By Randy Dela Cruz, Ho'okele Sports Editor
The New Year almost always starts off with promises of getting back into shape and adopting a healthier and fitter lifestyle.
For those who are interested in dropping a few pounds, the Morale, Welfare and Fitness staff and volunteers at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Fitness Center offer a wide variety of programs that are designed to get you off the couch and into a better you.
Among the multitude of classes offered at the fitness center are several programs that not only help you get into shape, but provide skills that may help you in practical ways as well.
The kajukenbo classes will not only keep you moving, but also teach you skills that may come in handy should you encounter a dangerous situation.
According to class instructor Professor Lee Manibog, kajukenbo is a hybrid form of martial arts that combines various elements, such as boxing, judo, jujutsu, kenpo karate and kung fu, into a quick-strike attack aimed at subduing your opponent in the fastest possible way.
“The main reason why a lot of people take martial arts is for self defense,” Manibog said. “If you want to spend a couple of years learning kata or this and that, that’s fine, but when you get down to it, how many moves you want to do to take a guy out? You can get all fancy, but you should get them out in one or two moves.”
Kajukenbo was developed in the 1930s and 1940s. Manibog said that kajukenbo was formulated by five master martial artists during a more turbulent time in Hawaii.
The masters took the best and most effective methods from each martial art with the thought of stopping an attacker in the fastest possible way.
Since every individual might react differently to a potentially threatening circumstance, Manibog said that the beauty of kajukenbo is that it gives anyone several options to protect him or herself.
“They say that kajukenbo is the original mixed martial art,” he stated. “It is more street orientated, which was especially needed in the ’40s, which was kind of like the wild, wild west back then. We’re all different, so what might not work for you, might work for the other guy.”
Machinist’s Mate 3rd class Gregory Esters, USS Buffalo (SSN 715), has been attending the kajukenbo classes at the fitness center since May of last year.
He said that although he has taken martial arts before, he likes the simplicity and practicality of kajukenbo.
“The martial arts I did before was all kicks,” Esters said. “This is punches and blocks. There are kicks in there, but not as many. It’s practical and quick and it deals with building your body to fight.”
While Esters was moved up a notch in a recent class, Manibog said that the color of the belt is more of a formality in kajukenbo.
Instead, he said that the martial art is mostly about showing you how to protect yourself in the real world.
“What we say is that the belt just holds the gi together,” he said. “You learn the techniques for belt requirement, but on the street is where the real test is.”
With that in mind, Navy spouse Gloriana Oetjen said she feels that kajukenbo not only helps with self defense, but is also a great way to relieve stress.
“It definitely improve a lot of my confidence,” she admitted. “And I feel if I’m stressed out from work, I just come to class and I’m relieved.”
Although Manibog has been practicing martial arts for more than 30 years, he said that he loves doing it and will probably be active in it until the day he dies.
Manibog volunteers his time to hold kajukenbo classes at the fitness center every Monday and Wednesday, from 7 to 9 p.m., and at the Wahiawa Annex Fitness Center every Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m.
The cost is $40 per month for unlimited classes between both centers for ages 13 and older.
“I usually tell the students to commit for at least a year or two,” he said. “I guarantee you are going to learn some good skills to defend yourself.”
For more information call the fitness center at 471-2019.