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“I want to learn to defend myself!”

“I want to get in shape!”

“I want to improve my mental focus!”

Japanese Martial Arts

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I AM JMAC: Andy, "Bossory"

Andy, a lawyer by trade, does a little of everything including criminal, domestic, and business law.   His job is actually what brought him to JMAC.  “When I moved to Ann Arbor, my boss recommended coming here.”  That was back in 2011.  Three months after starting training in Nihon Jujutsu, Andy began Judo and Iaido. In 2016, he started Gojo Ryu karate. His current focus is on Nihon jujutsu, judo, and karate.  He has earned his black belt in Nihon Jujutsu and judo.  “If only I had more time,” he says, “I could train in all four arts!

Andy relaxes by spending time with his wife Lianna and three kids, Julian, McKenzie, and Adeline, ages 6, 4, and 2 respectively. When asked about other hobbies or interests he chuckles and says, “I’m a video game dabbler.  That’s also a part of how I relax.  I don’t do Facebook or other social media, I’ll decompress on the computer or tv for a half hour, that’s my thing.”

What first got you into martial arts? 

“I always had an interest in martial arts and joined the University of Michigan Karate Club when I was an undergrad.  While attending law school at Michigan State, I became more involved and trained in Shorin Ryu Karate for 3 years, attaining the rank of brown belt. Then I graduated, got a job, and moved to Ann Arbor. My biggest martial art regret was not continuing and testing for my black belt.”

You’ve trained in several different arts. Is there a commonality?

“A commonality in all the arts is that the breathwork is so hard to do.  Until you have a solid mastery of technique it’s difficult to focus on breathing.  When you start moving around and doing randori, breathwork is out the window until it’s engrained. You have to be constantly aware of it.  It’s not easy.”  

What are the benefits of breathwork? “It’s good for energy conservation.  I’ve noticed it in other arts like judo. People like Holland Sensei or Jackson Sensei who have a really good handle on their breathing and moving, waste so much less energy than us lesser mortals.” He breaks into a smile and continues, “It’s funny, while I’m gasping for breath they have slow easy breathing with their motions and a full energy reserve left.” He explains that “breathing is a huge way for them to relax, be more efficient with their movements, be more aware of what’s going on, maintain a better sense of control in self, and better presence in the moment.  This is why it’s so difficult to do, especially in that stressful situation. I’m thinking about where does my arm go?  Where am I going to get locked up or pinned next, and the breathing part isn’t engrained yet so I lose that very quickly.”  

“A while back, Suino Sensei said you’ve got to be comfortable in those bad positions where someone takes your back or starts getting a choke in. If you to tighten up, you accelerate your breathing and you lose options. Whereas if you relax, and get control of the situation, you have a lot more options and you end up putting yourself in less compromising positions.”

Andy likens the importance of ongoing focus on his breathwork to the drills that are practiced at each class, “There’s a reason why we do certain drills all the time. For example, tai sabaki stepping drills can seem almost mind numbing. It’s like, ugh more stepping. But when applied to pressure situations it’s incredible how often that second foot can be left behind, making for sloppy footwork that translates to a technique that is not working.  There’s a reason why you drill and drill and drill those basics.” He comments “Gage Sensei and Satoh Sensei, their footwork is incredibly fast and it shows you that there is a method to the madness.”

Why did you choose JMAC?

"I did the intro classes, picked it up, and kept going. One of the things that is really cool here is the authentic budo experience. The mutual welfare and respect really shows here.  All the things that make a good place to train hold true here - Your willingness to help your partners, betterment of them, yourself, the dojo, and the level of the instruction is incredible. You can’t find better than the level of instruction that you get here."

What are your greatest challenges in martial arts?

“There’s a lot of them.  My biggest challenge is I get stuck in what comes natural, whether it’s right or wrong.  For example, if I’m doing a technique and my natural instinct is to move a certain way, I get stuck doing it that way and it’s very hard to break that tendency.  In judo grappling I lean forward to use my weight to pin someone, that’s my ingrained wiring, which here is very bad, because they use their legs and sweep your knees out and turn you and your going down,” he laughs, “and I know it, I know it’s coming. I know it’s what they want to do, but that wiring has me lean in.  It’s so very, very hard to break that.”

