Training in martial arts = strengthening self-confidence and the ability to adjust to change

For our March blog, the MOVE WELL Team wanted to follow up on our January Blog (scroll down), which featured information on the HCI sponsored course, entitled “Martial Arts, Phenomenology, and Personal Empowerment’ (WAC174).

WAC174 will host a martial arts demonstration on Wednesday March 11th at 11am in the Blue Room of the John Wooden Center. Students and instructors will demonstrate skills learned and contextualize research findings from this 10-week course.

While HCI and MOVE WELL promote a wide range of movement (and stillness!) activities as routes to personal health and wellness, here are some things that UCLA students took away from the regular practice of rigorous physical training in martial arts over the course of the 10-week quarter:

“…I initially took the class because I was attracted by the idea of self-empowerment. The word has a positive ring to it. I wanted to empower myself to feel comfortable with my physicality in every aspects of my life not just in athletics; having been an athlete my entire life, people naturally assume that I was capable of many things beyond my sport and it’s been difficult living up to that expectation. I often let my fear and ego get the better of me when pursuing goals but the biggest concern of all, is that I was unaware of those elementary issues I have which hindered my progression as a student in life. Gavin De Becker had a quote in The Gift of Fear that stuck with me. He said that we as people ‘…want recognition, not accomplishment.’ We tend to care so much for our ego but forget that progress is the only thing that will last. In our class discussions, we brought up how kids are able to learn so much quicker than adults…We would rather not try at all than to risk the potential of humiliating ourselves, which is why it’s so much harder nowadays for us to pick up new skills.

During our martial arts studio sessions, Shifu would always start us up with 10 to 20 minutes of warm up…I find it interesting to take command of my body in the setting of martial arts. I’ve never been one who is satisfied with the way I carry my body in everyday life so naturally I came into my first session with a lot of expectations-I was eager to learn the maneuvers of a Kung Fu master; to pick up insane fighting moves so I can showcase how smooth I am in combat, but Shifu quickly clarified things for me. He told us that every technique and every drill he teaches has a practical purpose. Fancy movements are only good in movies as real life combats are unpredictable. There’s no combination of attack that will work all the time; we have to adapt to the different scenarios.

Training martial arts is, essentially, us strengthening our ability to adjust to change.

We do it to defend ourselves and not to show off because, just like how Rory Miller puts it in Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training and Real World Violence: “Here’s a rule of life: You don’t get to pick what bad things happen to you.” Therefore, you have to stay a fighter, always. This mentality is the most important realization I’ve made thus far in my pursuit of self-empowerment.”

-Haiyang (Kevin) Yang, WAC174 student

Sophomore, Year World Arts and Cultures Major

“Martial Arts had been part of my life ever since I was in first grade, but with the demands of school and work, I gave it up a few years ago. The result was that slowly, almost without noticing, I became anxious and a bit paranoid about my surrounding. I didn’t like to go to unfamiliar places, or stay at home alone, without always feeling like I was uncomfortably on guard. Despite years of training, I felt like I couldn’t defend myself anymore if something were to happen to me.             Joining this class has meant a full turnaround for my self-confidence. I am more vigilant than I was before, but I also have more peace of mind. I’m no longer scared or anxious. This class has given me a new sense of self-empowerment, and it has made me feel like I am more capable of handling unexpected situations. The studio training has been full of great self-defense tactics as well as exercises to ease the mind. The class readings have given me a different outlook, allowing me to see the world through the eyes of people who have made Martial Arts a part of their lives. Interesting comparisons and contrasts make me look at some familiar problems from a more critical angle, and I have also started to think about many things I never gave a second thought before.            Whether you want to learn self-defense, get better discipline or gain self-confidence this class is for you. It is perfect for all skill levels, and good for the soul.”

-Nicole Tata, WAC174 student

Senior, Sociology Major

What moves you?

For a complete list of UCLA Martial Arts classes at John Wooden Center, visit:



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