While most GW students are sleeping at 8 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday mornings, 15 barefoot students armed with wooden swords spar in a Japanese swordsmanship class at the K Gym on 23rd Street.
To keep up with student interest, the Exercise and Sports Activities program added 20 one- and two-credit sports activities sections this semester, bringing students 40 course offerings and more than 90 sections. About 1,450 students are enrolled in ESA classes this semester.
Despite the extra courses and sections, between 65 and 75 percent of courses filled within the first few weeks of registration, officials said.
Enrollment increased about 300 percent over the past 15 years, said Pat Sullivan, coordinator of exercise and sport activities. She said 1,004 students were enrolled in sports classes during the whole 1987-1988 school year.
Sullivan attributed the growth to department-wide effort to meet student interests based on student feedback surveys and the ability for students to suggest course ideas.
She said proposed courses “must include an academic component, an instructor and a free time slot” and she has “tried to say yes as much as I possibly can.”
Students proposed the Japanese swordsmanship course last year.
Despite the addition of the Health and Wellness Center last year, the program is still “tight on space,” but there is possible room for expansion on Mount Vernon, Sullivan said.
She said her greatest concern is that in a large class, instructors have difficulty getting to know all students. Right now most classes in the HWC are capped at 30, while some are as small as 12 students.
She said classes currently run in the K Gym and the HWC from 7 a.m. until midnight.
Martial arts instructor Brian Wright said although some defense strategies he teaches were only popular in the 14th century, his classes are worthwhile because they teach students about attack and discipline.
“(Students) learn how to face problems, which they carry on to other activities,” Wright said.
He also noted other exercise and sport activities help students solve other problems unrelated to athletics. He said the classes teach life skills.
Students enrolled in the courses said they enjoy taking a break from structured classes.
Senior Umair Shamas said he enjoys taking a golf class because it relates to his major in an untraditional way.
“It’s an important game for the business world,” Shamas said. “I’ve never learned it and this was a good chance to learn it.
Senior Louis Burgos said he took an Aikido class last year because it would improve his grade point average. He also said it was a lot of fun.
Freshman Isaac Nejako, a student in Wright’s Japanese swordsmanship course, said he took the class because of his interest in feudal Japanese history and his desire to participate in the sport he loves learning about.
Sullivan said she is always looking to expand the program and expects enrollment numbers to increase even more next semester