By Shelbi Bartlett, June 7 2016 —
The first rule of sparring club — you do talk about sparring club.
The University of Calgary Sparring Club (UCSC) is a Students’ Union-sanctioned club that gives students with various martial arts backgrounds a place to spar and socialize in a safe and fun environment.
UCSC founder Chinmoy Ayachit started the club last year to bring accessible martial arts to campus.
“I’ve learned so much from martial arts,” Ayachit said. “I’ve become more calm and composed, my confidence has increased and obviously there’s the fitness aspect as well.”
The UCSC will soon celebrate its first birthday and just hired a new group of executives. The club grew quickly in its first year and now boasts 80 members, with 20–30 attending weekly sparring sessions during the academic year.
The club’s incoming external director Ahmed Zaidi said his main goal is to increase UCSC membership, while working with other martial arts groups throughout the city.
“I want to come in contact with different martial arts clubs that are situated in Calgary, hold combined events with them and provide more services for our club members,” Zaidi said.
Ayachit and Zaidi said they’d also like to increase the number of female UCSC members. Women currently make up only a fifth of the club.
“It’s typically a male-dominated sport so we’re trying to get more females into it this year,” Ayachit said.
The UCSC encourages beginners to join and gain a basic knowledge of self-defence.
Club member William Ebong said he hopes to never have to use martial arts skills in real life, but thinks they are a valuable asset.
“If you’re ever in danger, being able to protect yourself is really important,” he said.
While there are no trained instructors, UCSC members are keen to provide pointers on how to spar. The club hopes to provide separate training sessions with licensed instructors in the fall.
“[It doesn’t] matter if you’re skilled or not, we’re always happy to accommodate people,” Ayachit said.
The sparring sessions include referees ready to step in if a match gets out of hand. Tactics like gouging, biting, pulling hair or using elbows and knees are prohibited.
Sparring sessions are currently on hiatus, but Zaidi said the club may host a few events in July or August. The UCSC usually meets on Friday nights in ICT 116 during the fall and winter semesters.
Zaidi said the club ultimately provides a space to create friendships through blood, sweat and tears.
“There’s blood, but at the end of the day we’re all hugging each other,” he said.