Time Out's learns the way of the sword (and stick, staff ...)
Whether it’s due to the prevalence of the Ultimate Fighting Championships, the public’s appetite for kung fu films, or simply a desire to learn something new, the popularity of martial arts has never been greater. Weapons-based martial arts have also risen in prominence, largely as extensions of disciplines such as hapkido and wu shu, but also as sports in their own right (fencing, kendo and arnis). Summertime in Dubai dictates that sport is played indoors, so it’s a perfect opportunity to take up these fun pastimes that typically take place in sports halls and gyms, and will improve your hand-eye coordination, self-discipline and fitness. Time Out rounds up five to try.
Arnis Also known as kali or escrima, modern arnis is a form of stick fighting developed in the Philippines: fighters are armed with two 70cm sticks. The technique was developed to overcome assailants carrying short blades, and the principles of this martial art can be utilised through everyday objects such as a rolled magazine, which – according to Dubai’s World Black Belts Centre founder Rio Altaie – makes modern arnis a relevant and useful form of self defence. Unlike staff fighting, arnis is a form of martial arts in itself and is the basis for all weapons-based martial arts. Dhs500 (unlimited monthly sessions). World Black Belts Centre, near Safestway, Jumeirah (04 343 4397).
Fencing What was once a fashionable pastime for posh, quarrelsome young men has become a thriving Olympic sport. There are three forms of fencing, each using a different blade: foil, épée and sabre. All are taught by Bulgarian couple Mihail and Maria G Kouzev, founders of MK Fencing Academy. While the mantra of academy is ‘passion, persistency, innovativeness, excellence and honour’, the immediate physical benefits include heightened hand-eye coordination and a great cardiovascular workout – agility, alertness, and endurance are all key. Fencing is as much about strategy as thrusting a sword at an opponent, so it depends on brains as much as brawn. Want to learn more? Beginner sessions last for an hour; advanced sessions last 90 minutes. Dhs60 (beginner), Dhs50 (advanced). Raffles International School south campus, Umm Suqeim, email@example.com, www.dubaifencingclub.com (050 794 4190).
Kendo Think fencing, but with bigger swords and cooler outfits. Admittedly, it’s not particularly constructive to compare Japanese kendo to European-style fencing – kendo is Japanese for ‘the way of the sword’, a discipline that derived from samurai swordsmanship and was originally part of the samurai training system. Kendo training is a combination of samurai philosophy and physical exertion, and is both physically and mentally demanding. Spirits can be invigorated and minds and bodies can be moulded at Dubai Kendo Club, which trains every Wednesday and Saturday, teaching everyone from complete beginners to advanced levels. Dhs50 (two-hour group class). Emirates International School, Umm Suqeim 3 (050 264 8683).
Hapkido Compared to sabres, samurai swords and staffs, a walking cane isn’t the most obvious of weapons, but it is nonetheless integral to the Korean martial art of hapkido. The cane – an everyday accessory for old men or eccentric dandies – has the reach of the stick used in modern arnis, as well as a hook, which can be used to control an aggressor. In fact, the humble walking cane is basis for the PR-24 – the T-shaped truncheon used by police forces around the world. As with staff fighting in tang soo do, the cane is a supplement to hapkido rather than a martial art in its own right, but is only taught in more advanced stages of training. Dhs65 (90-minute session). Al Areesh Club, Dubai Festival City 04 232 5670). Also taught at World Black Belts Centre, near Safestway, Jumeirah (04 343 4397).
Tang soo do The bow used in tang soo do (otherwise referred to as a staff) measuring between 1.5m and 1.8m, was introduced to the system in the ’80s. The reach of the bow means that it can overpower aggressors with shorter weapons (ie a knife), though it inhibits the kicks of those who wield it. As with kendo, staff fighting derives from Japan, albeit from more humble beginnings: it was originally a form of combat developed by rod- and spear-wielding fishermen to defend themselves. Dhs500 (unlimited monthly sessions). World Black Belts Centre, near Safestway, Jumeirah (04 343 4397).