The Karate and Self-Defense Club

Members of the Rowan University Karate and Self-Defense Club in the Rec Center. The club's mission is to promote self-defense in an empowering and fun atmosphere. -Photo courtesy of Jade McDonnough

On Friday evenings, while most people are getting ready to start their weekend, members of Rowan University’s Karate and Self-Defense Club are in the Rec Center practicing their moves.

The Karate and Self-Defense club is dedicated to offering students on campus the opportunity to learn how to defend themselves, as well as practice martial arts skills. One does not need to be an expert to participate; anyone with an interest in martial arts or learning self-defense is encouraged to join. The mission of the club is to get students involved in something empowering and fun.

The idea for the club came to be in fall 2013, when club founder and current President Gary Liedtka-Bizuga, a junior civil and environmental engineering major, noticed Rowan did not have many martial arts related activities.

“When I was looking at colleges I didn’t see any karate or martial arts, and I thought to myself, ‘I can do that’,” Liedka-Bizuga said.

In his prior martial arts experience, Liedtka-Bizuga was required to teach his younger classmates, a skill that would later aid him in his decision to start the club.

“I love teaching and I also love learning from other people too,” Liedtka-Bizuga said. “Just being able to see experienced and non-experienced people able to communicate back and forth to create that atmosphere is amazing.”

Although he was only a freshman at the time, Liedtka-Bizuga was determined to get a martial arts club at Rowan. With the help of some friends, the club began going through the necessary steps with the Rec Center to be recognized by the university.

After gathering signatures, finding an executive board and getting involved with a service project, the Karate and Self-Defense Club held their first meeting during the fall of 2013. The club went on to recruit more members in the spring of 2014. Currently, the organization has an equal ratio of men and women who participate.

The Asian Cultural Association asked the club to do a demonstration during their annual festival last spring, and after a successful event, invited them back again this year.

The club strives to welcome members of all skill levels and provide a positive space for everyone to participate in. Instructors switch every meeting so that different martial arts practices and workouts can be incorporated.

“Each class starts out pretty much the same,” said Treasurer James Kweeder, a sophomore public relations major. “We start out with basics, like kicks and punches, then we progress into more of the self-defense part. The self-defense covers Jiu Jitsu, Tang Soo Do and pretty much any other martial arts anyone has a background in.”

Kweeder had 16 years of experience practicing inside a dojo prior to joining the club and helps instruct classes. Jade McDonnough, vice president and risk manager of the club and a junior radio, television and film major, also helps with club duties despite not having a large martial arts background. Having danced for over 10 years, she lends her aerobic exercises and stretching techniques to the club, as well as handles all social media activity.

The club has also participated in numerous service projects and will be working with the Ronald McDonald House in Camden this upcoming spring.

In addition to wanting to increase the numbers of participants, the club is also looking to build a sparring team that could potentially face off against other colleges, which could be a possibility by spring 2017.

If you are interested in checking out the Rowan Karate and Self-Defense club, join them in the Rowan Rec Center on Fridays at 7 p.m.

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