What are you doing to overcome that natural tendency? 

“Once a class, I take a break from randori and work piece by piece on something to do to cut down on the bad habits. It’s improving – little bit by little bit.”  He explains, “It’s making sure that my fundamental reaction is right. Focusing on one piece at a time, there’s a lot of benefit to that.” I remember in Iaido, demonstrating a form and Suino Sensei picks one thing to improve, while you know there’s at least 20 different things to improve. You realize that what Sensei is focusing on is, ‘Let’s work on it this one piece, make it better and try it again focusing on that one piece.’ If you focus on too much at once it’s over load and you won’t get anything out of it.”  

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

“Physically, my balance has gotten better, crazy better, from all the arts.  It’s also a great way to get in shape and stay in shape.”  He becomes thoughtful, “A pretty big unexpected benefit that I’m trying to incorporate is the forced calm you have to maintain on the mat. I’m translating that to being calm and deliberate in my work. I notice it most when I’m doing something legally related - I start talking fast.  I know what I want to say in my head, but it doesn’t always come out that way.  What I’ve been focusing on is staying slow and deliberate piece by piece. As I’m trying to be more cognizant of it, it’s becoming more noticeable, which is a cool benefit.”

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

“It’s funny, I don’t think it has translated as much to my personal life because I don’t think the calm and centered mindset has been as much of a needed skill.  My kids are great. We don’t have problems. If we had more challenges with raising the kids and managing a household it could become a much more needed skill, but my wife, Lianna, does a great job with the kids and the household.  My home is a break from the stress of work.  I don’t mind parenting… changing diapers, bath time, that’s a break.  Hopefully it’s the same in 10 years.”

You came up with the idea to teach a Little Dragons class.  How did this come about?

On top of everything else you do, how do find the time to do this?  “One of the things we do a lot at home is play judo.  I’ve been doing that for ages with my son and now that McKenzie a little older she joins in and they love it! I was at home going through some techniques with them and Julian has a pretty sick osoto gari and tai otoshi he’s put it together pretty good! They liked it so much at home I thought why not do a class for other kids his age.  The class just sort of built itself up.  We’ve been doing this for 8 months and there’s between 12-14 kids.” 

What makes the Little Dragons program so successful? 

“First, I have kids that age so I’m dialed in.  Second, we keep it fun and interesting with things they want to do at that age.  They love running around and we try to organize the chaos, we keep it simple where they are achieving things.” It’s obvious that Andy is passionate about this program as he continues “They get a big kick out of it.  They love judo tag, which is tag, but you have to do a movement before you get up! They love it!  They get all excited about all the different movements.  I think they like it because they are learning cool stuff and making progress.”

He thoughtfully adds, “Most of them have made a lot of progress – They have better focus, listening, and attention. And you can see the motor skills improving in all of them. We have some of our older students that are doing phenomenal! The improvement is very noticeable. They are almost ready to graduate to the kids karate or judo class.” Andy dreads the day his “senior” Dragons are going to get promoted to the older kids karate and judo classes.  

Do you have ideas/thoughts about the experience of training at JMAC?

He responds “It’s a big question.” Hold on for the incredible ride.

“It’s a great place to train.  You’re supported, it’s positive, and there’s the obligatory smack talk that encourages us to do better.  I mentioned earlier the mutual welfare and benefit, it’s really apparent everyone’s given the chance to succeed and meet their potential as much as they are able to.  It’s up to the student whether they take that chance or not, but I think everyone is given that opportunity, which is very cool to be a part of.”

“The other thing is you’re given the opportunity to work with people from all over the world.   I can’t think of any other place that does that. We’ve have Satoh Sensei visit several times over the years; Nobetsu Sensei visited two years ago; Gage Sensei visited the dojo before he returned to the states and joined the instructors at JMAC,” just to name a few.

