Martial Arts in a Modern World — Berkeley High Jacket
Shortly after World War II, something new was introduced to the American mainstream: martial arts. With a high value placed on tradition and discipline in these ancient practices, maintaining the legacy while moving to the United States proved difficult.
West Wind schools focus on teaching a style of mixed martial arts called Bok-fu, combining karate, kung fu, and a mix of other practices. With locations in Piedmont, Alameda, and most recently Solano Avenue in Berkeley, they have been teaching in the Bay Area for over 50 years.
To keep the practice true to the cultural roots of martial arts, Gibran Leon, the Berkeley branch lead instructor, said, “We start everyone with etiquette before we teach any of the martial arts. … It’s about respecting educators and respecting traditions. We maintain strict discipline for our students, ensuring that they arrive clean with the correct uniform.
For Ben Lazarus, a freshman at Berkeley High School (BHS), being consistent with ancient teachings is essential. The longtime West Wind student and now instructor says, “I think the dojo stays connected to the cultural roots by teaching the same things that were taught hundreds of years ago and just making a few changes. to the material…traditions and disciplines that are part of the culture,” he said.
Recently, while teaching at West Wind, Lazarus saw clashes between modern sensibilities and tradition.
“I think one of the challenges of staying true to tradition in Western society is that people are always questioning things now,” Lazarus said, “if it’s… Why are we both hugging hands?” or ‘Why should we bow with downcast eyes?’ He continued, “I had a student today who said it was so stupid to bow to every instructor in the school, but to us it’s a sign of respect that gets passed down. as a tradition for a long time.
“Our teachings are important right now,” Leon said of how the practice is currently helping the Bay Area community, “especially with the situations that have occurred against many Asian Americans. here in the United States, [the] targeted attacks. Through the martial arts and self-defense we teach, our students can become more capable of defending themselves against similar acts of violence.
Lazarus also said that “teaching and learning self-defense helps even more now that hate violence has become a bigger issue in our community. … It is especially important to maintain Asian cultural practices to help keep the community strong.