Martial Arts Ann Arbor - Jujutsu | Jujitsu | Jiu-Jitsu

It's All About Me!

We usually hear that martial arts are designed to develop a selfless person - one who exists to serve his or her art, community, or some purpose larger than him or herself. This is certainly true, but sometimes the proper focus in training is on yourself.

At times when things don't go exactly the way you'd like, focus on yourself rather than on the person who may have caused your dissatisfaction. Instead of thinking, "he didn't attack me the way he was supposed to," it is more productive to think, "how could my response have been more effective?" That way, you are constantly improving your martial arts skills, making you a better practitioner, a better demonstrator, a better competitor, or better at self-defense.

Our philosophy is that every action is an expression of the inner person. If we want to be great martial artists, we can get better by always focusing on the improvements we can make in ourselves, rather than on the perceived shortcomings of others.

This is true outside the dojo, as well. Physical beauty fades, money is external, strength diminishes over time. Beauty of the spirit, however, always shines through. When you face a challenge, ask yourself, "how would the person I want to be respond to this?" If someone irritates you, remember that it is you who is irritated, not necessarily the other person who is irritating. Instead of lashing out, respond the way a secure, kind person would respond. If you do so often enough, you will become that person.

JMAC would like to thank the many Ann Arbor businesses that support this blog, both martial arts-related and others, including: Network Services Group, Art of Japanese Swordsmanship, Shudokan Martial Arts Association, Budo Mind and Body, Art of Judo, Iaido Dot Com, Lorandos and Associates, Oxford Companies, Bluestone Realty Advisors, Portfolio Ann Arbor, Invest Ann Arbor, the Law Office of Nicklaus Suino and the ITAMA Dojo.

One Thing Right Today

A great way to approach each day in the dojo is to decide to "get one thing right today." Isolate one aspect of your art - a foot position you struggle with in iaido, the rhythm of a form in karate, or the hand position leading up to a throw in judo - and concentrate on doing it right.

Check with the Sensei to find out what the proper checkpoints are, make sure you understand them, and try to execute them. Once you get close to the example set by the sensei, practice that aspect over and over until you perform it reflexively. Next time you come to the dojo, run through it a few times to make sure you are still doing it right, and come back to it now and then in the future to see if you can make it better.

Wait until you can get that "one thing" right before turning your attention to another. You will be surprised at how your foundation moves improve if you take this approach. Since the average student comes to the dojo three times per week, you could get really good at 156 components of your art in a year.

A student who never masters one aspect before moving to another may know more techniques at the end of a year, but the one who gets "one thing right" will be better at the core movements of the art.

The Japanese Martial Arts Center would like to thank the many Ann Arbor businesses that support this blog, both martial arts-related and others, including: Network Services Group, Art of Japanese Swordsmanship, Shudokan Martial Arts Association, Budo Mind and Body, Art of Judo, Iaido Dot Com, Lorandos and Associates, Oxford Companies, Bluestone Realty Advisors, Portfolio Ann Arbor, Invest Ann Arbor, the Law Office of Nicklaus Suino and the ITAMA Dojo.

Testing

At the Japanese Martial Arts Center, testing for rank is done by invitation. The instructors invite students to test when they have reached a sufficient level of mastery of the techniques for their rank. This is probably unlike your experience at the University of Michigan or at Pioneer High School! You might wonder what some of the requirements are when you are being considered for testing at the dojo. Although this list is not exhaustive, some of the aspects evaluated by the instructors are: time in training, ability to recall and execute the checkpoints, balance, speed, power, poise, attitude, improvement, and dedication.

Time in Training: virtually every Japanese martial art has a required amount of time that must be spent at each rank. One reason for this is that there is much more to an art than simply being able to reproduce the techniques. By requiring a minimum time in rank, it is hoped that students will not only internalize the physical lessons, but will also reflect on their struggles and deepen their characters as a result, regardless whether they are training in judo, aikido, or kendo.

Ability to recall and execute the checkpoints: each technique has identifying characteristics such as hand placement, hip placement, posture, etc. A student much be able to remember the checkpoints communicated by the instructor, and, to a greater or lesser extent depending on rank, be able to execute them.

