Rosalind Widmer

Local women discovering the benefits of the martial arts, for body and soul

Rosalind Widmer jumped into the world of martial arts to keep fit and learn a few self-defence moves.

Rosalind Widmer jumped into the world of martial arts to keep fit and learn a few self-defence moves.

As the Red Deer woman continued to clock hours at her studio, however, the fitness kick turned into a habit that’s harder to break than a stack of boards.

Widmer, a mother of two, joined a martial arts studio that fit into her busy schedule.

The discipline of martial arts really didn’t matter.

“I thought, why not? It’s better than aerobics,” laughed Widmer, 39.

Widmer is a member of Master Rim’s Taekwondo Academy in Red Deer. She recently earned her second-degree black belt.

Since taking up the sport in 2003, Widmer says her confidence has soared and she has a greater sense of empowerment.

“You have the capability of walking down the street with a little bit of a swagger,” chuckled Widmer.

She is just one of the scores of women and girls in Central Alberta who are ditching the weight room and aerobic classes to join the once-male-dominated world of martial arts.

While some women may feel intimidated joining a martial arts class, Widmer and others like her are proving there is no reason to feel so.

“I like structure,” said Tania Makarenko, 36, who is a taekwondo black belt. “I was looking for something that I could work out mind, body and spirit. I was always intrigued by martial arts in general.”

She felt there was something missing in her weight training and other fitness activities. By practising taekwondo, Makarenko said, she is exercising her brain and body. She’s also become an even stronger role model for her children.

“What you can accomplish is pretty refreshing,” said the mother of three. “It’s like to know at any age this is something that is accessible to anybody.”

About 60 per cent of the 400 students at Master Rim’s Taekwondo studio in Red Deer are female from ages four to 50.

Master Seoungmin Rim said the women who are drawn to taekwondo like that the Korean martial art is respectful and not very violent. Rim agreed that women learn the sport to gain confidence in a safe and positive environment.

At Lyle Cheney’s Karate Studios, between 30 and 40 per cent of the participants in the kickboxing and karate classes are women.

“For years, it was only thought of a men’s activity,” said Cheney. “Through the last 20 years ago, women have realized it is equally for them to do. There’s lots of them doing it. . . . It’s easier to stick with than going to the gym.”

Anne Nigro, 32, is an educational assistant at Grandview Elementary School and works in the Foundations program, the special needs program. Nigro said the martial arts training has taught her focus and discipline throughout her work day.

“It helps me release because it is a pretty active program,” said Nigro, who practises at Cheney’s Karate Studio and is a green belt in karate. “You are running around all day and it is mental strain. It’s really nice to have the physical workout to go to at the end of day. It helps you clear your mind. Having taken martial arts, I attack the day with the same attitude. I come in with a clear mind.”

Nigro said martial arts gives women the opportunity to enjoy a sport that is physical and has contact.

“It’s lots of fun to explore that other side of you because most (women) are quite nurturing and everything else,” she said. “It is nice to have that active outlet.”

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