Kung Food: Mixing Martial Arts With Urban Agriculture

The Green Dragons program teaches about mental, physical and agricultural benefits in a combined program.

Photo via Green Dragons

Photo via Green Dragons

Practicing martial arts requires a great deal of discipline, much of which, according to local experts, is derived from gardening and farming dating back to ancient times.

Using the concept of “mind, body, and soil,” three local martial arts teachers have adapted a program that brings together the fundamentals of that discipline, and matches it with urban agriculture and the importance of a healthy lifestyle, with the aim of addressing childhood obesity and poor fitness habits in Boston.

The Green Dragons program, which stemmed from the mind of Matthew Briggs, and the owner of Yang’s Martial Arts Association, a dojo in Roslindale, offers city students a chance to learn both the physical aspects of martial arts, and the benefits of community empowerment and “food literacy.” Since its conception in 2011, the program has been welcomed to several Boston schools, kindergarten through high school, and even branched out to community centers outside of the classroom. This summer, classes focused strictly on the food and Kung Fu learning will be taught at the YMAA.

Here’s how it works: the Green Dragon approach starts with students growing their own seedlings that eventually get transplanted for full harvest either in an outdoor raised bed or garden, or in indoor greenhouses in Boston. The group has five agricultural sites around the city, including their largest one located at the South West Boston Community Garden in Roslindale.

According to Mike Cermak, one of the co-founders of Green Dragons, some of the earliest weapons used in martial arts were developed from modified farming tools, as a means of defense, something the program highlights when connecting the “common roots” of their teachings. “The same tools we use to protect ourselves by growing healthy and sustainable food were converted to weapons that were then used to protect from physical harm,” he says.

Ben Warner, who owns the YMAA, says martial arts traditionally came from small villages and small communities, “so being connected to your community and food was completely natural.” One of his teacher’s masters was a simple farmer who lived on a hillside in rural Taiwan, and taught and trained people about the connection. “It’s a real concrete way of seeing both the process of learning martial arts, and watching a garden come to life,” he says.

The group also launched a Kickstarter campaign to send several students overseas to study a similar process where much of it began, Wudang Mountain in China. they will document the entire experience over the summer.

Based on their teachings and recent success in the local community, founders of Green Dragons are in the process of becoming a non-profit group, and are looking to grow a volunteer base with gardening skill sets to add to the growing business.

 

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  • Axie Breen

    that sounds really cool. I like the idea of connecting martial arts to more than fighting.

  • Bethany Cermak

    This sounds amazing – I wish every American city had a program like this.

  • Eugene Warner

    What a comprehensive, intelligent and meaningful integration of good health practices for our children! I agree – this would make an excellent model for communities everywhere.

  • Jay Bain

    Lovely.

  • Nicholas Yang

    excellent! would like to see more programs like this continue to happen

  • Mo_Hunkulus

    The agricultural tools as weapons story is just that- a story. Glad to see a group teaching kids to appreciate the source of food though, and to develop the skills to grow it.

  • http://twitter.com/GrowingStories Tai

    I love the synergy between martial arts and gardening – this reaches and inspires a crucial group of youth who crave awesome role models and constructive things to do with their energy!

  • BotanyBuff

    That’s great! More kids should do both gardening and martial arts. Good for the body, mind and spirit.

  • Eric Tipton

    It’s great to see positive news like this these days. Go Green Dragons go!