Balance: physical balance is a part of every martial art. A student much be able to demonstrate balance to an extent commensurate with his or her rank.

Speed: in judo, a throw must be done quickly in randori. In iaido, the major cut in each form must be done quickly. Wherever a technique requires speed, a student must be able to demonstrate speed commensurate with rank. Wherever a technique requires slowness, a student must demonstrate accordingly.

Power: a big part of martial arts is the development of physical power, whether in a punch, a throw, or a downward cut. A student is expected to show gradually more power as he or she spends time practicing the art. Although a white belt is expected to demonstrate some power when submitting to his first test, a student testing for shodan is expected to demonstrate a great deal more power.

Poise: students of the martial arts are supposed to be developing their characters as well as their bodies. We expect students to show gradually more poise as they advance through the ranks. This is expressed by being less excitable, less prone to shock or surprise, and more calm during difficult experiences, such as testing for rank or personal difficulties.

Attitude: whoever said "attitude is everything" could have been speaking about the martial arts. A gung ho student is a delight to teach, whereas a student who seems to be reluctant to train or to listen to a teacher's advice can be trying. We strive for an attitude of joyful intensity during practice, a willingness to immediately accept a sensei's advice without demurrer or explanation, and a willingness to really try to understand the principles that underlie the techniques and to put them into practice.

Improvement: everyone is born with a different amount of talent. Accordingly, some have to work much harder to improve than others. Where a student is not gifted with an innate ability to learn and perform martial arts techniques, we look for the amount of improvement they demonstrate over time. If a student who is uncoordinated and works hard makes a satisfactory amount of progress, that student might be promoted to the same rank as one who has more talent but who works less hard.

Dedication: this could include showing up regularly to practice, enthusiastic participation in class, contributing to dojo events, showing up despite a busy schedule or a minor injury, helping with cleaning the dojo, helping other students learn, or recommending the dojo to others. All these sorts of behaviors help to show that a student is happy to be part of the dojo and will reflect well on the dojo at a higher rank.

The Japanese Martial Arts Center would like to thank the many Ann Arbor businesses that support this blog, both martial arts-related and others, including: Network Services Group, Art of Japanese Swordsmanship, Shudokan Martial Arts Association, Budo Mind and Body, Art of Judo, Iaido Dot Com, Lorandos and Associates, Oxford Companies, Bluestone Realty Advisors, Portfolio Ann Arbor, Invest Ann Arbor, the Law Office of Nicklaus Suino and the ITAMA Dojo.

The Student as Teacher

As a student at the Japanese Martial Arts Center, what should you know about teaching martial arts? Even if you haven't been officially designated as an instructor, you may occasionally be called upon to help another student. Even in the course of normal training, you may find yourself assisting your training partner by commenting on his or her technique. There are three things you ought to know: (1) be positive; (2) tread lightly, and (3) be sure you know before you teach.

Be Positive: every student of the martial arts has many good qualities, and it's critical to let them know you see that. Simply showing up to the dojo regularly means giving up other activities, and the commitment shown by even the least-talented person in the dojo is commendable. Look for what your juniors are doing right, and be sure to let them know what those things are.

Tread Lightly: your dojo mates probably view you as an equal, even if you've been training longer.
Remember that most students bond with the leader of the school, and adjust their thinking to accept advice mainly from that person. As a result, they may not feel warmly toward you if you find fault with their techniques. If you must be critical, seek the gentlest way to do so, and share only the most important advice. One thoughtful comment, followed by practice of the corrected technique, is likely to result in improvement. Several comments, one after another, usually just confuse the listener, and rarely make a positive difference. Whatever you do, don't chime in when the sensei or sempai is assisting another student!

Know Before You Teach: martial arts are complex. Before offering advice to another student, be sure you understand the technique thoroughly. If you are training with someone and you feel that they are doing a technique wrong, it is almost always better to ask the sensei for advice than it is to try to correct a fault you think you see. Imagine how you would feel if you "corrected" your training partner only to have the sensei explain the technique differently a moment later. And, as you can imagine, whatever amount of shame you might feel would probably be equaled by the resentment of the student you just tried to help!

