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I AM JMAC: Haruka

Haruka began training in karate 5 years ago, when she was in second grade. She has earned the rank of green belt in the JMAC kid’s karate program.  While she doesn’t participate in other martials art styles right now she thinks that “judo’s pretty cool because it’s not just punching, it uses the entire body.” 

Other facts, hobbies, interests, favorite subject at school?

This amazing young lady has other interests too! She plays two instruments, the viola in her school’s orchestra and has been playing the piano for 6 years.  Although she loves to write stories, her favorite subject in school toggles between English and math, “it depends on the teacher, they really influence how I feel about it.” 

What first got you into martial arts and why did you choose JMAC?

“I told my dad that I wanted to do karate.  It was the most popular martial art you’d hear about and once I stared doing it, found it to be something I liked.”   

“We found several places online and JMAC was the first place we visited. We watched a class and I liked the energy in the room.  It was and continues to be really positive! I remember telling my dad, “Let’s do this one!”

What would you tell a friend who seems interested in trying karate?

“I would describe what the training is like so they know how much of their time would be consumed by it and how much effort they would have to put into it. I would recommend this place!”


What words would you use to describe your training at JMAC?

“Focus, because you have to put your mind to what you’re doing and you can’t just daydream while you’re doing it.  And, effort, because you have to work really hard too.”

You are in the advanced class and do sparring with protective gear, drills, and kata.  

What’s your favorite activity at class now? 

“It would definitely be between kata and sparring.  In kata, it’s not just a bunch of random moves, you have to think about why you’re doing what you’re doing and it furthers your understanding of what you’re learning in class. In sparring, you get to use what you have learned in class and test it out and see how it works for you.”

Think back to when you began taking karate.  What was your favorite activity then?

“I think it was kata, because I was kind of afraid of the other people because they had been there longer than me and knew a lot more of what they were doing.  Kata is you watching the teacher, then doing it yourself. It was a way to do it myself without having to confront someone else. 

What part of training do you find easier to do? Why?

“The drills, because they are repetitive, are easy for me to do. I think when something new is introduced, it captures my attention more because I want to learn more about it.  They also help younger students lock down their basic moves.”

What part of training do you find harder to do? Why?

“Sparring is harder, because it’s not just you, it involves someone else and you can’t just think about what you’re going to do, but how they are going to react to it and how you’re going to react to that and it keeps going on and on.  It’s not kata, where it eventually ends and you know what you’re going to do. When you’re sparring there’s an unknown factor, which is the other person and you have to consider that.”

Is there something that was really, really hard, that you succeeded at learning?

She smiles, “Actually, it was roundhouse kicks. That was when I was in third grade. I just couldn’t do it, it was really difficult for me and my mom saw that.  When we went home, she helped me work on them with a pool noodle.” We’d practice for about an hour to help me learn to turn right.  Now it’s just like something basic.”

How has your training carried over into your everyday life?

“In school, it has helped me put a lot more focus and effort into one thing and to not procrastinate.  Although, I still procrastinate,” she adds. 

“And, this is a basic thing”, she says, “when it gets cold and icy outside and I fall, with the practice of falling in class, I just fall easier and don’t hurt myself.”  

“I think that even though it’s self-defense, it’s not just preparing for if someone attacks you, but more so about how you would mentally prepare yourself to work hard.”

“When I’m at karate class, it benefits me to watch not just what the teacher is doing, but how the teacher is teaching other students.  It’s an extra something when you get to understand what another student’s difficulty is as it helps you to better understand what you are doing.  When you understand what you are doing right, it helps you understand more of it. And watching other people in sparring, you notice their reactions, strengths, and weaknesses that you could use when you are sparring them.” 

Kentaro (Haurka's dad) questions:

Why karate and why JMAC?

Haruka chose to train in karate. Suino Sensei asked her why she wanted to learn karate, and she answered “self-discipline.”

“We visited JMAC first and immediately felt that this was the place. I like that she is learning the Japanese culture here, as I’m Japanese and she’s American, so she doesn’t know the Japanese culture. I feel that this dojo has a very authentic Japanese atmosphere. The procedures are exactly what Japanese people do, even more traditional than actual modern Japanese dojos. It’s kind of a purified essence here. I don’t stay during class to watch, as the dojo is, in a sense, a spiritual place and because she doesn’t want me to come ,” he adds, chuckling.  “Those are the things I found later, but perhaps felt them the first time we were here. This is a great place!”

Is the kid’s karate program what you expected?

“I had no expectations as I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m a teacher, a lecturer at the university, so I understand how to teach.  I have found that the way that they teach is very good and I’m very impressed with the instructors. 

There have been some occasions where she was invited to events at other martial arts schools and I found JMAC to be more organized and clean. It seems too, that the focus at JMAC is to teach kids martial arts in a manner that is fun for them. This is not always the case at other schools. It’s important that the kids are learning martial arts and not just playing. 

What positive changes have you noticed in Haruka as a result of her training in karate?

“She has a very positive attitude and willingness to help others.  I can clearly see how this has a positive influence on her interactions with other friends. The instructors are always giving them encouragement.  Training has also helped with her self-motivation. For example, she started exercising on her own. It’s helpful to her studies, because she needs self-discipline. Overall, this has helped her be self-disciplined and independent.” 

Other comments?

“We were very fortunate to find this place. It’s great to see that the dojo is growing. I appreciate Suino Sensei’s and all the Sensei’s efforts to make this happen.”


Self Defense Ann Arbor
Kids Karate Ann Arbor
Martial Arts Ann Arbor

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
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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 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 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.