Ancient Self Defense
Mixed martial arts thrive at UWM
By Zachary Fowle
Bare feet rasped against the floor mats as a group of martial artists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Klotsche Center practiced properly throwing an opponent.
This foot goes here. You roll your hips like this. Move your other foot this way.
The thump of bodies hitting the floor echoed around the room at regular intervals and breath escaped in hisses and grunts as they took turns getting thrown to the ground.
Phil Sauer has been head of the martial arts program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee since 1979.
Sauer has been practicing martial arts for over 40 years and has trained in Estonia, Greece, Bulgaria, Japan, and across the United States.
“People think that martial arts has this mystical energy and people go flying through the air and knock people in the mouth and I say, 'come on,'” said Sauer.
When Phil Sauer trained in Estonia he was told by the martial artists there that he practiced a speed based martial art while they practiced a power system.
“Everything was very tight, very rigid, and in their mind they were generating power,” said Sauer.
“Well, physics tells us that mass, which is weight, times acceleration is power. So...speed is power,” laughed Sauer.
That is how Sauer teaches martial arts. Practically.
“I don't care what was said 400 years ago if it doesn't work,” said Sauer, “Are the traditions true, can they be proven scientifically?”
“Physics isn't an inaccurate science, it tells us how it should be done,” said Sauer.
Michael Feinberg, 53, has been practicing martial arts with Sauer for over 30 years and says that he's like family. Feinberg is a retired police officer from the Milwaukee County Sheriff Department.
“I don't come here and feel like I'm going to the gym or a workout, and you can't buy that,” said Feinberg.
Feinberg also teaches the Combat Karate class at UWM.
“You'll see traditional karate schools are regimented and it is not functional,” said Feinberg. “You get into a real life situation, which I have been in many years working the streets as a deputy sheriff, and you have to have stuff that is functional and works. That's where this really differs from other schools.”
Feinberg said that the mental training martial arts gave him was just as important as the physical training. He said that the ethics the code of honor he learned helped him to become a better police officer.
“You're there to protect and serve, you're not there to thump someone,” said Feinberg.
“We’ve got a lot of people in their 50s and 60s here and that shows that it is a longevity style and system. The injury levels are way low and you can participate for a lifetime,” said Feinberg.
Feinberg says he hopes to practice martial arts till he's at least 70 years old.
For a UWM student it costs $20 a semester and kickboxing classes are free.
Self Defense Classes
Sauer has also run the Women's Assault Prevention Program at UWM since 1980.
“The whole goal is, well, 'How do we avoid confrontation,' because that is the best course of action” said Sauer.
Sauer's program does teach what to do when it comes to punches, but he also teaches how to verbally handle the situation. He said that no good comes from a physical confrontation.
“If you're going to be successful in self defense situations you have to be prepared. You need to assess what is going on, you need to figure out what your skill set is and how that applies to the situation and then implement a plan,” said Sauer.
He said someone wouldn't show up to a final exam without ever reading the material and expect to do well.
Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting
Many of the instructors have over 10 years of experience, some over 20 or 30 years. They teach a variety of styles, but Sauer teaches a style that he developed called Suykido, which means ‘way of the water spirit.'
“The reason we chose the moniker of water is that water is very very flowing and water is representative of continuing your flow of energy,” said Sauer.
Sauer also says there is a big difference between sports and martial arts.
“People are so crazed about the MMA stuff right now and the training principles are good because of the interdisciplinary style,” said Sauer.
However, he said that they don't work very well in self defense situations and that some techniques only work because it is a controlled environment.
“I think it is rather pathetic that we haven't evolved as a race to get beyond wanting to see people pummeling each other for entertainment,” said Sauer. He said it was a bad display of martial arts training.
“It's a great intellectual group we have here. We're all educated human beings, no one is trying to prove who is tougher and hurt people,” said Sauer. “There is a lot of diversity here, you get to exchange ideas. The opportunity is here if you want to learn.”