The Japanese Martial Arts Center would like to thank the many Ann Arbor businesses that support this blog, both self-defense or martial arts-related and others, including: Network Services Group, Art of Japanese Swordsmanship, Shudokan Martial Arts Association, Budo Mind and Body, Art of Judo, Iaido Dot Com, Lorandos and Associates, Oxford Companies, Bluestone Realty Advisors, Portfolio Ann Arbor, Invest Ann Arbor, the Law Office of Nicklaus Suino and the ITAMA Dojo.

Care and Feeding of Training Partners

Training partners are vital to your progress at the Japanese Martial Arts Center. They can give you feedback on how well you're doing a form, can help you practice a joint lock or throw, and can challenge you in sparring or randori. In fact, whether you train for physical fitness, self-defense, or character development, it's hard to imagine real success in martial arts without the help of dedicated training partners. For that reason, it's helpful to think about how to make sure your dojo mates are healthy, happy, and enthusiastic about working with you.

Healthy Training Partners: an injured person can't train well. For that reason, the first rule in taking care of training partners is to practice in such a way as to minimize injury. At JMAC, we have a rule that, when someone taps out, you must release your joint lock or pin immediately. To do otherwise would greatly increase the chance of injury. It is also important not to practice techniques with a person who is not capable of taking the appropriate fall, and not to practice at a speed or performance level that he or she cannot handle. Black belts must turn down their speed and power when sparring with white belts, for example. For a sempai (higher-ranked student) It is more important to make sure that a kohai (lower-ranked student) is practicing safely than it is to try to dominate the kohai.

Happy Training Partners: a happy training partner is one who can practice his or her own skills safely, in an atmosphere of enthusiasm and mutual respect. Remember, the dojo is a place of learning, not a place of perfection. Our job when working with others is to help them learn. This can mean adjusting our level of strength down if our partner is struggling to perform a technique, for example, or adjusting our level of speed up if our partner is preparing for a competition. The key is to be sensitive to our partner's needs and to try to accommodate them.

Why should be sacrifice our time at the dojo trying to fulfill the needs of others? Because they are in the same position as are we, and their turn is next. If you always insist on practicing in the way that is best for you, you will soon find your training partners taciturn and uncooperative. Remember, everybody has sacrificed their time and money to come to the dojo, and they keep coming, hopefully, because the experience is both rewarding and fun. If you take away either of these aspects - by being selfish or hyper-critical - your dojo mates may start looking for other places to train. Your sensei, who is writing the rent check every month, may not continue to have warm feelings toward you if you alienate many of his students.

If you have special needs, be sure to communicate these to your instructors and the students with whom you practice. Just as you might find at the University of Michigan or at Google, we try to accommodate those with special needs. For example, we try to accommodate jujutsu students who have physical reasons for being unable to take break falls. We practice to the point of off-balancing with such students, or allow them to bail out of a joint lock before a break fall becomes necessary. At the same time, such students are made aware that they will not advance as fast or as far as students who can fall, because they are missing an essential element in the physical understanding of jujutsu. These students are also reminded that they are basically getting a gift from the other students whenever they practice together, because they are allowed to throw, but are not being thrown. They avoid the wear and tear on their bodies that the other students submit to joyfully...and as long as the no-fall student is helpful and gracious the other students don't seem to mind.

Enthusiastic Training Partners: martial arts training is hard, but it is a lot of fun. All those people who come to the same classes as you are part of something that might as well be an extended family. In every training session, remember that your training partners are there to learn, and help them in every way possible. Respect your seniors, and be generous and kind to your juniors. Think of gentle ways to make corrections, and don't give too much unasked-for advice. In many ways, a life in the martial arts is a life of service. Instructors serve the needs of their students, senior students serve the needs of their instructors and their juniors, and junior students serve the needs of their instructors and their seniors. At the same time, it has always seemed that the more we work to help others, the more benefits we ourselves receive. If you are perceived as a hard-working, generous, and kind martial artist, you will never lack for enthusiastic training partners.

JMAC would like to thank the many Ann Arbor businesses that support this blog, both self-defense or martial arts-related and others, including: Network Services Group, Art of Japanese Swordsmanship, Shudokan Martial Arts Association, Budo Mind and Body, Art of Judo, Iaido Dot Com, Lorandos and Associates, Oxford Companies, Bluestone Realty Advisors, Portfolio Ann Arbor, Invest Ann Arbor, the Law Office of Nicklaus Suino and the ITAMA Dojo.

