Students learn crucial defensive techniques


Junior David Schoonover practices martial arts maneuvers during the Green Dragon Kung Fu Club at the Gym Annex Wednesday evening. Photo by Hannah Potes.

Hannah Kelling

‘This stuff may save your life someday,’ said Mike Massey, Green Dragon Kung Fu instructor. His declaration made, students stood focused, drenched in sweat, as an incentive to practice and cultivate reflexes. During this final instruction and the traditional salute that closes the class, a living example of his words looked on.

Thrown over the hood of a car at age 37, instructor Jeanne Cross claims that her years of training in the art form, once intended to strengthen Chinese warriors, was essential.

“I was able to walk away with nothing worse than a bruise on my leg,” she said. “I attribute all of that to my conditioning.”

While there is no Cadillac to battle in Room 155 of the Gym Annex, the members of the Green Dragon Kung Fu intramural club meet at 7:30 p.m. every Wednesday to face what volunteer mentor Tim Rose calls an “equally mental and physical challenge.”

“You always break a sweat here,” sophomore biology major Erin Thrower said. Laughing, she and a fellow member remembered cringing with sore legs as they left their first lesson. Members spend much of the practice in a low “horse stance,” which keeps the legs engaged and the student focused on what Cross calls a “competition with self.”

During the first few weeks, an average of 30 students arrive to learn the history of the group and basics of the traditional martial art form. With more than 350 forms in his skill set, the leader of the group, Sifu John Allen, has become internationally recognized since founding the group in 1971.

Rose said that the program is Allen’s way of giving back to Kent State, where he obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Allen’s students call him Sifu, which in Chinese means master or teacher.

Dressed in black uniforms with blazing red cuffs called a gi, Allen’s trained instructors and a set of six volunteers offer a forearm to smash when practicing defensive moves as well as a form of “team teaching,” which promotes individualized learning.

Devon Roach, sophomore industrial technology major and volunteer, said this atmosphere provided by the senior members, paired with the variety of the workout, is what brings people back.

Rose said mastery of the art, however, is no small task. In his decades of instruction, Allen has awarded less than a dozen black belts to his pupils. Kent State’s club is home to three of these experienced members: Massey, Cross and Bill Peterson.

“You better give blood, sweat and tears if you want to be promoted to black belt,” Rose said. The belts, which hung from the hips of the three trainers with their initials, rank, Chinese lettering and a decorative gold fringe, take more than a decade to acquire.

Together with the fluid, precise movements of the masters, the confident flashes of black sleeves and red cuffs snapping to a form, and the focused, deliberate steps of those newly attracted to the call of “strength, dexterity, health and self-discipline” promoted by the Green Dragon website, the atmosphere of serene enthusiasm is set.

“It’s going to get hot in here,” Roach said.

Contact Hannah Kelling at [email protected].