Martial arts club teaches technique, history

Dana Owen

Taylor Mechlinski, a 20-year-old criminal justice major, attributes his initial interest in karate to the movie “3 Ninjas” and the 90s hit television series, “Ninja Turtles.”

“It’s every little kid’s dream to be a ninja,” Mechlinski said.

Mechlinski, whose real first name is Steven, but who goes by his middle name, Taylor, now holds a black belt in Schaolin Kempo, a Chinese style of karate that incorporates some Japanese influences.

Mechlinski decided that he liked Schaolin Kempo best after studying a number of other disciplines, including Jujitsu and tai chi, and even boxing and fencing.

“Schaolin Kempo originated in the Schaolin temples when Indian monks traveling from India to China came to the temples,” Mechlinkski said. “They found that although the monks there were dedicated to their religion, they were lazy and out of shape. So they developed a form of shadow boxing based on animal movements.”

Schaolin Kempos is based on the movements of five key animals: the leopard, the snake, the crane, the dragon, and the tiger.

Mechlinski spent the first semester of his freshman year at Western New England College where he participated on the martial arts team. Upon transferring his second semester, he was dismayed to find that Quinnipiac had no such team.

“After I left WNEC, I still wanted to do it and be a part of a team,” Mechlinski said. “But [QU] didn’t have anything.”

He started the Martial Arts Club during the spring of 2004 and received an interesting response.

“When we first started, there were only girls,” Mechlinski said. “Now, we have 35 members and they are a good mix, but still mostly girls.”

The club practices regularly every Sunday afternoon from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. in Studio A which is located on the upper level of the Recreation Center.

Inexperienced individuals who are interested in joining the club should not be intimidated, since Mechlinski is the only one with a long history in the discipline.

He encourages only those students interested in learning something new to join.

“[Students] should only join if they want to learn,” Mechlinski said. “They shouldn’t say ‘I want to learn so I can kick some kid’s butt.’ We’re not out to do that.”

Grasping the concept, however, takes more time and patience than just one practice per week.

“I definitely tell kids to practice when the studio’s open,” Mechlinski said. “You can’t just do it once a week. It doesn’t work that way.”

During practices, Mechlinski teaches basic self defense techniques which include various strikes, hits, forms, and stances. He also instructs members on the history of Schaolin Kempo. He feels that although the basics are the most difficult to learn, they are also the most important.

“You can jump as high as you want or kick as hard as you want but if you don’t have the basics, you’ve got nothing,” Mechlinski said. “It’s all about technique.”

Contrary to popular belief, Mechlinski says that the art of karate is not about violence. In fact, he says it is exactly the opposite.

“I try to teach [students] to fight without fighting. To try to diffuse the situation vocally without anything and then, if worse comes to worst, to use your technique.”

Mechlinski found himself having to take his own advice while traveling in Italy where he was mugged by two men.

“A kid came up from behind and tried to choke me. Then another guy jumped on top of me,” Mechlinski said. “One ended up with a tooth knocked out and the other guy left with a concussion.”

He says that his quick response was due to his extensive training.

“It’s not about thinking,” Mechlinski said. “You train your body not to think. It just knows what to do.”

Since they do not need any money, Mechlinski says that there are no fundraisers in the club’s immediate future.

“We have the mats, space, and knowledge,” Mechlinski said. “That’s all we need…we just need people to show up.”

He is happy with the growing interest in the club and sums up its motto by describing the bow that the students do before beginning each practice.

“You put your left palm over your right which means ‘peace over war,” Mechlinski said. “We are training for peace but just in case, you got it right behind.”

Students interested in the Martial Arts Club should contact Taylor at [email protected]