The Three Aspects of Training

There are three aspects to your physical training at the Japanese Martial Arts Center, whether you train for self-defense, physical fitness, or character development. These are as follows: (1) learning new techniques; (2) mastering the techniques you know; and (3) applying the techniques in action. All three aspects are critical if you want to become a really good martial artist.

Learning New Techniques: because you come to a new art with no knowledge, the early part of your martial arts career will be mostly filled with learning new techniques. Typically, you are taught a throw, joint lock, sword cut, or strike - you practice it a bit until you have memorized the pattern - your teacher helps you refine it a bit - and then you are taught another new technique. This is the same whether you study aikido, iaido, judo, jujutsu, karate, or kendo. Because students get a lot of attention at this stage, and because of the excitement and interest of constantly learning new things, many students get addicted to learning new techniques. If they don't manage to move past this addiction, they will never become accomplished martial artists; instead, they will become collectors of skills - dilettantes with no deep understanding of their art. In fact, learning new techniques is the smallest part of the career of a true martial arts master.

Mastering techniques: in the traditional martial arts, we don't really believe in the idea that a person can truly "master" a technique or an art. Instead, we believe that becoming great at martial arts is a lifetime's commitment, and that we must constantly revisit the techniques we know to try to deepen our understanding of them. What we mean when we say that the second aspect of physical training is "mastering techniques" is that we constantly practice what we know, always trying to be better. We analyze each part of a technique, figure out what could be done better, practice that part, then put the whole thing back together and try to make it more efficient, more effective, or more beautiful. If we keep at it long enough with an enthusiastic spirit, we can eventually become quite good at our chosen art.

Applying Techniques in Action: once we have achieved some degree of understanding of our martial arts skills, we can apply them in action. In judo, this is done in randori (free practice), in karate we engage in kumite (sparring), in iaido, we simply repeat our forms again and again, seeking to deepen our ability to focus on and execute the detailed form requirements. Through this application, we learn what works well and what needs more work. We can go back to the mastery stage to analyze and perfect skills that don't work well in application, try them out again, and continue this back and forth process until we succeed at throwing a challenging partner (or whatever our milestone is at the time). This eventually makes us very capable at self-defense, demonstrating, kumite, or whatever our goal for training may be.

Having good training partners is critical for success in application of techniques. Dojo mates who care about your success can make all the difference. They will apply their strength in the right measure so that you can attempt your technique and determine whether or not it works. They can comment on how your technique looks or feels to them, allowing you to use the feedback to make yourself better. As you improve, they can increase their strength and speed, helping you to refine your skills even more. There are very few better friends than a really good training partner.

The Japanese Martial Arts Center would like to thank the many Ann Arbor businesses that support this blog, both self-defense or martial arts-related and others, including: Network Services Group, Art of Japanese Swordsmanship, Shudokan Martial Arts Association, Budo Mind and Body, Art of Judo, Iaido Dot Com, Lorandos and Associates, Oxford Companies, Bluestone Realty Advisors, Portfolio Ann Arbor, Invest Ann Arbor, the Law Office of Nicklaus Suino and the ITAMA Dojo.

Your First Day in the Dojo

On your first day at the Japanese Martial Arts Center (our "dojo"), you can expect to learn some very important basic budo concepts (budo means "martial way" in Japanese, and refers to a life on the path of personal development through martial arts). These concepts are expressed through some simple Japanese words, including the following: rei (courtesy, or bow), sensei (teacher), hai! (Yes! or I will!), and arigato gozaimasu (thank you).

Rei is the courtesy that starts and ends every traditional martial arts class, whether it is in karate, aikido, or some other art. We bow before stepping on the mat as a sign of respect for the training and peaceful intent. We bow formally at the beginning and end of every session to express our appreciation for the existence of the art, and to thank each other for the privilege of training together. We bow before an after training with other students to show that we care about their physical and mental well-being, and for a job well done. We bow to the sensei to thank him or her for the lesson, and the sensei bows to us to thank us for considering his advice and for helping to preserve and propagate his art.

