Canceled Martial Arts classes cause protest

Two levels of martial arts, PED 237 and 238, have been canceled from the Health Promotion and Wellness department for the Fall 2013 semester. The cancellation of the classes, both taught by Derek “Bodi” Spadora, has left many students who were registered confused and concerned.

Eric Anderson, a junior business administration major, said the class was canceled due to discrepancies in how the classes should be structured and taught to Oswego State students.

“They believe it’s too much like MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and not structured enough. Meanwhile, nothing we do in the class is relevantly close to MMA,” Anderson said. “Everything is form, spiritual techniques including meditation that’s been passed down for thousands of years.”

Students gather in the Academic Quad showing their support against the cancellation of two levels of martial arts.
Patrick Malowski | The Oswegonian

Jamie Hasset is a 5th-degree black belt in the Bujinkan and a black belt in over 15 different styles of martial arts. Hasset, a Massachusetts native and a Shidoshi, or licensed instructor, agrees that martial arts is not the same as MMA. He also says students will benefit in many different ways from martial arts.

“They will benefit in multiple ways. One way will be in your health, just in eating better, breathing better, looking at life differently, from a different perspective, seeing things differently, being more humble, walking with their head up instead of head down. Their confidence will grow,” Hasset said. “It’s something that students would really benefit from, studying something depending on the school that goes back hundreds of years.”

Bryan Wood, a senior broadcasting major, was registered in Martial Arts I (PED 237). Wood said the class made him feel better than he had felt in a long time.

“I was in Martial Arts One Wednesday afternoon. Professor Spadora came in. He was late, which is unusual. We were all sitting down, ready to begin then, doing stretches and stuff. We had only one day of teaching work, then we had Labor Day, and we were going to start learning more on Monday,” Wood said. “We were doing physical stretches, actually working the body, working the spirit and everything.”

Wood said that Spadora told the class that he didn’t want to teach a course he did not believe in. Spadora spared the class the details because, according to Wood, he didn’t want the students to be involved in the politics.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Pamela Michel, dean of the School of Education, said.

Michel said that from what she knows, Spadora brought in his resignation on Sept. 4.

“When I spoke to the department chair there was nothing else she could do,” Michel said. “She called the registrar’s office right away because she knew people only had until [Sept. 6] for the add/drop period.”

Michel stressed that the cancellation of the class by Sandra Bargainnier, the Health Promotion and Wellness department chair, was only due to the fact that Spadora resigned, leaving no one to teach the class. She said that several students went to Bargainnier’s office where they were assisted in adding a new class to their schedule.

Bargainnier commented on the class cancellation through email, stating, “Mr. Spadora resigned unexpectedly Wednesday afternoon—that is why the department had to cancel the classes.”

Michel understands the problems that came with the cancellation of the class.

“The terrible part is it’s so difficult because we had all these students that needed to add a class before Friday.”

A Facebook event was created by Anderson, Kayla D’Agostino and Tamara Leigh calling all students to come show their support in favor of saving Spadora’s class. Fifty-one students said they would attend and multiple students and alum showed their support for the cause on the event’s page.

Roughly 30 students were in the Academic Quad Friday at 2:30 p.m. to show their support.

Spadora, who goes by Bodi, was also in attendance with several members of his team. Fliers were handed out and Spadora made a short speech to the group.

“First off, I just want to say I really appreciate all the student support,” Spadora said. “So many students came out. We didn’t ask you to do that, you came out on your own.”

Spadora reminded students to not forget what they have learned in his class. He also announced that he and his team, Team Sinanju, will be offering free classes for Oswego State students.

“The biggest thing is that change happens and that’s OK, and I have to roll with those punches too just like the students who are in those classes,” Spadora said. “What we try to teach about is adapting to those changes and one thing that my team is going to do to help out is that we’re going to offer for the general public, people that are looking for the training, people that are looking for what we offer, we’re going to hold a public session for free, any Oswego students.”

Following the speech, Spadora led a bow out, something traditionally done at the end of a martial arts class.

D’Agostino, a junior biology major, took Martial Arts One last year and was excited for the second level of the course this fall.

“Working with Bodi almost every other day, we formed a team. It wasn’t just a class,” D’Agostino said. “We all went into Martial Arts Two thinking it’s going to be the greatest time ever. Everybody was looking forward to it so much, and the second week of school we find out that they’re going to cut it from the course selection, and so in honor of Bode, and in honor of the training we’ve learned so far, we feel it’s only right that we stand up for what we believe in— stand up for the courses we want. This is SUNY Oswego. We’re supposed to have a voice and we should be able to have some say in what we want to learn.”

D’Agostino said she knew that Spadora was looking to expand the course beyond the two levels that were already being provided. She is also under the impression that Spadora was asked to change his teaching style.

“I mean don’t get me wrong, you could sit there and write a 50-question multiple choice test and, you know, grade it that way, but martial arts is more about technique, more about what you gain from it in the mind,” D’Agostino said.

Chad Cook, a senior creative writing major, took Martial Arts One the first semester of his junior year.

“It was a fantastic course,” Cook said. “It changed me as a person in a lot of better ways. It helped me control some of my anxieties; it just helped me be a better person.”

Cook attended the organized protest on Sept. 6 after seeing a poster in Hewitt Union.

Anderson is a member of the Oswego State wrestling team and said that the class helped him in his sport. He also originally enrolled in Martial Arts One thinking he could get an easy A.

“I’ll tell you right now, out of every single class I’ve taken here at SUNY Oswego, I have never walked out of a class every single day and been broken down to the core basic of what I am as a human being and taught to grow and expand,” Anderson said. “I’ve learned more from that class than two accounting classes and all my business administration classes.”