Why lecturers should get the chop

May 25, 2007

For the average British academic, martial arts such as karate, kung fu and kickboxing may seem to have little bearing on their scholarly way of life.

But according to Charles Spring, programme leader for Europe's first joint honours degree in martial arts theory and practice at Derby University, most academics could benefit from adding these disciplines to their professional armoury.

This week, he flies to Japan to begin research into how Japanese universities go about including martial arts in their mainstream higher education curriculum.

He said: "The main purpose of this visit will be to examine the utilisation of South-East Asian martial arts teaching techniques and what potential exists for them to be adapted for use by UK higher education institutions.

"I think most academics could gain a lot from learning a martial art themselves."

During his visit, Mr Spring, a third dan black belt in karate and kickboxing, will visit the National Centre for Fitness and Sport in Nagoya, Japan's leading martial arts institution.

"I will be examining both the practical and academic aspects of their teaching. In Japan, martial arts are taught as a way of life, so I want to look into how much they are integrated into higher education," he said.

He also hopes to pick up ideas that could be applied to his degree course, which has now been running for 18 months and has 15 students.

He admits that the creation of the degree may have raised eyebrows in some quarters because many people would not realise that 70 per cent of the course involves academic study.

"Some people will just look at the degree title and not at the content of the course. But I would argue that it has a lot more rigour and value than many degrees at other institutions," he said.

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