“We’ve had people come in and do seminars on knife training, small weapons training, staffs and bo’s; self-defense classes; and yoga. And there’s other cool stuff like the JMAC Tough Mudder team, Crucibles, and breathwork and meditation with Suino Sensei. There’s a real sense of friendship and camaraderie at this place. I can’t think of any other dojo that puts all that stuff out there. You have relationships within the states and all over the world.  That’s huge.”  

“The mindset is also big, I think.  The goal here is not to train to win, it’s to better yourself and better your partners. I think people here are legitimately happy or pleased when someone else gets something meaningful out of their training or meets a milestone or succeeds in a task. I know that we use belt-ranking, but most people here appreciate the experience of working with the other person, regardless of their belt-level. The focus is not on promotions, but rather personal growth.

Serving Southeast Michigan:

JMAC students come to practice from throughout Southeast Michigan, from such areas as:

  • Ann Arbor
  • Birmingham
  • Bloomfield
  • Brighton
  • Canton
  • Chelsea
  • Clinton Township
  • Detroit
  • Dexter
  • Dundee
  • Fenton
  • Fowlerville
  • Grass Lake
  • Howell
  • Inkster
  • Jackson
  • Lansing
  • Livonia
  • Manchester
  • Milan
  • Milford
  • Monroe
  • Novi
  • Okemos
  • Pinckney
  • Plymouth
  • Rochester
  • Romulus
  • Saline
  • Southfield
  • Tecumseh
  • Troy
  • Whitmore Lake
  • Wixom
  • Ypsilanti
  • University of Michigan
  • Eastern Michigan University
  • Michigan State University
  • Washtenaw Community College
  • Oakland Community College
Directions to JMAC

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Ann Arbor - Martial Arts Mecca

For the prospective martial arts student, Ann Arbor is a mecca in the Midwest. More than any other location in Michigan, Ann Arbor has a wide variety of martial arts styles taught by many well respected sensei (teachers). You can find training opportunities at community centers, college and university gyms, health clubs, fitness centers and dojos (training halls). Among the styles available are: aikido, iaido, judo, jiu-jitsu (also called jujutsu), karate, kendo, kung fu, MMA (mixed martial arts, sometimes called BJJ) tae kwon do, tai chi, and many westernized martial arts systems. At JMAC, we offer world class instruction in judo, jiu-jitsu, iaido (Japanese swordsmanship), and karate for kids.

Aikido

Aikido is a martial arts descended from jiu-jitsu. It includes joint locks, throws, takedowns, and pins. The philosophy of aikido is a peaceful one - to use the attacker’s energy to neutralize his or her attack without causing injury. Aikido is taught in several forms, such as Aikikai, Ki Society, and Yoshinkan. Aikido was founded by Ueshiba Morihei, who studied with Takeda Sokaku, the most famous practitioner of Daito Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu. Its principles can be found in almost every Japanese martial art, especially jiu-jitsu and judo. Read more about the physical and philosophical principles of Nihon Jujutsu.

Iaido in Ann Arbor

Iaido is Japanese sword drawing. It was created by the Samurai to defend against surprise attacks by an armed opponent. Most iaido involves the practice of pre-arranged forms, which are excellent tools for training the body, improving concentration, and entering into a meditative state. Finding a talented instructor in iaido with legitimate credentials is rare … in the Midwest it’s practically unheard of. For those with a desire to compete in swordsmanship for sport, kendo is the activity of choice. Those who are willing to endure an occasional whack on the head may pursue bokken kumite (sparring with wooden swords) with our director’s authorization once they reach black belt at JMAC. Read more about iaido at JMAC.

Ann Arbor Judo

Judo was founded by Professor Jigoro Kano. It is both a martial art and an Olympic sport. It includes throws, pins, joint locks, and chokes. It is among the most vigorous of martial arts and is very popular with children as well as adults. The Japanese Martial Arts Center offers classes in judo for children as young as 6 years old, and for adults (starting at age 16). One fact not widely known is that sport judo is a narrow cross section of the complete art of judo. Proponents of the entire art, such as Satoh Tadayuki Sensei of Waseda University in Tokyo, recognize that the founder’s vision encompassed not only “judo” throws, but joint locks, takedowns, redirection, strikes, vital points, dynamic ukemi, kata, and weapons. Judo training at JMAC includes many of these opportunities. Read more about Judo at JMAC.

