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What is Martial Play?
Martial Play is a unique combination of the traditional aspects of Martial Arts training, Karate, Aikido, Kung Fu, Jujitsu, Kobudo, and Kenpo, combined with the study of emotional intelligence.


The class is run with a structure of a Martial arts class, but with the facilitator being conscious of the emotional content of the material.

Traditional Martial Arts are taught with a linear hierarchy and a strict authoritarian method based on a military model. Students are expected to follow rigid rules and are normally punished for any violation of these rules. My own experiences in these environments led me to the realization that many such schools are actually contributing to the cycle of violence couched in this “special” student teacher relationship. Often this violence is explained away as culturally significant or necessary for safety. In actuality I see the violence as a draw for teachers who have not worked out their own issues regarding violence and power.

Martial Play works to stop that cycle by creating an environment that is both physically and emotionally safe. Depending on the abilities of the student population, the classroom can become a forum for dealing with emotional issues in a functional way. While we learn to punch and kick, which is empowering for many young people (as well as adults) it is important also to acknowledge that most of our life experiences are not going to involve punching or kicking anyone.

Unlike many self defense instructors, who seem to enjoy alarming students with ongoing threats of what will work on “the street”, Martial Play instructors instead emphasize what will work better will be remaining calm, cool and collected, and seeking emotionally intelligent solutions to conflict.

While there is nothing wrong with self defense- it is just not appropriate to punch out another kid for disrespecting your mother, or for threatening violence to a teacher for a bad grade. The use of force is often misapplied by young people (and adults) in situations that could have been positively handled.

One of the important aspects of the martial arts side of Martial Play is the actual physical training. When we are unconscious of our physical power, we are more likely to mismanage it. Bringing consciousness to our own physical strength and power gives us tools to be able to recognize, identify and label our feelings before they leap out of our chests and get us in all sorts of trouble.

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Alex Vanderburgh
454 Clementina
San Francisco Ca. 94103

Photo by: Darin Tomack


2004-1979: Aikido, currently ranked 3rd Degree Black Belt (Sandan), through Aikido Association Of Northern California, Frank Doran, President. 21 years of training, began teaching Aikido in 1988. Currently training with Frank Doran (Shihan) at Aikido West in Redwood City CA. Aikido is a Japanese Martial art, derived from Jujitsu, and it is often described as "sophisticated wrestling". To verify, contact Aikido West, 3164 Bay Road, Redwood City, CA. 94063. (650) 366-9106

2004-1988: Kenpo Karate, currently ranked 1st Degree black belt (Shodan). Currently training and teaching with Sibak Brannon Beliso, at One Health and Fitness, San Francisco, CA. Kenpo Karate, a descendant of the original training of the Shaolin Temple of China, has evolved into a complex Kung Fu / Karate system blending many aspects of both Chinese
and Japanese striking arts. Contact Brannon Beliso, One Health and Fitness, 850 Taraval St, San Francisco, CA. 94131, (415) 731-9988

2004-1990: Martial Arts Weapons. Currently ranked as 1st degree black belt (Shodan) by Shihan Michio Nishiuchi, of the All Okinawa Kobudo Association. Contact Headquarters Dojo, 7144 Auburn Blvd., Citrus Heights CA. 95610. (916)-723-5425


2004-2002 Kaiser Permanente: Behavioral Health Education instructor Currently running Martial Play programs at three Bay Area Kaiser locations.

2004-1998 Mira Loma Educational Enrichment Program (MEEP): Designed and created innovative approach to combining traditional Martial Arts training with concepts of emotional and social skills development. Approximately 40 students each year, grades K-5. Contact
program director: Armen Dilachian, 175 Omar Way, Room 109, San Francisco, CA. 94110. (415)- 584-7080

2004-2000 Everett Middle School: Implementing similar program as above (MEEP) tailored to the needs of middle school students. Contact Kica Gazamuri, Bridges Beacon, Everett Middle School Family and Education Programs, Director, Everett Middle School 450 Church Street San Francisco, CA 94114. (415)- 626-5222

2004 Francisco Middle School: Implementing same program as above (Everett Middle School) Contact Ryan Keeley, Expanded Learning Director, Francisco Middle School 2190 Powell Street, San Francisco, CA 94133. 415/956-1234

2004-2000 One Health and Fitness: Kenpo Karate and Aikido. Currently running Aikido instruction program, three classes a week, Kenpo Karate assistant instructor, four classes each week.

2000-1999 West Portal Karate and Fitness: Aikido and Kenpo Karate Instructor. Taught ten classes each week before school was sold to One Health and Fitness. (School closed)

1995-1990 Boldizar Karate School: Kenpo Karate Instructor, Director of Children's Karate program. Taught ages 4-14 American Kenpo Karate six classes each week. (School Closed)

1991-1987 City Aikido: Taught beginners classes for Sensei Robert Nadeau of City Aikido, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco CA.

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