It might not be initially apparent, but the discipline required to be a martial arts champion shares similarities with the skills needed to become a successful educator.
So says Alexander J. Buoye, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Marketing in The Peter J. Tobin College of Business. Dr. Buoye, 49, recently took home the top prize in the North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) world tour, one of the most prestigious martial arts tournaments in North America. He outlasted about 20 competitors 18 years of age and older in winning the elite Black Belt Chinese Forms and Weapons division in Shaolin Kung Fu, one of the oldest and most popular Chinese martial arts.
Shaolin Kung Fu emphasizes motivation, discipline, and perseverance as practitioners advance in skill level. Dr. Buoye is a first-degree black sash, representing advanced skills.
“It shares many of the values of education,” Dr. Buoye said. “It involves goal setting; you establish a goal and keep working at it. It takes patience and hard work, and there is always something new to learn. These are some of the same things I teach in my marketing classes.”
Martial arts began in ancient China as a means of self-defense and for hunting. Kung fu emphasizes quick strikes with the hands. Kicks and blocks are also employed. Shaolin Kung Fu, developed in the Buddhist monastery of Shaolin, is one of the oldest institutionalized martial arts, dating back 1,500 years.
Introduced to martial arts as a child, Dr. Buoye returned to the sport nearly 15 years ago. He came to St. John’s three years ago after a successful corporate career and teaches classes on the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Prior to the North American championships, Dr. Buoye competed mostly in local events. The desire to advance to a higher level emerged during the early stages of the pandemic when his teenage son began practicing tae kwon do, a Korean martial art.
But as the COVID-19 virus spread and lockdowns took hold across the nation, live competitions were tabled. NASKA pivoted to virtual competitions, where performers would demonstrate their expertise on video and share the video with judges.
Winning some of those inspired Dr. Buoye to believe he could compete on a grander stage should live competitions resume, which they did this year. “Those virtual competitions made me feel as if I had a shot,” he said.
In winning the North American title, Dr. Buoye competed in events in Canada, Florida, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, capturing eight gold and five silver medals. The championship was decided by an aggregate point total in those and other events; his was the best score.
“Kung fu really is like a project, and no one becomes good overnight,” Dr. Buoye said. “You have to continue to challenge yourself. The goal posts are always moving as you get older.”
St. John’s is about two hours from Dr. Buoye’s home in Long Valley, NJ. He trains about an hour from home in Bloomfield, NJ, where he is among the older students. Most of the competitors in the North American championships were the age of his students at St. John’s—but he did not feel out of place.
“It was nice to be around all that youthful energy,” Dr. Buoye said, “and it really was fun to compete.”