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Mixed martial arts kicks up curriculum

Photograph by Shelby Keck Grandmaster Farshad Azad leads students in a mixed martial arts course at his gym. Azad also teaches classes at Chico State.
Photograph by Shelby Keck
Grandmaster Farshad Azad leads students in a mixed martial arts course at his gym. Azad also teaches classes at Chico State.

Pairs of students are putting their partners in chokeholds and knocking them to the ground.

It’s just another day in mixed martial arts class.

Farshad Azad, or “Grandmaster” as his students and co-workers refer to him, is a kinesiology lecturer at Chico State and owner of Azads Martial Arts. He has taught martial arts classes at the university for 21 years and started his own business in 1985.

Azad teaches “Introduction to Tai Chi Chuan” and mixed martial arts on campus as well as beginner and intermediate Taekwondo at Azad’s Martial Arts. In each of these martial arts classes, students can earn one kinesiology credit.

“In my view, all martial arts are brothers and sisters,” he said. ”I feel like they are part of an extended family.”

Martial arts classes offered at Chico State

Taekwondo is a more popular form of martial arts and is an Olympic sport. It comes from Korea and focuses on foot and hand techniques.

The form is based from karate, and the expertise is in kicking movements. Taekwondo is frequently used to teach women self-defense, Azad said.

“Martial arts was created to help people,” he said.

Tai Chi Chuan is a system of Chinese martial arts. It’s a slow form focusing on mental, spiritual and physical balance. Tai Chi teaches relaxation techniques and focuses on posture.

The movements are more fluid and graceful than the other techniques.

Tai Chi is also effective in self-defense for all kinds of people.

Mixed Martial Arts is a combination of Muay Thai, kickboxing, Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, Hapkido, boxing and more. The form was created for all types of bodies and has been around since the beginning of martial arts.

“In mixed martial arts, students learn to get in better physical and mental condition,” Azad said.

Jessica Rubenstein, a junior exercise physiology major, always thought martial arts looked interesting. She used to watch the end of a martial arts class before her yoga class started in the same room and now she is taking mixed martial arts.

“I usually feel pretty accomplished after class,” she said. “I feel a lot more secure in such a risky town.”

Azad was born in Iraq and met his first martial arts instructor when he ran over next door to retrieve a soccer ball.

“I fell in love with it and 40 years later I’m still doing martial arts,” he said.

David Gantt, 28, is Azad’s assistant in the Chico State classes and has been training in martial arts since he was eight years old.

His parents wanted him to gain focus and sports like baseball bored him too easily, he said.

“It’s a great escape from everything else,” he said.

Gantt is an instructor at Azad’s Martial Arts and is a second degree black belt. He will be able to move up to the next level in possibly three years, Azad said.

The more advanced the training gets, the longer it takes to move up a level, Gantt said.

Azad is a ninth degree black belt and currently has invitations to train masters in places like Brazil, Norway, England and Ireland. His instructor, Grandmaster Ji, also trained Bruce Lee.

Students gain strength, manage stress and set goals and achieve them through martial arts classes, Azad said.

Trivon McDade, a senior concrete industry management major, enjoys the workout aspect of the mixed martial arts class.

“I lift at the gym but this is a different work out,” he said. “I’m tired and sore.”


Risa Johnson can be reached at [email protected].

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