Ann Arbor Jiu-Jitsu (Jujitsu / Jujutsu)

Jujutsu - which is also written "jujitsu" and "jiu jitsu" - is the ancestor martial art of aikido and judo. Although it includes many of the techniques found in aikido, as well as many more combative techniques that did not find their way into aikido, the philosophy of jujutsu is more practical. Techniques are applied more directly, with a greater emphasis on pain compliance. Those who study jiu-jitsu over the long term improve their fitness, concentration, and ability to defend themselves. The Japanese Martial Arts Center offers serious jiu-jitsu classes for adults starting at age 16. You can learn more about the differences between Japanese jujutsu and Brazilian jiujitsu.

Karate – Kids Karate in Ann Arbor

Karate involves mainly strikes, kicks, and blocks. It was originally developed in the Ryukyu Islands (now Okinawa), and was later exported to Japan before finding its way around the world. Karate is an excellent martial art for those who prefer striking, and helps develop physical strength, stamina, and confidence. There are many forms of karate taught around the world today, including Shotokan, Shorin-ryu, Chito-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, and Kyokushinkai. If you’re looking for a way to help your child learn enthusiasm, fitness, discipline, and manners while having a lot of fun, consider the kids karate program at JMAC. We have an incredible core of talented instructors who have made it their business to inspire kids to be their best. Read more about our karate program for kids.

Kendo

Kendo is a sport descended from Japanese swordsmanship. In Kendo, participants wear padded armor and attempt to score points by striking vital points with bamboo swords called "shinai." Practice is fast paced, involves much spirited shouting, and is a lot of fun. The Japanese Martial Arts Center does not offer kendo, but can refer you to a reputable kendo instructor in the area.

Kung Fu

Kung Fu is a Chinese martial art that actually includes many sub-styles. Like karate, kung fu involves strikes, kicks, and blocks, but also includes many esoteric motions that can be applied to take down or otherwise defeat an opponent. Kung fu often appeals to imaginative people because of the many references to animal forms, but it is also a very challenging and practical martial art.

MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)

MMA (mixed martial arts) to a modern competition-based collection of techniques. Most MMA schools teach striking as well as grappling. Although not a traditional martial art - and thus lacking many of the character development and spiritual aspects of ancient Asian arts - MMA is nevertheless a fantastic form of exercise and a lot of fun. Because many MMA fighters have employed judo and jujutsu successfully, the Japanese Martial Arts Center offers private instruction to top-level competitors as well as occasional workshops for our members.

Tae Kwon Do

Tae Kwon Do is the Korean counterpart to Japanese karate. As a striking art, it includes punches, kicks, and blocks, but typically Tae Kwon Do emphasizes more kicking than does karate. Competition (usually for points rather than full contact) is very common among Tae Kwon Do practitioners. It is an excellent form of exercise, but seems more susceptible to commercialization than more traditional arts such as aikido and iaido.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is another form of Chinese martial art. It is usually taught with slow, controlled movements and deep stances. There are many health benefits associated with Tai Chi, including strong bones, cardiovascular health, and calmness.

Getting Started in Martial Arts in Ann Arbor

If you are considering taking up martial arts, you will find many superb opportunities in and around Ann Arbor, including outlying cities such as Brighton, Canton, Howell, Northville, and Plymouth. Students from the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Community College, Cleary College, and even Michigan State University have supplemented their education with martial arts and found that the physical activity helps them concentrate on their studies. We think the Japanese Martial Arts Center offers the best programs in Michigan, but we’re interested in people who are willing to work hard and do what it takes to become truly accomplished. We encourage you to look around to find the martial arts club or school that best meets your needs.