April 2—GREENUP — Eighth-degree black belt Bujutsu Hanshi David Barker says there are no age requirements or limits for getting involved in martial arts. Barker’s students range from toddlers to middle age, but he said the benefits of martial arts can be applied at any age.
“We’ve had students as young as 3 and as old as 87,” Barker said. “And everyone is welcome, male or female.”
Barker said he has also trained people with disabilities, teaching them many ways of self-defense.
Entry-level students typically go through training that lasts about two-and-a-half to three years before they’re ready to take the black belt test, Barker said. Once a student has achieved black belt status, they can work on eight degrees. The time between the first and second degree of black belt still requires two years, but as the ranks increase, the time needed to earn them also increases. Barker said some degrees require up to eight years of training to complete. Barker has been training for 44 years to earn his eight degrees.
Martial arts is a style of fighting and for many modern students a means of self-defense, but Barker said the value goes far beyond the fighting aspect itself.
“Martial arts give the student confidence, teach self-improvement and also give multiple levels of physical and emotional fitness,” he said. “There are many opportunities for coordination control, flexibility and the awareness that the student can become a better person in their daily life. And physical fitness in martial arts is a type of physical fitness different.
“There are people who are already athletic, who are fast and can jump well, but these are not the only types of people who can get fit in martial arts. There are many different people in the world” , Barker said. “Each type of person can find their place in the martial arts.”
Based on different body types and mental attitudes, one person would find benefits in one area of martial arts and another person might find different benefits in a completely different discipline. “In martial arts, fitness is really a tool,” he said. “And some people use this tool in different ways. But anyone can create a useful tool to work with to achieve their goals.”
Progression in martial arts also specializes in the frame, Barker said.
“How they progress is based on each student’s improvement in martial arts,” he added. “For example, you might have three different students of different ages and different body types. They start their training with the same information and the same routine, but as they progress some may find that they like a style Kung Fu and others may find they benefit more from what is called a “hard” style Japanese or Okinawan style. Some may jump or spin better in the air, and some find they are better off with their body weight immobilizing them instead.”
Barker also said the discipline of martial arts training can also have mental benefits. At this point he has taught over 6,000 students. Barker said there are a wide variety of reasons why these students chose martial arts. Some have come to him to improve, some have come as a natural progression from their current fitness goals, and some have come to him out of a need for self-defense.
“We’ve had students from all walks of life and all fitness levels,” Barker said. “We had students in wheelchairs and learned their martial arts forms alongside other students.”
He has also trained Autistic and Asperger’s students. Each student learns the best tools for their own situation and each progresses by improving themselves.
“There were many students who were physically or mentally abused,” Barker said. “Some have also been bullied or assaulted. But all of these students can find a home, a family if you will, in the dojo.
“We have no bias in the dojo,” Barker continued. “Not against any race, mindset or body set. So students are free to find something to improve on without any judgment they might have experienced elsewhere. This is a place not just to s to train and improve, but to relax and even meditate.They can be comfortable with themselves and their abilities, and grow in a healthy environment.
Barker said students can learn self-defense and anti-bullying techniques, which will help build their confidence.
“We help them understand what bullying is and how to recognize it. And cyberbullying is a huge problem these days,” he said. “And I’ve had several kids who have experienced one or both in school and out of school.”
Barker said the instructors work with students who have been bullied and have made great progress.
“We also worked with Safe Harbor,” he said, “and there are people at the dojo who can help with their domestic violence issues as well.”
Barker said the dojo also offers rape prevention classes to both male and female students.
“It’s a very important factor for students,” he said. “So we teach a lot of students for free over the summer to help with assault/rape prevention.”
For more information, Barker’s dojo can be reached through Facebook at facebook.com/okamiryudobujutsu or by calling or texting (606) 694-5497.