Self-defense with a side of life lessons

At the Patrick gym, one can learn to belly dance, work off a few pounds on a treadmill or just fulfill gym credit. Or, one can take part in what Instructor Gyo Jang Nim Matthew Nerbak calls “a road to self discovery,” by taking a Moo Gong Do class. Moo Gong Do is a South Korean martial art, but it is about more than just the physical. “We don’t train for tournaments,” Nerbak said. “We train for life, to be prepared for tournaments as well as life in general.” Founded by Grand Master Dae Yong Kim, Moo Gong Do is a combination of physical maneuvers and mental exercises. It utilizing meditation and teaching students to keep their minds “open to all different perspectives,” Nerbak said, in addition to teaching various combinations of the blocks, kicks and punches that typically come to mind with the phrase “martial art.”Moo Gong Do means “Martial Art Empty Way,” with “empty” meaning full of potential, rather than lacking something, and is a “structured, consistent training of mind and body,” Nerbak said.Moo Gong Do teaches self-defense, but “self-defense is not how well someone kicks or punches,” Nerbak said. “True self defense is strength of character.”Moo Gong Do is closely tied to nature as well, with a focus on the “Five Universal Elements”: Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Spirit, the latter of which Nerbak said is “not ghost or religion,” but rather refers to the human spirit. “We are a part of nature,” Nerbak said, and Moo Gong Do teaches that by studying and interacting with nature, we “discover more about ourselves,” he said. Learning more about oneself is a major part of Moo Gong Do. The goal is “to find oneself,” Nerbak said. “You are the starting point for everything in your life.”Nerbak stressed that Moo Gong Do is not a guaranteed easy way to self-improvement. “Moo Gong Do is fun, but it is not always easy,” Nerbak said, “Surely what’s fun is not always easy,” he said. “You can do anything if you put your mind to it and commit to it,” Nerbak said. “Most anything you value you worked the hardest to accomplish.”