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Mang ho blends self-defense, discipline

Ever wonder where Elvis Presley got his stage moves?

The answer is from the karate teachings of Grandmaster Kang Rhee of Memphis, Tennessee.

Rhee also taught Grandmaster Jay Blanton, 47, and his son Robert Blanton, 19. Jay was inducted into the United States Martial Arts Association Hall of Fame as Founder of the Year in 2002, and Robert was inducted into the USMAA Hall of Fame as Instructor of the Year in the same year.

Now, the two of them are bringing their passion and knowledge of mang ho martial arts to the USF campus.

“Mang Ho teaches respect,” said Robert, a fourth-degree black belt and president of the mang ho Martial Arts Club at USF. “Respect toward the parents, respect toward yourself, respect toward the fellow students, and it teaches self-discipline and how to stay focused.”

Mang ho, which translates to “tiger” in Korean, was developed over the years by Jay, a 10th-degree black belt and founder and chairman of the Mang Ho Martial Arts Federation. The style is a self-defense method designed to assist men, women and children in street situations, such as attempted robberies, rapes or kidnappings.

Jay was born with a cleft palate, which impaired his speech and made him the target of bullies at school. This compelled him to study martial arts as a way of defending himself and gaining self-confidence.

“Now they don’t pick on me anymore,” Jay said.

“Mang ho is a blend of different styles,” said Robert, who started studying martial arts under his father at the age of 2 and has been teaching mang ho for the past seven years. “It combines the throws from judo, jujitsu, and aikido with the kicks, punches and blocks from tae kwon do, isshinryu karate and pasaryu karate,” he explained. “Also, mang ho is highly effective because it integrates the nerve pressure points from kung fu, jujitsu and aikido.”

The classes at the USF campus are open to all students and faculty members who would like to participate. The Blantons also encourage the University Police staff to attend.

According to Robert, law-enforcement personnel are always reluctant to join.

“They think that they don’t need anything but the gun,” said Robert. “What if the gun messes up, what if it jams? They say, ‘I never thought of that,’ and that’s how we get them to come to class. That question gets them every time,” he explained.

Robert, who will be assisted by his father Jay, will center his teachings on different life-threatening scenarios.

“We teach almost everything, from whether you are standing up fighting, whether somebody is choking you or is on top of you,” he said.

According to Robert, students who attend the classes also tend to improve their school performance because of an increase in confidence and discipline.

“One thing I tell my students is not to use the word ‘can’t,’ because that is what their minds want,” Robert said. “If you say ‘I can’t punch, I can’t do this,’ you won’t be able to do it.”

The club, open to all USF students and faculty members, honors belts from other martial arts and encourages people with disabilities to join.