I AM JMAC: Andrew

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Andrew began training at JMAC in 2007 in Iaido.  “My wife knew how much I missed training in martial arts and gave me a gift of a bokken and membership at JMAC.”  Andrew took a break in 2008, returning in 2016 to resume karate training in the Goju Ryu Karate program, and recently earned the rank of black belt. “I chose to return to training in Karate, because that was my martial arts training roots and always a part of my life. Iaido is way more advanced and esoteric than other arts and I’m sure I’ll find my way back to that someday. Both Iaido and Aikido have helped my karate in that they get me thinking of other aspects of my karate.” 

Other facts, hobbies, interests

Outside the dojo, Andrew is an architect and founding partner of O-X Studio, a full-service architecture firm in Ann Arbor. “I started the firm in 2002 and we now employ 17 staff. I am also the Facilities Director at Oxford currently focusing on streamlining Construction Operations. He adds that “Architecture is definitely a way of life. Most architects go into it for the passion of design, as It’s not a field you go into for glory.”

Andrew likes to build too. “Another aspect” he says, “is that architecture is like learning kata without learning to spar.  I want to execute the design. A part of doing the construction end of it is learning to actually deliver. I think it makes you a better architect, just like sparring make you a better martial artist. You can’t possibly train without understanding the application.” 

Andrew’s not the only family member to train at JMAC, “I have a 7-year old boy who is itching to start training like dad! My brother, nieces and nephews all train at JMAC and love it. I love to hang out on our lake with my wife and son. In my spare time I am starting to renovate at our house. Architecture, like Karate, is a way of life and I find it is a somewhat all-consuming passion!” 

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What first got you into martial arts? Do you train in other martial art styles?

“I trained for 7 years in Shobayashi Shorin Ryu where I was also exposed to Shudokan and Goju Ryu. I also spent 2 years training in Aikido. I started training in Karate for self-defense and fitness but stayed because of all the other mental health benefits.”

“Karate really became a part of my life until I let it go to focus on my career in my late 20s and 30s; I never stopped thinking about. In fact, I kept working on kata on and off. I really regretted the several years being out of the martial arts. It was definitely not a good thing to be away from in terms of mental and physical health and well-being. There’s also the meditative aspects of it and the mental discipline.  There was a clear distinction in my happiness when I was training and when I wasn’t.” He smiles, “Yes, martial arts will make you happier.”  

Why did you choose Karate?

“Let's face it, hitting things is fun.” he says jokingly. “Karate, like other martial arts, is a way of life. Finding my way back to it has helped me feel more centered. While I am focusing on Karate now, I plan to expand my studies to include Judo and Jujitsu; I don't believe I can be a well-rounded martial artist without studying various art forms.”

Why did you choose JMAC?

“I knew Nick Suino Sensei and did some design work for JMAC.  It was fun to be a part of the process. JMAC offers small format, focused training by some of the most well recognized instructors in the country, if not the world. The resumes of the teachers here are just amazing and speak for themselves. For example, Suino Sensei is a world renowned Iaidoka, being four-time All Tokyo Iaido champion and author of several books on the martial arts. Gage Sensei, a world-renowned jujutsu instructor, returned to the states, and JMAC after 34 years in Japan.  The resumes of the teachers here are bar none next to anything else in the states. You just don’t find instructors like this all in one area.  

“The teacher to student ratios are fantastic. I’ve experienced other schools where the classes were bigger and they would also have junior students teaching. There’s a vastly different experience between learning from a junior student and a master of an art.  I’m now much more discerning with that now than in my younger years.”  

“The dojo location and access are great, there’s ample parking, the training space is incredible, and the people are great.”

What are your greatest challenges in martial arts?

“Self-discipline and Focus. Being able to push through and exceed perceived physical and mental limitations.  As I age, I find myself hitting that wall earlier and the challenge is being able to work through that and push myself beyond what my mind tells me is my limit.”  

What helps you push through?“I just do it. It’s also the energy of the people around me.  But, overall, I’m self-motivated. Practicing kata can be a very solitary thing.  I’ll practice over and over again, pushing myself beyond my limitations.  

“The other challenge is working through injury.” Andrew incurred a snapped hamstring injury twice but is now feeling far better.  He worked through the injury by “being cognizant of it, not pushing past the breaking point, not becoming stagnant, and not giving up.” 

How has your training carried over into your professional or personal life?

As I am learning to be a more effective leader, I’m finding that the increased mental self-discipline and confidence that are tied to my training are helping. Being able to breath and calm down and have mental focus and control is important when you have a conflict or a potentially conflicting situation.  

What unexpected benefits have you experienced as a result of your training?

We revisit Andrews previous training experiences and he states that “JMAC’s true traditional understanding of Goju Ryu Karate is vastly different from the preconceived notions that I had at my former school. The way it’s practiced at JMAC makes me realize that my previous experience with this style didn’t even begin to touch on the real beauty and depth of Goju Ryu.” 

“Learning to meditate and the direct benefits that come from it.”

“There’s a lot of great people here.  At the Friday evening class, the main focus is on sparring and for me these are some of the best classes. No matter who I’m with, we always end up having a great time - patting each other on the back, saying thank you, and laughing about it because it was such a great time.”

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