Recruitment exercises for the practice of martial arts— popularly referred to as ‘Karate’— in the country have entered campuses of various schools where interested students are expected to enroll in order to participate.
The recruited students may not get to realize their dreams of participating in major national and international competitions because limited funding and the lack of gymnasiums to practice in are among many challenges affecting the program.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer over the weekend, the secretary-general of the Liberian Taekwondo Association (LTA), who is also an instructor of the Taekwondo Club Tigers, Loveton M. Chea, said government’s annual subsidy to the martial arts (Karate) program is a meager US$4,000.
Of this amount, Mr. Chea said, the club gives out some incentives to the schools where the students are recruited as trainees’ upkeep and part-payment of individual trainee tuition fees.
“We have an obligation to train and prepare for any competition, be it national or international to include the International Dawn Certificate (degree) since we are the custodians of the Liberian team,” disclosed Mr. Chea.
According to him, since the establishment of the Taekwondo Club Tigers under the LTA, trainees have come from 20 schools across the 15 counties.
The recruitment, he said, is being carried out from various schools where interested students have to meet set requirements; including physical fitness, “After which,” he explained, “practice begins.”
“There is no age limit, the younger the recruit is, the better the chance they have to compete with others,” he explained.
According to him, there are categories for recruitment, “because when it is time for national or international roll-calls, the young ones benefit because they are the ones with freshest and most creative talent.”
“We train only on weekends, mainly Saturdays and on holidays. We have divided the sections into two, placing the junior and senior recruits (trainees) into categories where they would train by themselves since they have gone through all the preliminary exercises.”
After the separation of the juniors and seniors from the rest of the trainees, Mr. Chea said training for recruits from ages three to 18 years old are given their opportunities to spar, but under the watchful eyes of the training masters. Training of the young group requires participation in the art of self-defense.
His comments were greeted by applause from the trainees who craved training outfits that comprised of footwear and outdoor body suits. The trainees even received lessons on nutrition (food with balanced diets) for their bodies to take in at the close of each day of vigorous training.
Though they were excited about the training, they also commented on the low turn-out of their female counterparts, who they considered as “key components” of pending international competitions.
With the low level of recruitment, Mr. Chea has encouraged the enrollment of more females, “because at the international level, when it comes to competition, donors often yearn for more female participation to make Karate interesting; as the “girl fights” often bring in spectators with money.
Martial arts (Karate) are codified systems and traditions of combat practices, which are practiced for a variety of reasons: self-defense, competition, physical health and fitness, entertainment, as well as mental, physical, and spiritual development.
Although the term martial art has become heavily associated with the fighting arts of eastern Asia, it was originally used in regard to the combat systems of Europe as early as the 1550s.
An English fencing manual of 1639 used the term in reference specifically to the "Science and Art" of swordplay.
The term is ultimately derived from Latin, and means "arts of Mara," where Mars is the Roman god of war. Some authors, most notably Donn F. Draeger, have argued that fighting arts or fighting systems would be more appropriate on the basis that many martial arts were never martial in the sense of being used or created by professional warriors.