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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

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Martial Arts Training in the Land of the Living

There is a land of the living and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning. - Thornton Wilder

The well known American swordsman John Ray visited JMAC several years ago. It was a wonderful moment for me to meet someone who had lived an experience similar to my own ... moving to Japan, studying iaido for years, having success there, and returning to teach in the US. After watching our practice and chatting with my students, Ray Sensei left us with this thought (it's been a few years so I'm paraphrasing):

"A great teacher is so much more than a collection of skills. You should watch your Sensei's techniques carefully ... that's how you get better at the technicalities of your art. But there's more to pay attention to. Watch your teacher's small gestures, the way he moves, pay attention to his choice of words, try to soak up the intangibles. That's part of the magic of direct transmission."

 Yamaguchi-Katsuo Sensei

I've written many times of my obsessive approach to learning from my iaido teacher, Yamaguchi-Sensei. I truly "emptied my cup" in his dojo. Our four years together (and our later training when I returned to visit Japan) were transformative for me. To say I loved my teacher does a poor job of explaining the connection. There's so much shared history and nuance in my feelings for the man who transmitted iaido to me, it's almost impossible to put into words.

Missing from Our Lives

The extraordinary musician, the exemplary painter, the best writer, the gifted singer, and the exceptional martial artist share a unique sort of magic. There's a depth to their performances that only a keen eye can see, only a sharp ear can hear. Their notes are not just notes, their brush strokes are not just brush strokes, their words are not just words, their voices are not just voices, and their kata are not just kata. Instead, they're a deep expression of a collection of meaningful experiences, distilled through countless hours of practices and years of reflection.

If you watch, read or listen carefully enough, you can sense the depth of their technique. If you're lucky enough to have seen their teachers or role models, you'll also be able to see echoes of their predecessors in their art. That's an extraordinary expression of love ... granting immortality to an artist by ensuring that his or her art is preserved in your body, mind and spirit. The level of your tribute corresponds to how well you internalize the nuance of his technique and how well you understand and give life to the principles he held dear.

Today's martial arts world is dominated by light weight players. By that I don't mean people who are small in physical stature. Instead, I mean people who are small in character, technique, and aspirations. Consider carefully the school you plan to attend. Is the approach all about rank? Does the curriculum change frequently ... is it more focused on variation than on depth? Are the lead instructors out of shape, mean spirited, or simply poor technicians?

Training in the Land of the Living

Life is too short to aspire to mediocrity. It's better to shoot for the stars and only reach the moon. Nowhere is this more true than in the martial arts. To animate your martial arts with the spirit of greatness, choose the most profound role models you can find and follow them with an obsessive devotion. That's your best chance to receive the direct transmission of the deep spirit of your martial art. If and when you receive the direct transmission, keep in mind that it includes everything - the sounds in the room during your training sessions, the rare smile of your Sensei, the warm air coming in through the windows, the pain of learning, the salty tears of exhaustion, the crushing pathos of washing your teacher's gravestone and the incredible energy of great martial arts techniques executed with clarity, energy and joy. The complexity and emotion of your martial arts should be very profound indeed.

Seize the Day

It may not be easy to find such incredible role models or to recognize them when you do meet them. One way to hone your skill at discerning greatness is to get in front of it and pay close attention. If you want to be an exceptional martial artist in the true sense of the phrase, you have to train with an exceptional Japanese master.

That's it. Thinking back on your training, will you be able to say, "I truly did everything I could to give myself a chance at greatness"?

I have faith in you, and will continue to have faith in you until you have faith in yourself and put yourself on the path to greatness.

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.