Sensei is the word we use to address the teacher. It literally means "before life" or "before born," and refers to the fact that the teacher was born (figuratively) into the art before us. It carries with it a connotation of respect and affection - respect for the knowledge the teacher possesses and the effort he or she puts into developing and sharing that knowledge, and affection for the kindness and caring shown by the teacher towards us.

Hai! is the word dojo members use to express their enthusiasm and intent to do well (some dojos use the word "osu!" - pronounced "oss"). When the Sensei advises us on technique, we say "Hai!" When we're asked if we understand, we say "Hai!" When we're asked if we want to practice more, we say "Hai!" The enthusiasm shown by this word demonstrates that we love our training and will energetically attempt to do what it takes to succeed at our chosen martial art. It is almost always the right thing to say: at the Japanese Martial Arts Center, we have a funny saying that shows how to use the word:

Sensei: "What do we always say?"
Students: "Hai!"
Sensei: When do we say it?"
Students: "Hai!"

Arigato Gozaimasu means "thank you very much." Students say it at the end of class to thank the teacher for the lesson, but in reality, it means much more. In a dojo with a good atmosphere, the teacher helps the students, the students help each other, and the students help the teacher. There is a kind of group bonding that takes place when people train together with enthusiasm and joy. This bonding makes a happy dojo feel like a family atmosphere. All are learning, moving closer to their physical, mental, and spiritual goals, and, as a result, they are eager to work hard, and to help one another learn. When the students say arigato gozaimasu at the end of class, they are expressing their happiness at being part of the dojo family, and their intent to continue to try to perpetuate the atmosphere of mutual benefit and cooperation.
The Japanese Martial Arts Center would like to thank the many Ann Arbor businesses that
support this blog,
both self-defense or martial arts-related and others, including:
Network Services Group, Art of Japanese Swordsmanship, Shudokan Martial Arts Association,
Budo Mind and Body, Art of Judo, Iaido Dot Com, Lorandos and Associates,
Oxford Companies, Bluestone Realty Advisors, Portfolio Ann Arbor,
Invest Ann Arbor, and the Law Office of Nicklaus Suino.

Japanese Martial Arts Center

The Japanese Martial Arts Center is the "Rolls-Royce" of dojos, located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the heart of Washtenaw County. World-class instruction, a stunning facility, and tireless dedication to the timeless principles of traditional martial arts help each and every one of our members achieve excellence - in technique, character, and in their relationship with the world. Visit us on the web at: japanesemartialartscenter.com, or send us an email inquiry at:
info@japanesemartialartscenter.com.

We teach three major Japanese martial arts: iaido (swordsmanship), judo (throwing and grappling), and jujutsu (Japanese self-defense, sometimes spelled "jujitsu" or "jiu-jitsu"). Each one offers unique opportunities for physical training, philosophical instruction, and character development. For those who like to compete, judo offers many tournaments around North America, though we do not require our students to compete.

Because we love martial arts training and place a high value on traditional lineage martial arts, we have students who come to us not just from Ann Arbor, but throughout Michigan, including such places as Brighton, Jackson, Lansing, Rochester, Troy, Livonia, Northville, Pinckney, Plymouth, and many other cities. Our adult students (both men and women) range in talents from computer professionals, accountants, and attorneys to writers, architects, and doctors.

Anybody who wants to work hard, learn, and have fun is welcome as a student at the Japanese Martial Arts Center. We pride ourselves on the diversity of our members, and we celebrate their positive traits even as we all work hard to conform our techniques to the strict dictates of tradition. We truly believe that JMAC is one of the finest places in Michigan to learn martial arts, and invite you to visit us to see why we feel so special!

JMAC would like to thank the many businesses in Ann Arbor that support this blog, both martial arts-related and others, including: Network Services Group, Art of Japanese Swordsmanship, Shudokan Martial Arts Association, Budo Mind and Body, Art of Judo, Iaido Dot Com, Lorandos and Associates, Oxford Companies, Bluestone Realty Advisors, Portfolio Ann Arbor, Invest Ann Arbor, and the Law Office of Nicklaus Suino.