There is often nothing like a martial-arts movie to stimulate interest in whatever is being depicted on the screen.
For example, I remember one evening, many years ago, walking by the theatre and seeing huge lineups of children and parents waiting to get in. I asked what was on and was told a movie called Karate Kid had just arrived in town.
Little did I know what the next week was going to do to our small karate club. Within days the phone was ringing off the hook and enrolment in the children’s program had jumped tenfold.
There have been many movies and TV dramas such as David Carridine’s Kung Fu series and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that have generated a lot of interest in the martial arts. For a while our club was teaching over 120 children and adults on a regular basis.
We were offering up to 10 classes per week, all done on a volunteer basis. That was just one karate club. What the other martial arts clubs were doing, at the time, I don’t know, but I am sure they also saw an increase in enrolment and participation.
I am sure this phenomenon is pretty common for other activities as well. Dance enrolment takes a jump whenever a popular dance movie comes out, and sports are often stimulated whenever the Olympics come around.
Does this mean people stay at it? Unfortunately not.
Like so many things within our culture, it seems to ride a wave. Look at the mixed martial arts craze that is now so popular. With very crafty marketing and sponsorships, this type of fighting has grown faster than most other activities. In talking to long-time boxing instructors, they have mentioned UFA/MMA as the biggest factor in lower enrolments in their gyms.
New waves can also be seen in other activities as well. Sometimes it is something as old as yoga that gets reborn in many different guises and a multitude of teachings.
Just look up yoga in activity brochures and yellow pages and you will see Lyengar yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Kundalina yogo, etc., etc. We have Yoga light, power yoga, laughing yoga.
We now have Pilates teachers teaching a very specific training regime to help strengthen the core muscles. And can we ever forget the heavy thumping music played through gyms and fitness centres during the aerobic craze that swept this country? As well, we have fitness centres also supplying a form of physical discipline to benefit people.
Each becomes a wave that swells and grows within our communities – only to ebb, as is natural. All too often, though, we see people float from one activity to another, often without allowing the benefits of long-term training to really take effect.
And those offering these activities are competing with each other as there are only so many people in a town or city. Each believes strongly in what they offer and feel they are giving something of value to our society. Some are volunteers, and others make a living at it. Either way, many teach the same activity to small groups.
Like the tide in an ocean, the current ones will recede and another will come to fill the vacuum. We truly do live in constantly changing times.
Todd Hardy has studied and taught a variety of martial arts for over 38 years and has trained with many people from around the world. Would you like to comment on what you read here? Contact him at [email protected]