By Muhammad Abuzar ‘19
Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Jean-Claude Van Damme. What do these martial artists bring to mind? High kicks? Flashy spinning moves? Powerful self defense techniques? Sure, but does practicing martial arts come with real benefits or is all for show?
Martial arts is the tradition of combat practices and includes many forms, such as taekwondo, karate, jujitsu, and judo. Martial arts is practiced for a number of reasons including self-defense, mental development, and spiritual development.
One form of martial arts that is offered to athletes here at Midwood is wrestling.
Carlos Gomez ’19 has been a part of Midwood’s wrestling team since sophomore year. Although Gomez recently quit the team, he did not move on without leaving his mark. Gomez won first place in the 2016 Edward R. Murrow tournament and fifth place in the 2016-2017 NYC Mayor’s Cup.
Mr. Michael Dowd, a history teacher who also coaches the Midwood wrestling team, was a mentor to Gomez.
“I’d say that my coach and me worked well together,” Gomez said. “He assisted me personally at times when I didn’t understand a certain move, and I appreciate that a lot from him.”
“The advantages of wrestling compared to other styles,” Gomez said, “is that it allows you to gain a sense of discipline when deciding which move should be used next because one wrong move can lead to a pin or a bad position.”
Wrestling also teaches patience, which Gomez explained is a key component in a wrestling match.
Being a part of the wrestling team is a challenging commitment.
“Wrestling has changed my life in numerous ways,” Gomez said. “It has allowed me to gain a sense of discipline and responsibility. I had to sacrifice much to be able to maintain a certain weight, balance schoolwork during the season, and learn a more healthy lifestyle.”
Wrestling also granted Gomez life lessons.
“It taught me that on the mat, only your own efforts can make you a better wrestler, and the same goes for everything else in life,” he said. “Only you can change yourself to become better, not someone else.”
Another notable wrestler here at Midwood is Ibrahim Mohamed ’19.
Mohamed started his wrestling career in his freshman year and has been on the team ever since. Mohamed has won many matches and some tournaments. The most outstanding of his victories is when he won the 2018 BREC Freeze tournament, where he beat the team captain in the finals.
Mohamed has goals to win the City Championship and the Freestyle Wrestling State Championship by next year.
“Discipline, perseverance, and humility are three things wrestling has taught me,” Mohamed said. “I literally leave my blood, sweat, and tears on the mat.”
Wrestling has helped Mohamed in his daily life. It allows him to relieve stress, and it indirectly improves his school life as well.
“It’s helped me become more confident in my academics,” he said. “Also, wrestling brings a more productivity-inducing stress to my life rather than an anxious stress because it taught me the value of time.”
Mohamed’s biggest inspiration is Muhammad Ali.
“He’s such a figure, so sure of himself,” he said. “Even great fighters like [Conor] McGregor and [Floyd] Mayweather look up to him. He started it all, the champion mindset.”
Fahim Alam ’19 has trained in taekwondo, judo, and wrestling. However, taekwondo is where he shines the most. Alam has been training in taekwondo since October 2012 and is a first degree black belt. This year he is challenging himself to become a second degree black belt and learn the 540 backswing.
“Martial arts has given me a lot more confidence and has allowed me to persevere through pain and fear,” Alam said.
Alam has competed in four United Taekwondo open championships, placing first in one of them. Alam also achieved a trophy for getting the highest number of roundhouse kicks in thirty seconds (97 kicks).
Since practice can take up much of someone’s time, Alam learned at a young age how to use it efficiently. He lives by his motto, “Work hard now, so you can play later.”
All martial arts techniques have their advantages and their disadvantages. Alam explains that taekwondo’s advantage is having a long range to attack with your legs. Using leg techniques over hand techniques is a way to keep distance with the opponent yet still be able to counter and attack efficiently. Another advantage is that taekwondo offers numerous different types of kicks, making it harder for your opponent to try and predict what kick is coming next.
“I look up to my masters: Instructor Daury and Master James,” Alam said. “They have taught me that if you are determined, you can achieve anything you desire, and that positive thinking can lead to positive outcomes.”
Another member of the same dojo Alam attends is Azizbek Ochilov ’19 (Alam and Ochilov attend United TaeKwonDo Center).
Students as young as four years old and as old as twenty-six are present for practice at Ochilov’s dojo.
Ochilov started his taekwondo training in February 2013 and obtained his first degree black belt on July 15, 2017. He has accomplished much in his four years of training. However, the most notable of his victories was when he took first place in two 2017 New Jersey State competitions. He has also recently achieved a vertical sidekick.
Throughout the years, Ochilov has built a very strong connection to his master, Master Youno Seo. Not only does his master work to perfect Azizbek’s moves, but he goes beyond his duties as just a teacher.
“My master is there for me when I have personal problems and need someone to talk to,” Ochilov said.
Ochilov doesn’t really have any goals related to the physical aspect of taekwondo, but he wants to work towards becoming a better role model for the younger students and his siblings.
“Taekwondo has taught me to stay humble, respect everyone, and admit to my own mistakes to try and fix them,” said Ochilov.