East Meets West at Ancient Ways Martial Arts Academy
Bradenton academy combines traditional Korean Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido styles with Celtic teachings for a unique martial arts experience.
When applied as a metaphor, the rather general term “martial arts” may be thought of as a sturdy, ancient tree.
Although they share the same root concepts of self-defense and discipline, the variations in the actual practice and application of each martial art are vast. Each branch of this age-old tree represents a different school of martial art, while the leaves that grow from these branches are representative of the various styles that exist within each school.
When one thinks of this overwhelmingly vast web of martial arts, the Asian schools are typically the first to come to mind — Karate, Tae Kwon Do and Kung Fu, to name a few of those most commonly practiced in the western world. In recent years, Brazilian martial arts such as Capoeira and Jiu-Jitsu have also begun to grow a following in the United States. However, most people have not even heard of the practice of Celtic martial arts.
Students of Ancient Ways Martial Arts Academy on Cortez Road in Bradenton have the rare opportunity to have Celtic practices incorporated into their martial arts training under the instruction of Master Boon Brown, who can trace his own Celtic lineage back to Strom, Scotland in 650 AD.
At Ancient Ways, Master Brown combines the ancient Celtic fighting style that was passed down through his family with a blend of two Korean martial arts styles: Tae Kwon Do, which focuses primarily on kicking, and Hapkido, a grappling art descended from Aikido.
“These days, most martial arts schools blend the styles they teach in order to better serve their clientele,” Brown explained. “As a school, Celtic martial arts are not full enough to teach on their own, so I combine them with other styles.”
Brown, whose formal martial arts background is in fencing, Tae Kwon Do, and Ninjitsu, teaches a variety of classes for both children and adults. He trains his students in self-defense and sparring techniques, as well as providing instruction on the usage of Asian and European weaponry.
“I’ve been in love with the sword for as long as I can remember,” Brown said. “My dad said that I started asking for one when I was 2 years old … I started fencing when I was 6.”
Aside from learning how to wield swords in several different styles, students at Ancient Ways also have the opportunity to learn how to use ancient weapons such as the war flail, quarter staff and Celtic searr, more commonly known as the sickle.
Although this is all quite unique, Brown believes that the Celtic martial arts differ most significantly from their Asian counterparts on a philosophical, rather than physical, level.
“Generally, the end goal of Asian martial art practices is for every student to be alike,” Brown said. “They train to clone and perfect a certain technique. Celtic martial arts practice looks at each student as an individual and caters to that student’s strengths while focusing on overcoming his or her individual weaknesses.”
During the mid-1980s, Brown spent a number of years developing his own set of martial arts forms. However, when he teaches those forms to his students, he gives them the freedom to modify the movements based on their own personal strengths and goals.
“At Ancient Ways, we do something that is unheard of in the martial arts industry: We give our students choices,” Brown said. “When I see my students’ forms, I want to see their forms, not just a copy of my own.”
Brown teaches a number of individuals with unique needs and disabilities. One of his students is blind. Another has scoliosis; another only one arm. Due to the individualized nature of the Celtic martial arts philosophy, Brown said that these individuals are able to focus their training in a direction that capitalizes upon their strengths, rather than allowing their disabilities to be a hindrance.
Brown emphasized that Celtic martial arts, like many other schools, focus on the growth of the individual.
“The main goals are to promote physical fitness, teach real self-defense skills that are going to work, and foster life skills,” he explained. “Through martial arts, we aim to build confidence and impulse control and teach respect.”
The emphasis that Brown places on his students’ internal growth directly correlates with the symbolism upon which he built the academy. Prior to opening Ancient Ways, Brown ran a Tae Kwon Do studio called Sun Arts Academy whose symbol was, as the name implies, the sun.
Ancient Ways Marital Arts Academy’s symbol is the moon. According to Brown, in Celtic culture, the symbolism surrounding the sun and moon is similar to that of the yin and yang in Chinese culture. Whereas the yang and the sun represent external power, the yin and the moon are symbolic of what Brown describes as a more “esoteric, internal power.”
Accordingly, the code at Ancient Ways is built upon a collection of very internal principles: Integrity, honor, valor, justice, compassion, sacrifice, spirituality and humility.
Whenever a student signs up for classes at Ancient Ways, Brown’s first question for that student is what his or her goal is. From that point forward, he adjusts his training to cater to that student’s personal goal.
One student began her training with the goal of learning self-defense skills so that she could protect herself in an abusive relationship. Brown wanted to take that goal one step further. His goal was not only to train her in self-defense techniques, but also to assist her in building the self-confidence that would help her remove herself from the harmful relationship. Together, they were able to achieve both goals.
“This was one instance in which there is no doubt that martial arts training saved someone’s life,” Brown said.
Adults and children are welcomed in equal measure at Ancient Ways Martial Arts Academy. In fact, Ancient Ways offers a somewhat unusual class that is designed specifically for parents to take with their children.
The academy is also currently offering a selection of summer camps. The “Hyper Camp” is a half-day camp strictly geared toward kids who are planning to go pro with their martial arts training.
Ancient Ways also offers a full day camp from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., which includes martial arts training, field trips to the Bayshore pool, Mote Marine, and the G-Wiz Science Museum, and arts and crafts. The cost of the camp is $119 per week for non-enrolled children.
For more information, visit the Ancient Ways Martial Arts Academy website or call 941-756-0800.