If you’re ever walking through the Leslie C. Quick Recreation Complex at around 8:00 p.m. on a random Tuesday or Thursday you might stumble across Club Martial Arts practicing. They might not look like much, just six or seven people fighting each other, but Co-President Giacomo Giardina ‘23 assures me: “There’s nothing quite like fighting someone to really become friends with someone.”
Giardina runs the club with fellow Co-President Patrick Shaw ‘23. Both decided to get involved after stumbling upon the club at the Activities Fair during their freshman year.
Shaw had a background in boxing and saw that Club Martial Arts offered something different, as they mainly practice Tang Soo Do.
“So I was like, this is fun,” Shaw said, “It wouldn’t hurt to broaden my horizon.”
They meet every Tuesday and Thursday from 8:00 – 10:00 p.m. in the RecPlex. It’s here that they spar, learn particular martial arts forms and bond with each other over all else.
“It’s the best cardio in the world,” Giardina says, “I mean that sincerely… If you fight for a couple rounds…you will be exhausted. And it’s like, wow, this really is like the best form of exercise in the entire world.”
They both agree that the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the club down slightly. Due to restrictions, they could no longer bring outside guests on and thus they were barred from having instructors from local gyms come and give lessons.
“It turned into just like an all-around mixed martial arts class to an extent so you know,” Shaw told me, “We have people that have backgrounds in wrestling, people who strictly do Jiu-Jitsu…one of our officers has a black belt in karate… It has turned into a real melting pot.”
Giardina tells me that pitching Club Martial Arts is tricky because “It’s not like a normal sport, right?”
“It’s a contact sport, you are getting hit, you’re hitting other people. So you have to, you have, to let people know that, yeah, this is going to happen,” he adds, continuing, “There needs to be just a little bit of like willingness to go out of your comfort zone and try something new…Even if the original kind of fear of getting hit or hitting someone else might be a little off-putting to some. I think there’s enough interest in it to really have people come in.”
Shaw adds that Club Martial Arts might even be good for students just looking to defend themselves.
“We go through some situational work,” he says, “Like what to do in the event somebody starts getting physical with you at a party or something like because nobody wants to end up in a situation like that. But in the event that it does happen, you know, we think that people should be at least ready to de-escalate and get away from the situation.”
He adds that usually they talk through with the team on how to throw and take punches, but reiterates that they take all the necessary precautions and make sure no one is getting hurt.
“One of the things that we tell the members as soon as they get in there is that we are doing this for yourself, and you’re doing it to get away from the situation not to create it,” Shaw adds, continuing, “We don’t try to create bullies, we try to get rid of them.”
Both had fond memories of the club. Shaw stated that one moment, in particular, stood out to him: when the club decided to hold an event called “Running the Gauntlet.”
“You spar everybody in one continuous shot,” Shaw tells me, “So it would be like, if there were six people at the club, the first person is sparring against the other five people for a minute each. Then the next person rotates in… so you spar everybody twice.”
“You’re in there and you’re just kind of blowing your lungs out and absolutely getting as tired as possible, while still trying not to get tired,” he adds, but says that the paper plate awards after the gauntlet were also incredibly special and gave everyone on the team “a little good uplift.”
He continues, “It was a good way to finish out the year, because, you know, you’ll walk away knowing that like, you know, you did something, right.”
Giardina adds that though the Flavors of Asia event is one of his favorite memories, “It’s the little stuff that’s the most fun, like just going in and sparring with someone and you aren’t expecting it, but then you have a real good match or something with them. Those are the parts that really make it fun.”
Shaw agrees that the friendship of the team is special as they don’t end their relationship at practice.
“Everybody that comes through and joins we end up hanging out with them afterward. It’s not like a relationship with somebody [that’s] going to end strictly at practice,” he says, adding, “Especially because we’re on such a smaller campus you’re gonna see your other members around every so often. But it’s not just a kind of wave goodbye and say like, ‘Oh, hey, how are you doing?’ You can stop and have a good talk and be friendly with everybody.”
He ends by saying, “We’re just trying to make friends. Try to make friends and break heads…but not really!”
If any students are interested in joining the Club Martial Arts meetings, they can go to the lower level of the RecPlex on Tuesday and Thursdays 8:00 – 11:00 p.m or visit their Life@Fairfield page to join!