Since 2006, PLNU has offered students the opportunity to learn martial arts, a sport of combat and self-defense, under Fourth Degree Black Belt adjunct professor Tom Blamey.
The PED 102 section 3 martial arts quad class focuses mostly on Korean Tae Kwon Do, which is known as a grappling art.
“In striking arts you are using your body against an opponent,” said Blamey. “In grappling arts, you are using your opponent’s own body against them.It is much more technically difficult to learn. I teach it though because that’s what I am a master instructor in.”
Students are not required to have any martial arts experience to take the course and do not need to meet any physical requirements.
PLNU sophomore Josh Gillespie had never done martial arts before when he took the class in the spring of 2013.
“I just took the class because I wanted a fun way to get my activities credit,” he said.
The main focuses of the hour and forty minute course are in core exercises, the building of strength and increasing flexibility.
A typical class starts with running a lap around the soccer field and stretching to then transition into the martial arts portion, which includes learning basic defensive techniques as well as forms and sparring.
In the past Blamey has given minimal written work in the class and allows the final to be a take home exam.
“For some students, the class is an easy A,” said Blamey.
According to Blamey, student can only get as far in martial arts as their mindset will take them.
“Everyone makes a big jump in their physical abilities and are able to balance, stand on one leg and throw kicks,” said Blamey. “Everyone moves on to the next belt. But some people just have a mindset that they wouldn’t be able to defend themselves while some people have no problem. For those who are apprehensive, it can take years of training.”
PLNU alumni Nathan Hirst had the right mindset when he signed up for the class with no martial arts experience. After taking the course he continued his martial arts training and achieved his black belt.
“I signed up for the it because I just found martial arts to be interesting,” said Hirst.
He started taking classes in the fall of his sophomore year and received his black belt the same year he graduated in October 2009. In all, it took a little over three years of classes.
Blamey hopes to not only give students martial arts experience, but also the ability and the confidence to defend themselves.
“We hope in our lives that we will never be in a situation where we need to defend ourselves,” Blamey said. “But in a situation like that a student would think of what I taught them and know what to do.”
Blamey said that a lot of his classes have an even amount of men to women. But over the years, there have been more women in the class, he believes for self-defense reasons.
“I think that taking a martial arts class is important for women in particular,” said sophomore Shelbie Walters who also took the course in the spring of 2013 . “We need to know how to defend ourselves.”
Christi Robell, who studied under Blamey in 2004, is now using the experience she gained from the course to give back to the community. Since taking the course Robell has earned multiple black belts and teaches children and families at the non-profit Ocean Beach Martial Arts School with her now husband Tom Blamey.
“There is a common thread and sincerity of ‘paying it forward’ in martial arts,” said Robell. “The only thing the student really needs to bring to the table is desire and fortitude.”
Alumni Jonathan Hussey is also using his PLNU martial arts experience and Tae Kwon Do black belt to teach at the Ocean Beach Martial Arts School.
“I started Tae Kwon Do at the ending of my freshman year at PLNU,” said Hussey. “I think what initially attracted me to the class was that I am of Korean descent and I wanted to be able to learn something from my culture. One of the best parts of the class was getting to learn to break boards. As a kid, I’m sure everyone has tried to break through things once or twice when you do you feel that you have accomplished something pretty cool.”
In spring 2014 students will be offered a martial arts quad two class. The course will be Tuesday and Thursdays from 5 to 6 p.m. The class sizes have ranged from one student to thirty and this year there has already been eight students interested in taking the class. Master Blamey invites any students to contact if they are interested, regardless of experience.