Becoming oriented

Eastern military disciplines focus El Dorado Hills, Folsom residents
By: Roger Phelps
-A +A
In Folsom and El Dorado Hills anymore, people wanting to marshal their thoughts use a different spelling. The various martial-arts disciplines are so entrenched here that saying ‘the other soccer’ to instructors gains immediate nods of understanding. The kick, the punch, the throw-down of an opponent, the falling out of harm’s way – all are going on at much the same rate as is futbol soccer, but invisibly to the public until one walks by one of the more than one dozen dojos, or schools, that have proliferated around the El Dorado-Sacramento county line. Wu shu in Chinese, “war art,” refers to a family of disciplines each using basics such as stance, precision footwork, friction and leverage. The martial arts seem destined for a high profile in California. “We’re going to a global culture, a melting pot,” said Bob Westphal, proprietor of Cameron Park Taekwondo. “It’s important to see that eastern way.” At the Eastern Ways school in Folsom, students study tai chi, an “internal art.” Slowed, precision breathing infuses stillness, instructor Dylan Manning said, “a position to overcome strength.” The choy li fut style of kung fu fighting Manning also teaches is 172 years old, the creation of Chinese monks. “What it does prepare you for is different aspects to life -- it’s to apply, to any situation, a consistent place of calm,” Manning said. “To not panic or let the heat of the moment overcome you. Any area of life --’That bill’s coming due.’” The Korean tae kwon do in English is “the way of the hand and foot.” In a new hybrid martial style that even includes the Americanized art of kick boxing, one sees the way of the hand and foot and the heat of the moment mix it up real quick. “MMA,” mixed martial arts, is popular on television, but is the real thing, said Adam Hamlin, proprietor of Folsom Karate Academy. The mix lies at the “external, hard-art” pole of the martial-arts spectrum but relies on stances basic to all of the arts, hard and soft, Hamlin said. “The hard bow, the broken bow, the cat, the square horse, the fighting horse -- these cross all styles,” he said. A martial-arts student doesn’t need to have progressed to a black-belt, expert level to have solid self-defense ability. Still, the arts are about more than that and always have been. “Nowadays, self-defense is summed up in their firearm,” Manning said. “The main reason today is health and fitness, and an opportunity for an activity that is exciting, and engaging -- for me, to take part in something larger than myself.” Also crossing all martial-arts styles is the notion that repetition of basic formal movements gives ability to coordinate timings of upper and lower body motions -- essentially, to coordinate the hand and the foot. “It seems for us to correspond to the kids who play soccer and basketball,” Westphal said. Also Korean, the kuk sool won martial form is gaining popularity. It emphasizes fluidity and speed. “In every culture there’s a sense of discipline,” said Justin Painter, instructor at Kuk Sool Won of El Dorado Hills. Americans have a tradition of free thinking, but they value hard work.” Painter notes U.S. public schools’ physical-education programs are less rigorous than they once were. He suspects he gets students whose parents want for them a system to sharpen muscle tone and coordination. “Then there’s a family aspect - families can be doing the same thing, sometimes in the same-level class. There’s family bonding.” Paul Olson, proprietor at El Dorado Hills Taekwondo, said he can track physical and mental progress among his students. “You see differences in ability to concentrate and focus -- to tune out distraction -- that weren’t there,” Olson said. A central notion in the martial arts seems to be ‘the least force necessary to defend successfully.” Firearms aren’t the only reason the arts these days are less about actually participating in fights. “You hold yourself with better esteem,” Manning said. “You keep yourself from being singled out -- just by having a certain demeanor.” The Telegraph’s Roger Phelps can be reached at, or post a comment at