Ross School - Senior Projects 2010

Student: Nicki Keszler

Mentor: Michelle Del Giorno


Title: Zen in the Martial Arts


My senior project is about the physical and mental exploration of traditional and modern martial arts. I began taking lessons in both Karate and Gymnastics to improve my physical strength, flexibility and agility. Alongside going to classes I studied the Zen Buddhist beliefs that are embedded into many styles and forms of martial arts. As a product my goal was to put together a routine that portrays the physical side of what I learned about martial arts and write a research paper on the mental aspect of martial arts.




PowerPoint Presentation


My senior project was initially inspired and set into motion by my interest and desire to be able to perform physical feats. I began talking to Mrs. Del Giorno about focusing on the wellness domain for my senior project. We discussed a couple ideas and thought it would be best to focus on oriental martial arts because that would give my project a cultural and historical context. IÕd always been interested in taking karate classes when I was young but never found an opportunity to pursue this interest. I liked the idea of taking karate classes and choreographing a martial arts form that I would perform. On top of taking up karate classes and experiencing the subject I was simultaneously doing research on, I decided to incorporate gymnastics into project. While I was doing some research on different styles of martial arts I discovered a martial art called Extreme Martial Arts (XMA). XMA is a new modern form of martial arts that takes basic mixed martial arts (MMA) principles and synthesizes them with gymnastic or acrobatic techniques. XMA sounded like exactly what I was looking for so I set out to create my own style of a blend Okinawan Karate and Gymnastics. Along with the physical study of XMA Michelle and I decided that it would be helpful to include a research paper element in my project. I wanted to know what was going on in a martial artists mind while he was practicing a form or defending himself from an attacker. My summer reading book reinforced the importance of this part of my project by giving me a lot of examples of these subconscious insights and explaining how they apply to everyday life.

Ultimately my product ended up being a combination of my research paper, on the underlying philosophies embedded in martial arts, and my choreographed XMA form, that demonstrated the skills I had acquired throughout my training. I believe that my senior project was extremely successful and personally fulfilling. IÕm glad I chose to pursue what I did for my senior project and I hope to continue to strive for physical and mental excellence in all my future endeavors.

Works Consulted

Frantzis, B. K. The Power of Internal Martial Arts and Chi Combat and Energy Secrets of Ba Gua, Tai Chi and Hsing-I. New York: Blue Snake, 2007. Print.

Green, Thomas A. Encyclopedia: Martial Arts of the World. ABC-CLIO, 2001. Print.

Hyams, Joe. Zen in the Martial Arts. New York: Bantam, 1982. Print.

"Information - Complete Martial" - Most comprehensive Martial Arts Site. Web. 12 Jan. 2010. <>.

"Internal Kung fu." Chiflow nei jia kung fu. Web. 12 Jan. 2010. <>.

Lloyd, Bryant. Martial Arts The History (Lloyd, Bryant, Martial Arts.). Grand Rapids: Rourke, 1998. Print.

Okazaki, Teruyuki. Perfection of Character Guiding Principles for the Martial Arts & Everyday Life. Grand Rapids: GMW, 2006. Print.

Ueshiba, Morihei. The Art of Peace. Boston: Shambhala, 2007. Print.

Community Member (Details)

Jerry Figgiani

Karate Sensei at the East Coast Black Belt Academy in Middletown