Monday, June 13, 2022

What are Internal Martial Arts?

a person practicing iaido, a martial art in Ann Arbor
Internal martial arts focus more on breathing, ki/chi (Japanese and Chinese terms for energy), flow, and relaxation. Examples include Tai chi, Bagua, Hsing-i, Kyudo, and Iaido. One important goal of internal martial artists is to find relaxation and mental strength. After you make progress with those, you can enter more physically demanding situations. The work you do internally will contribute to the external result, such as in the case of Kyudo and Iaido, a more precise shot or fluid strike.

See how to categorize martial arts.

Study Martial Arts in Ann Arbor

When you study martial arts in Ann Arbor at JMAC, there are multiple styles to learn! We offer iaido, nihon jujutsu, judo, and karate programs.

Not sure which art is right for you? 

You can watch a class with no obligation! See our schedule. If you’re happy with what you see, you can schedule two free intro lessons to make sure your choice is a good fit.

Contact us today to begin practicing martial arts in Ann Arbor!

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

How to Categorize Martial Arts

Have you noticed some martial arts are physical and powerful, while others seem peaceful and introspective?

How can these differences between martial arts be categorized?

One way is to distinguish between internal and external, or hard and soft styles. The distinction between internal and external comes from how the arts are learned, while the distinction from hard and soft comes from the fighting approach.

Two martial artists in Ann Arbor practicing judo

External Martial Arts

External martial arts include judo, karate, Muay Thai, and Hungar kung fu. These arts are typically more concerned with developing athletic skill sets - movements that rely on muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness, and explosive power. When learning external martial arts, you’ll likely improve your physical fitness first, and after reaching your physical limit, focus on internal elements that can improve your physical performance, like breathing and relaxation. External martial arts often have you learn movements first, then their meaning/purpose. Think of it this way: you’re learning the art from the outside (your body) to the inside (your spirit).

Learn more about internal, soft, and hard martial arts.

Study Martial Arts in Ann Arbor

When you study martial arts in Ann Arbor at JMAC, there are multiple styles to learn! We offer iaido, nihon jujutsu, judo, and karate programs.

Not sure which art is right for you? 

You can watch a class with no obligation! See our schedule. If you’re happy with what you see, you can schedule two free intro lessons to make sure your choice is a good fit.

Contact us today to begin practicing martial arts in Ann Arbor!

Friday, May 13, 2022

Learn the Features of an Iaito

Looking for an iaito?

Want to learn the individual parts of the sword?

Here are features you’ll want to examine and definitions you should know:

Sword composition – Along the blade, a bohi (groove) is ideal to create the whooshing sound when the blade is aligned correctly. Some blades have a double bohi, but a single, deep bohi is better. The hamon (temper line), is only decorative on alloy iaito – it doesn’t contribute to performance, so the style is a matter of your personal preference. 

Hand Guard – A smooth, round, heavy tsuba (hand guard) is recommended. A heavy tsuba helps bring the weight of the sword closer to your hands. With a lighter tsuba, the kissaki (sword tip) will be heavier, causing the sword to be harder to control. Try to get a tsuba free of corners or textures because they’re hard on the hands.

Scabbard – Make sure your saya (scabbard) has a wooden opening rather than a metal one. A metal saya will scratch your sword and shorten its life.  

Learn more about iaito swords.

Study Iaido in Ann Arbor

Anyone can practice iaido! It may seem intimidating, but at JMAC, we adapt to the pace of our students. You’ll learn how to handle a sword at your own pace in a safe, supportive environment.

Contact us today to begin practicing iaido in Ann Arbor!


Sunday, May 1, 2022

What Makes a Great Practice Sword?

Are you interested in practicing iaido in Ann Arbor?

A little lost when it comes to swords?

We practice Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu iaido at JMAC, and there are many factors that make for a good practice sword -called an iaito- for this style:

Sword Material – Consider an alloy blade, as they tend to have a better feel than steel, which has good feel only in very expensive iaito.

