Learn How to Defend Yourself through Martial Arts

7 mins read

Josephine Emanuelli

Have you ever wanted to learn how to defend yourself, practice karate or just be more connected with your body? You can do that and more in the karate class offered on campus by Chris Goedecke, who goes by his Buddhist name Hiyashi. Hiyashi has been a part of the campus community since 1979 when he ran the karate club here and has taught the physical education class from 1983. The course can be taken as a physical education class for one credit or students and faculty have the option to audit the class. In addition, he teaches courses at the Madison Area YMCA and several local schools. He has also been published in several books, magazines and other publications on karate and the martial arts.

The Drew program is taught over two semesters. The first semester focuses on self-defense, teaching it through the lense of the karate practice. This involves lots of hands-on work and skill development as students work with partners in the class. Hiyashi wants the class to be as relevant to the students’ lives as possible, so discussions are about self-empowerment, building confidence and how the central tenets of the martial arts can be applied to their daily lives. A central part of the martial arts is the study of conflict, so it is essential to discuss these issues in the class. Adding to the diversity of purposes of the martial arts, Hiyashi continued saying,

We work mind, body and spirit. They get a workout, they also learn about interesting techniques to protect themselves, we get into interesting discussions so I invite people to come in because we have kind of an open forum to grow. If you want an interesting perspective on growing first through the physical nature, this would be a great program to come to and try it out.

In the second semester of the program, students learn the traditional martial arts form of kata, along with continuing the discussions about the role of the practice of martial arts in their daily lives.

Hiyashi believes that even though karate is an ancient practice, it has increasing importance in today’s volatile world as being able to protect yourself is an essential skill. Although many believe that karate is just about kicking, punching and fighting, it also has therapeutic qualities. Elaborating on these qualities, Hiyashi stated, “There are so many different dimensions that the martial arts offer. There’s the therapeutic side, there’s the spiritual or meditative side, too, the old masters weren’t just interested in fighting, they were interested in thriving in life. So, we have practices that offer sound fitness principles, they have the therapeutic quality of the chi kung built into them, which is not something that most Westerners are not familiar with. What I tell little kids is we are gonna make you faster, stronger, better balanced, more flexible and smarter about how you use your body. I would say the same thing would be true here.” Adding to the spiritual and meditative qualities of martial arts, there is also a strong relationship between Buddhism and the martial arts, although you do not have to be Buddhist in order to be successful in the martial arts. Buddhist culture and history is found throughout the martial arts tradition. Pattern exercises is where Buddhist influence is most present. However, Buddhism also led to the philosophy that is central to the martial arts; the goal is to take down, not to kill your opponent. The Buddha himself wanted to know if we could transcend conflict while we are still living; his interest in the practice lies in how martial arts can be used to transcend that boundary.

The connection between Buddhism and the martial arts can be seen in the name Hiyashi itself. Mr. Goedecke was given the name after he formally entered Buddhism as a monk. He entered Buddhism after connecting with another martial arts instructor and learning more about the beliefs and the relationship with the martial arts. Buddhism can be traced through martial arts practices, and Hiyashi practices in the Tomio lineage; this is the lineage that brought the martial arts to England. The name Hiyashi was given to him and it means “forest,” the name Tomio means “seeking the light,” so his Buddhist name translates to “forest seeking the light.”

Hiyashi teaches okinawan karate, which believes in ishun- one mind, one heart; the body is undivided. These teachings are more old world and look at the big day-to-day conflicts and how to resolve them. The practice seeks to use the tools of martial arts to dissolve daily conflicts, as it is far more likely that you will have a struggle or conflict with yourself internally than you will have to defend yourself against an attacker. Regardless of the type of conflict, the skills and mindset of martial arts can help those who practice overcome these conflicts.

Martial arts have become increasingly important today, as along with living in an increasingly volatile world we live in a world that is more dependent on technology, and Hiyashi believes that this makes us less connected with our physicality. Practicing karate can help students become more in touch with their bodies and their world around them.

If you are interested in learning more about the martial arts at Drew or in general, Hiyashi welcomes questions and can be reached at cgoedeck@drew.edu. His website is  isshinkempo.com and he has videos, articles and more information available there as well.

Photos courtesy of Hayashi


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