is expected that you practice some of what you learned outside of class," Kenkel said. "To achieve higher levels, you have to look back towards earlier practices and exercises and find a deeper, and often more practical, meaning."

Ziobro and Kenkel said they believe the hardest part about the club is teaching younger students techniques.

"Oftentimes we pair junior members with senior members to work on techniques, and it's hard to explain to someone who hasn't done that technique before how to do it," Ziobro said. "Also, it means you better know that technique very well yourself."

Despite the challenges, Kenkel said he enjoys working out with large numbers of people instead of working out alone.

"I had been athletically active in high school, and I've found myself to enjoy a workout that involves a number of people rather more than a lonely passage of time on a weight machine," Kenkel said. "My everyday lifestyle has changed in noticeable ways and I found that it has given me more confidence when dealing with others, (and it has been) especially helpful in a customer-oriented job position."

Bradshaw said he hopes to attract more members by getting the word out about the club through flyers and attending the RecSports Fair.

"People always talked about how the club used to have over 100 people, and it would be great to have that many in the club again," Bradshaw said.

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