Sword Length – Japanese swords are typically measured in the ancient system of shaku, sun, bu - roughly equal to a foot, an inch, and a centimeter. A typical iaito for our practice is between 2-shaku 3-sun (27.4 inches) and 2-shaku 4-sun 5-bu (29.2 inches). To find the best blade length for you, hold your right arm out straight and to the side, parallel to the floor. The length of your blade should be about the distance from the center of your sternum to the center of your right palm. 

Learn what other factors make a great sword!

Study Iaido in Ann Arbor

Anyone can practice iaido! It may seem intimidating, but at JMAC, we adapt to the pace of our students. You’ll learn how to handle a sword at your own pace in a safe, supportive environment.

Contact us today to begin practicing iaido in Ann Arbor!

Friday, April 15, 2022

What is Dan Ranking?

How can you keep improving beyond black belt?

After receiving all your colored belts and moving on to a black belt, you leave the kyu class and enter the dan class.

Dan Ranking

Dan means “step” or “stage” in Japanese. When you first receive a black belt, you are at shodan - first dan - rank. 

Shodan - 1st Dan


Nidan - 2nd Dan

Sandan - 3rd Dan

Yondan - 4th Dan

Godan - 5th Dan

Rokudan - 6th Dan

Shichidan - 7th Dan

Hachidan - 8th Dan

Kudan - 9th Dan

Judan - 10th Dan

Not all martial arts use all 10 dan, and for some arts, the belts might change. For most martial arts, black belts are worn for all dan rankings, but in judo, 6th-8th dan may wear a red and white belt and 9th-10th dan may wear a solid red belt. 

What do the different dans mean? If you’ve received shodan rank, you’ve mastered the basics of the style. At sandan, you can start teaching with your sensei’s supervision. At godan, you can get your full teaching license. The higher the dan, the more leadership and teaching experience you’ll need to be promoted.

Learn more about the ranking system.

Measure Your Growth - Martial Arts in Ann Arbor

Do you want to increase your strength, speed, and balance while working toward new belts?

Practicing martial arts in Ann Arbor has many non-physical benefits too! You will increase your confidence, focus, and self-discipline, all while having fun.

If you’re ready to get started, contact us today!

Friday, April 1, 2022

Why Are Colored Belts Used in Martial Arts?

Wondering what belt colors mean?

The majority of martial arts use a colored belt system to show your rank. It wasn’t always like this though. In 1883, judo founder Jigoro Kano founded the dan system which had students wear white belts and teachers and advanced students wear black belts. This system was adopted by numerous other martial art styles across different countries.

The colored belts came along when judo master Kawaishi Mikonosuke was teaching in France. Mikonosuke found multiple colored belts helped his students see their progress and gave them something to work toward. 

The exact order and number of belt colors depends on martial art or school. The general color order is:

  • White
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Purple
  • Brown
  • Red
  • Black

Learn more about the history behind the dan system.

Measure Your Growth - Martial Arts in Ann Arbor

Do you want to increase your strength, speed, and balance while working toward new belts?

Practicing martial arts in Ann Arbor has many non-physical benefits too! You will increase your confidence, focus, and self-discipline, all while having fun.

If you’re ready to get started, contact us today!

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

What is Kumite?


Kumite means “sparring.” When you and another martial artist go up against each other to gain experience and test your skill, that’s Kumite. Kumite includes both free practice and structured fighting drills. Structured kumite includes drills like Ippon kumite – where one person steps in for a high punch and the other responds with a high block. 

Free practice kumite in Goju-Ryu karate isn’t about matching strength or overpowering your opponent - rather it’s about deflecting the attack intelligently. Because Goju-Ryu uses hard and soft techniques, you can meet your opponent’s attack, whether it be hard or soft, with the opposite. You can wear protective gear so you can strike with power rather than holding back. Free practice Kumite is also used in competitions. See kumite in action!

Read about kata and kihon.

Call or Email JMAC Today for Karate in Ann Arbor

“JMAC changed my life! The instructors are incredible - both as teachers and as people. Other students are supportive and fun. I couldn't ask for a better training atmosphere.” 

If you’d like to start studying karate in Ann Arbor, fill out our contact form or give us a call at (734) 720-0330 today.