Home > Learn More > Ann Arbor Jujutsu Practitioner Combines Martial Arts and Leadership Research | Andrea Derler

Women in the martial arts

Why Do YOU Want to Start Martial Arts?

“I want to learn to defend myself!”

“I want to get in shape!”

“I want to improve my mental focus!”

Japanese Martial Arts

Get Started Today!

Fitness • Focus • Self-Defense

(734) 720-0330


Ann Arbor Jujutsu Practitioner Combines Martial Arts and Leadership Research | Andrea Derler

Andrea receiving her black belt from Suino-Sensei

Andrea Derler is a powerhouse. She knows German and English, and has international experience in Austria, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


During the day, she is a consultant associate for LEAD Institute and hosts leadership workshops through Washtenaw Community College. She is a PhD candidate in Economics, with a focus on Leadership and Organizational Development.


At night, she dons her jujutsu gi and black belt.



Andrea teaching during a Chaos to Kata seminar!

The following article is an excerpt of the exclusive interview:


Q. What first got you into martial arts? Why did you choose Nihon Jiujitsu?


I started martial arts, because it was something I always wanted to do. I just was never in a place to do it. Really, Nihon Jiujitsu was a coincidence! The classes lined up with my schedule on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and my husband exercises on the other days of the week.


I had no idea what it was. I didn’t take intro lessons or anything. I wanted in. I came in and told Sensei that I had my mind set on training. I liked the idea of exercise and self defense mixed with the gentleness of the martial art.


Q. And you started six years ago?


No, I started four years ago, when I was pregnant. I stopped when I was six-months pregnant, because I was too big and heavy. I remember that at the first test, I was six-months pregnant, but was having difficulty breathing. When I recovered, I came back to the dojo and continued my training. Everyone was very patient.


Andrea during Jujutsu practice

Q. Less than 2% of people who come to the Japanese Martial Arts Center go on to earn a black belt. What has your mindset been as you have done martial arts?


It’s a mindset of passion. If you love something, you just can’t stop. The black belt is not something I’m particularly proud of. It was certainly something to strive for, but I was more interested in the mastery of the martial arts. Getting up to the black belt simply means that I know the basics.


Q. What is the most important lesson you have learned during your martial arts journey?


That I can overcome my glass ceiling. In the past four to five years, anytime I encountered a difficult throw or roll on the mat, instead of telling myself I can’t do it, or I’m too scared to do it… I find that glass ceiling, but Suino-sensei always tells me I can. And I do. It is possible, you just can’t give up.


Q. What have been your biggest challenges in martial arts?


Rolls and falls.


Q. How about size differences? You work out with some bigger guys!


Rolling with the bigger guys isn’t a challenge to me, because it’s a matter of figuring what kind of throw to use on them.


Andrea doing a Jujutsu throw


Q. How have martial arts carried over into your professional or personal life?


There is always that glass ceiling, like the one that I talked about. You can’t run away. I have figured out that I must approach head-on. For example, the sacrifice throw was very scary for me. I could either back away from it or do it. So, I went at it straight away and worked on it. Encountering these fears has helped me realize that I can’t back away from them. Running away doesn’t help; it makes the fear worse. I have learned over time to become stronger in overcoming these fears.


Q. Your most recent project is Chaos to Kata, a leadership seminar that is a synergy of martial arts and the business world. What was your inspiration for the project? How did it come about?


I always saw benefits in the business world in the way Suino-Sensei teaches martial arts. Everything didn’t click until Sato-Sensei came to the dojo. There was a concept he mentioned. His English wasn’t very good, but he said a word… mushin. It was very short, but you could see that there was a lot of meaning behind it. His translator described it was a word that describes approaching a situation without bias.


Six months later, Suino-sensei and I met over lunch, and discussed it. Suino-sensei developed the kata. The process of developing the project worked well because we work in very different ways that complement each other. I’m very efficient and he is a visionary. I had the basic idea, but he brought it forward with ideas to generate the seminar.

Andrea demonstrating a Jujutsu set-up during a Chaos to Kata seminar


Q. Have you personally used the kata?


Yes! Many times.


I had a first time meeting with a CEO where I worked. He was 65, and we worked in a very patriarchal environment. He was very patronizing. The first thing he said to me was, “You lucky thing.” I physically made space from him, and went back to my seat to collect my thoughts. Eventually, instead of not speaking at all during the meeting, because it is my weakness not to act and withdraw, I began making comments during the meeting. I had to act. At some point, it was a matter of the management of his personality. I started to jump in, summarizing what he said, and saying, “Thank very much for that, and now to add to what you said…” It wasn’t because he was convinced that I was right, but it was more to establish myself as a viable voice at the table.


Q. What was his response?


At the beginning of the meeting, he sat far away from me and was very hostile. By the end of the meeting, he actually came up and sat next to me to shake my hand, not necessarily as friends, but to be friendly.


Q. What’s another way you use the kata?


Generally, when I get worried about things, especially in the long-term, I use the kata. There is a lot of chaos in the future. For example, I am about to move, and I was initially very sad and disappointed. However, I need to create space from my emotions. So, I created space by not thinking about it for a while. I put it in a box and created distance. Then, it came to the point where I could approach it and analyze it without emotions or prejudice. From there, I could begin to act. I looked for schools, analyzed the community. I got a job there. I began to see the good that could come of it.


The kata has helped me overcome the emotional turmoil and approach the situation in a constructive manner.




Andrea during her black belt test
Circle of Death! Nearing the end of her black belt test.
Andrea practicing joint locks.

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

Links | Site Map | Misspellings
Judo | Jujutsu | Iaido | Karate | Ann Arbor Martial Arts

Web Hosting by Network Services Group, LLC
Website Design by SEO Ann Arbor

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.