Martial art electives teach culture, relieve stress

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Courses like Tai Chi and Kung Fu offer students at Dixie State University a broad number of benefits. 

Comm edu non credit instructor Gary Whitehead teaches both courses at DSU and has been the only teacher of both classes since he first approached the school about including these two courses.

Tai Chi has been a part of DSU since 2009 and Kung Fu since 2010.

“I would guess that probably 90 percent of the school doesn’t know that such classes are taught,” Whitehead said.

Whitehead said students most likely take Kung Fu because they are interested in learning the physical movements of the martial art, as well as learning about self defense. Near the end of the course, Whitehead highlights self defense techniques that are unique which students should only use as a last resort in dangerous situations.

Shaolin.org explains the main objectives of Kung Fu as self defense, health and fitness, character development, mind expansion and spiritual cultivation.

Whitehead said students enjoy Kung Fu and Tai Chi because it serves as a way for students to learn how to relieve stress while handling busy schedules.

Jereme Vaughan, a sophomore elementary education major from Villa Park, Illinois, said he initially took the class because he would be completing credits for something interesting he wanted to do. Tai Chi class has helped him learn patience.

“The stretching and mediation portion of it really helps…with stress,”  Vaughan said. “I think it’s something that can help students get through a semester and stay sane.”

Kung Fu offers students confidence and basic knowledge in a martial art, which is helpful in self defense situations. It focuses on stringing together various forms and movements. Tai Chi also offers health benefits like improved flexibility, coordination, organ function and balance along with stress relief.

Anna Folkman, a freshman elementary education major from Pleasant Grove, said Kung Fu offered her a chance to do something active in a unique way and gain confidence.

“Kung Fu has taught me that I can do anything,” Folkman said. “Master Whitehead does not let us use the word ‘can’t’ so if I think something is hard, I just keep pushing through.” 

Folkman said Kung Fu has increased her self defense skills and coordination, and it refuels her energy as well as happiness levels.

Whitehead said both Tai Chi and Kung Fu engage in mostly physical elements of the arts, while Kung Fu focuses a bit more on the philosophy behind the art, as well.

“Tai Chi is done really slow and controlled,” Whitehead said. “The Harvard Medical School calls it ‘moving meditation.’” 

Caitlin Allen, an undeclared freshman student from Preston, Idaho, said Tai Chi adds balance to stressful schedules and offers students a break from their daily routine.

“I think everyone should know a little bit about this,” Allen said.

Whitehead said because of the apparent lack of interest in the classes this semester, Tai Chi and Kung Fu may be restricted next semester.

Chinese Kung Fu is offered on Mondays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9 a.m. Tai Chi is offered Mondays and Wednesdays at 9 a.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30 a.m.