European Martial Arts brought to MSU

Photo by Trevor Nelson.

Most Americans are familiar with the concept of martial arts training. The thought conjures up a variety of mages in our heads. Choreographed moves of East Asian fighters from our favorite kung fu movies or the blood covered combatants from the now popular Mixed Martial Arts fights.

Most of the martial arts we are familiar with have something in common with each other that they don’t have in common with American viewers: Origin. Despite having a population comprised of over 70 percent European descendants, none of America’s popular fighting styles were developed in Europe.

Eight of America’s top 10 most popular fighting styles were created in East Asia, and five of those originated in Japan. Krav magra and Brazilian jiu jitsu, both relatively new combative types, break the mold and originated in Israel and Brazil respectively.

MSU’s European Martial Arts (EMA) group is working to popularize fighting that is more in line with America’s heritage.

“The Flower of Battle,” an illuminated manuscript filled with fighting techniques, gained enthusiasts’ attention less than 50 years ago. Lead by Eric Metz, EMA gathers several times every week to study the different parts of these newly-found transcripts.

Similar to other martial arts, each practice focuses on a few moves repeated to the point at which they become muscle memory. Different exercises include moves involving swords, staffs, daggers and general grappling.

For staff and sword training the group uses wooden weapons made by the EMA members themselves. Metz and the group try to stress accuracy and make sure their handmade weapons are size and weight accurate.

While sword fighting may not have many practical uses, Metz boasts about the group’s in-depth dagger training, citing the importance of being able to defend yourself from a knife wielding assailant.

Although some of the martial art’s techniques are useful for self-defense, it is difficult to create an outlet for fighters to test their skills in competition. Most of the moves shown in “The Flower of Battle” are designed to kill or maim the opponent and are not easily translated into a less lethal form that can be judged.

If sword wielding, dagger fighting and grappling seems interesting, you can join the European Martial Arts group for training on Mondays 5-6 p.m., Thursdays 6-7 p.m. and Fridays 5-7 p.m. in the Romney Gym. They also meet in the fitness center dojo on Sundays from 4-6 p.m.