UI martial arts clubs fight for space in cramped gym

By Erica Yuenger

Since IMPE began its first phase of renovation in March 2006, avid exercisers and recreational clubs have been forced to make some changes.

The project is expected to be complete this June, but until then, students will have to make do with the East Wing facilities or travel to CRCE, and clubs who used to call IMPE their home will have to continue to practice wherever space can be found.

Martial arts clubs on campus are among those most affected by the IMPE renovation. With the beginning of construction came the end of the IMPE combat room, a space many martial arts clubs had used to practice.

Now, these clubs, such as Illini Tae Kwon Do, Tae Kwon Do at UIUC, Goshin Jitsu, Illini Judo, Illini Jujitsu and Kuk Sool Won, all must share the same practice space at Kenney Gym Annex, 1402 W. Springfield Ave.

At each practice, there is a combination of at least two of these clubs in the same space. On Monday and Wednesday evenings, four of these clubs practice at the same time, each confined to one corner of the gym.

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The clubs are members of the Martial Arts Advisory Council at the University, an organization that acts as a collective bargaining group for the martial arts clubs.

Mike Aref, a member of the council, said it serves as a liaison between the martial arts groups and the Division of Campus Recreation, and helps facilitate the administrative business, including scheduling and setting up special events.

Craig Stinson, an associate director at the Division of Campus Recreation, said the creation of the council has been helpful in increasing communication between the martial arts clubs and the division, especially during the renovation of IMPE.

“It has been a very positive thing for both groups,” Stinson said. “It brought us closer, and we can work more efficiently than we had before.”

Despite the increased communication between the martial arts clubs and the Division of Campus Recreation, there are still restrictions on where the martial arts clubs can practice while IMPE is under construction.

Azim Khan, senior in LAS and president of Tae Kwon Do at UIUC, said his club was moved to a facility on the South Farms following the closing of the combat room at IMPE.

Brittany Combs, senior in Business and president of the Goshin Jitsu club, said her club was also moved to this facility, a printing warehouse where the club had to put down its own wrestling mats.

Both clubs were later moved to the Kenney Gym Annex. Here, Combs said, the club has to move its own mats in and out of storage before and after each practice.

Khan said he preferred practicing at the South Farms to practicing at Kenney Gym Annex because at the farms they could practice one group at a time.

“We have to keep our sound level down and compete with the other instructors talking,” Khan said.

Illini Tae Kwon Do Vice President Ryan Koehn, sophomore in AHS, said having to keep the sound levels down negatively affects his club’s belt tests at the HMD Academy in Savoy.

“Being loud is part of our testing,” Koehn said, “People sometimes forget this because we have to keep our voices down during practice,”

Another concern of the members of the clubs is the lack of first aid materials provided in the facility.

“We have one first aid kit,” said Illini Tae Kwon Do instructor Paul Guder. “It is in my car.”

The martial arts clubs hope to be moved back to the combat room at IMPE when construction is completed. Until then, the overall sentiment is that their current location is better than nothing.

“I am happy as long as we have got a space to train,” Aref said.