Monday and Wednesday nights, the Recreation Center wrestling room becomes a dojo. Students are able to manage their stress by practicing Shorin Ryu, a conservative style of karate from Okinawa, Japan. 

Cal Poly Karate has its origins in 1979, when Reza Pouraghabagher, who is still an instructor, started the class. However, the style of Shorin Ryu has a history dating back more than 300 years. In a typical class, students practice no-contact sparring, offensive and defensive skills, and sequences of movements called kata, which form the core of the class. 

While the class helps students develop physical fitness, Cal Poly Karate chief assistant instructor Ron Mattson said that the training is beneficial outside the Recreation Center as well. It helps students develop humility, self-confidence and mental wellbeing, according to Mattson. 

A group of black belt students in karate class follow the sensei at the Recreation Center. Rachel Arabia | Mustang News

Aerospace engineering seniors Blaine Francis said that practicing karate has also helped him focus during his classes. 

“I’ve been able to be more calm and more relaxed when it comes to learning really difficult things in my major, and I feel it may have had a positive impact on my grades,” Francis said. 

Some students feel that Cal Poly Karate is more of a club than a class, with members of the class hosting get-togethers and setting up a booth at the annual Week of Welcome Club Showcase. Practicing Shorin Ryu creates strong bonds and introduces students to other people, according to the students who take the class.

Computer engineering junior Huy Duong said that the students will come together for potluck-style Thanksgiving and Christmas parties. 

“I have several friends whom I met in the dojo who have become my closest friends for the last 35 years,” Mattson said.

The class also provides the opportunity for students to improve and rise through the ranks. This sense of accomplishment is one of many things that keep students coming back to this demanding class, week after week, according to Francis.

The impression people often get from karate students is that they always fight or beat each other up, according to Duong. However, she said, this simply is not true. 

“It’s not like that,” Duong said. “It’s totally different. It’s an art.”

At the dojo, Duong said students are encouraged to leave everything at the door and give their all. 

Interested students can sign up within the first three weeks of each quarter and complete beginners are welcome. 

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