“Aeeeeeeee-ya!” He swings his hand down, fast as lightning, and splits a concrete slab right down the middle. Martial Arts conjures up images of sculpted strong men doing push ups with their index fingers, or Bruce Lee expertly wielding his nun-chucks with incredible
speed and precision. The world of marital arts seems to be cloaked in an exotic and mysterious veil, only to be revealed by the masters to the brave and committed.
But for the lucky residents of Santa Barbara, the world of martial arts is actually only a few blocks away, and is open to men and women of all ages, even children. And no, you don’t have to punch through any wood.
There are many varieties of martial arts to choose from in Santa Barbara, and starting a practice can have many health and mental benefits. Practicing any martial art will give you a fantastic overall body workout, where you can burn up to 600 calories an hour! Through a combination of aerobic and conditioning exercises, your strength, coordination, balance, and speed will be enhanced, placing you on your way to one-handed push-ups. Continuing a practice will increase your stamina for better energy and improve your flexibility by using a full range of motion. Sticking with a program has more perks such as stress relief, proper breathing, and a knowledge of self-defense. And the martial arts philosophy of self-knowledge, self-improvement, and self-control, will give you the confidence to know you can protect yourself, even from that scary boogeyman in the closet. So break out of your routine at the gym, and explore the world of martial arts!
Martial Arts Family Fitness
12 E. Guiterrez Street
At Martial Arts Family Fitness, your whole family can participate in Hapkido and gain valuable lessons in integrity, courtesy, perseverance, and confidence. Hapkido, “the way of coordinated power,” is a Korean art form focusing on inner strength and self defense techniques. It is a flowing, movement oriented form, including strikes and kicks like that of Tae-Kwon-Do, but utilizing ease of flow like that of Aikido. Hapkido is also a great art for women because it engages the inner energy, not sheer power.
Martial Arts Family Fitness also offers the Kickboxer’s Ultimate Training (KUT) program, a 9 week body shaping course. Consisting of cardio and strength training workouts with music, it is designed to help you reach your ultimate fitness goals. The program includes fitness evaluations every three weeks to chart progress, and nutritional support for weight loss.
Martial Arts Family Fitness offers Lil’ Ninjas and Lil’ Tigers classes for children 3 to 7 years old, as well as classes for youth and adults. A beginner can expect to reach a black belt in about three years.
Santa Barbara Academy of Martial Arts
3122 State Street
The Santa Barbara Academy of Martial Arts offers a wide range of art forms including kickboxing, Kung Fu, Sambo, Ju Jitsu, boxing, and mixed martial arts. According to Sifu Michael MacDonald, kickboxing is great for body toning and sculpting; incorporating aerobic and pliometric exercises. Sambo is an anaerobic exercise that builds muscle and promotes flexibility. The Academy boasts an all encompassing mixed martial arts class, complete with a cage for fighting. Mixed martial arts, made popular by the Ultimate Fighting Championships, is the most physically demanding.
The Academy also holds women’s only kickboxing, sambo and Ju Jitsu classes, as well as classes for kids ages 3 to 12, and for teens and adults.
Capoeira Sul Da Bahia
At the Ginga Multicultural Arts Center
219 Gray Avenue
Capoeira is a unique Brazilian art that fuses together elements of music, singing, martial arts, fighting, and dance. Created by slaves in Brazil, it was designed to preserve their culture as well as lift their spirits. In Professor Chin’s classes, students improve their balance, coordination, and strength through the nonstop cardiovascular exercises which utilize muscles in the entire body. The basic movement called Ginga provides an intense aerobic workout. Students also learn the music and lyrics to the songs, making the Capoeira experience fun and relaxing.
Capoeira is gaining popularity among women, and in February they proudly hosted the Women’s Encounter, a special workshop taught by women for women. Professor Chin also teaches classes for kids.
Paragon Jiu Jitsu
617 South Salisipuedes
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, also called Gracie Jiu Jitsu, came to the U.S. in 1993 and was popularized through the Ultimate Fighting Championships. Jiu Jitsu is a full contact martial art that focuses on grappling and ground work to gain a dominant position over the opponent using joint-locks and chokeholds. Jiu Jitsu centers on the concept of leverage, so that even a smaller person can slip around the power of a bigger opponent and defend themselves. Instructor Sean Conley explains that Jiu Jitsu offers a rigorous workout that will firm and tone muscles in the entire body. It will aid in weight-loss, improve athletic performance, increase energy and stamina, and build self-confidence.
At Paragon, not only do students learn and practice new techniques, they get together as a team on weekends to watch the Ultimate Fighting matches on TV as well. Paragon’s new location on South Salsipuedes will also be offering carido kickboxing lessons.
Aikido of Santa Barbara
826 East Cota
Aikido of Santa Barbara is a non-profit organization teaching the non-competitive art of Aikido, emphasizing non-violent conflict resolution, physical and emotional control, as well as social cooperation. Aikido, a Japanese art form meaning “the way of the harmonious energy,” relies not on strength, but on redirecting the opponent’s movements. Aikido uses evasive, circular movements to use leverage and gravity against the opponent. The non-aggressive approach of Aikido can increase flexibility and muscle development as well as concentration.
Aikido of Santa Barbara offers classes for children, juniors, and adults. The Dojo also provides classes focusing on practice, discipline, and self-control for students at Santa Barbara Junior High.
Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art characterized by flowing, soft, slow movements, and can be considered “moving meditation.” A greater sense of focus and calmness is just one of Tai Chi’s numerous health benefits. Tai Chi can reduce stress, and even lower blood pressure. The low-impact nature of Tai Chi is an excellent exercise for the elderly, as it can alleviate frozen shoulders and arthritis, improve flexibility, and promote a sense of serenity.
Sifu Toni DeMoulin leads Push Hand gatherings on Sundays, open to all different levels of experience. Push Hands involves working with a partner and learning how to connect, and become a part of the other person. As Toni explains, it is not about hurting the other person; not about meeting force with force, but learning how to flow, connect, and have fun.