Martial arts have been integrated into modern culture by movies, television shows and even novels. Po, the Kung Fu panda, and Jackie Chan come to mind as masters of martial arts.
Hollywood theatrics make mastering martial arts look cool and fun, and also time consuming. Fortunately for many Utahns, it is not necessary to climb a snow-covered mountain thousands of feet high to find a sensei or teacher.
Martial arts can be studied right here in the Top of Utah and are available for people of all ages. There are many dojos that are only a car ride away, depending on the style of martial art that you want to learn.
Local teens find plenty of incentive to try out a form of martial arts.
"They are cool. ... They are useful for self-defense and confidence," said Kyle Yardley, a senior at Clearfield High School.
Or Landon Call, a senior at Davis High, said he finds the martial arts great when used to defend himself.
Rachel Henriod, a Davis High sophomore, said she would also use martial arts as a defense "if people wanted to attack me. I'd use it as intimidation."
"You get to hit people, and it's a good physical activity," said Damian Fullmer, a Northridge High student who has studied martial arts for nine years.
Judo to jujitsu
There are hundreds of different styles of martial arts. Martial arts were originally used as a means of defense and offense while fighting. Some styles use weapons, like the staff used in kendo
Some of the more widely known styles include taekwondo, judo and jujitsu. According to the webpage www.taekwondoanimal.com, taekwondo originated in Korea. Taekwondo is an Olympic sport. It takes approximately 14 years to get the black belt.
Tiger Crane Martial Arts, a Farmington dojo, has 10 belts from white to black for taekwondo students to earn. The style incorporates "punches, blocks, strikes and kicks."
Judo, on the other hand, involves grappling, joint locks and throws, with punches and kicks not the general focus. Judo is from Japan, but worlds away, this style led to the creation of jujitsu in Brazil.
Jujitsu is a long, hard martial art to master, taking 15-16 years to become proficient. Most jujitsu students are 20 to 30 years old when they are able to earn the black belt. It takes commitment and sacrifice to learn this martial art, but the benefits outweigh the losses. The student learns respect, honor and honesty.
MMA -- mixed martial arts -- is a sport involving different styles of martial arts.
Yardley said he would like to learn MMA because, "(it) would be awesome."
MMA has rules to keep people safe. One is that you must be 18 years old to fight in competitions. Like all sports and activities, practicing martial arts comes with risks.
"(It's) like soccer and baseball. It's not really dangerous, they don't have safety stuff," said master Oliver Vernon of Tiger Crane Martial Arts.
Emily Bouwhiuis, a senior at Davis High, said "(Martial arts) are cool if they are used in the right way. If they're not, they shouldn't be taught."
Martial arts are not all about physical strength but mental strength as well.
"Judo, (and) jujitsu is a thinking man's martial art. Different than force on force, head on head," said Master Mike Hermosillo, of Hidden Valley Mixed Martial Arts in Sandy.
Alex Hyer, a Clearfield High School senior and martial arts student, said, "You don't get into a special frame of mind you just do it, and trust your partner."
Vernon said martial arts are "great for goals, learning, responsibility. I could just yell, but they actually have to do work."
"Training (for competitions) is the hardest part, but you make a lot of friends," said Fullmer, at Northridge High.
Micheal Gheller, a NUAMES student who has studied martial arts for four years, said, "It's a good family sport."
Studying with others also creates a bond.
"We're all really close," said Michelle Sims, a junior at NUAMES who has been studying a mix of taekwondo, shotokan and other arts for 14 years.
Learning a martial art is a very personal process. It is about the student being focused and willing to practice that can change an average teen into a martial arts expert.
There are many more martial arts to learn in Utah. The activity is a fantastic way to exercise both body and mind. Plus there's always a few bonuses, as Hyer explains.
"Kicking butt and manipulation of human bodies -- learning how to defend myself and learning about the human body," he said. "Surprisingly there are anatomy classes when learning martial arts."
Sarah Stratford is a junior at Davis High School. Her hobbies are many and varied. Email her at email@example.com.