Harnessing the Power of a Martial Art
Far from its birthplace in Japan, the spirit of jujutsu is alive and well in the UMD Sports and Health Center.
Insight. Perfection. These ideals resonate through the practices of the UMD Jujutsu Club. Students hit the mat (often literally) with the ideal of improving themselves and improving their bond with others in the martial arts community.
Jujutsu, like all martial arts, has many different styles and techniques. UMD’s Jujutsu Club draws primarily from the Danzan Ryu style developed in Hawaii during the early 20th Century. Jason Davis, the club’s sensei (teacher), trained at and is an active member of Kuroinukan, the oldest existent jujutsu dojo (school) in Duluth. Davis began the club in 2010 and found accreditation as one of only four American Jujutsu Federation dojos in Minnesota. It quickly expanded from its humble beginnings.
“In the beginning, the jujutsu club practiced on old, insufficient mats,” explained UMD senior Taylor Moore. “Since then, we have replaced them with new mats that are far better.”
The club has progressed in more ways than equipment. In 2012, a one-credit physical education course was offered that meets at the same time as club activities. Membership has also increased. “The class size varies, but usually has around 20 students. About 10 people from the club attend. Together we have between 25 to 30 people meeting and practicing together." The old mats could only handle six people at a time — not nearly enough for the group’s current size.
“Jujutsu isn’t a sport, it’s a martial art,” Davis said. “The aim of the training is perfection of character through training and discipline. Exposure to this martial art gives people deep insight. The more people I can expose to these lessons, the better.”
The word ‘jujutsu’ is defined as ‘the gentle art’. This largely entails throws or grapples that require the least possible energy. It takes the momentum of aggressive opponent and turns it against themself in the most efficient possible way.
Like all martial arts, jujutsu is meant to be used defensively. It is only for unavoidable circumstances. That doesn’t mean, however, that lessons learned in the dojo can’t come in handy throughout everyday life. “A few months ago, I went mountain biking for the first time,” Moore explained. “I took a fall, and I went into a roll pretty much without thinking about it. I’m pretty sure it saved me a pair of broken wrists.”
Moore isn’t alone in believing that there are practical applications for jujutsu practice. “We all live in Duluth.” Davis pointed out. “Considering how slippery and icy everything gets in the winter, being able to take a fall is a valuable skill that everyone could benefit from knowing.”
Students interested in joining the UMD Jujutsu club are welcome, though space is limited. For more information, visit the club's website, leave a message via the Jujutsu Club page on UMD's organization website, or contact Jason Davis directly (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Story by Zach Lunderberg, October, 2013. Photos by Benjamin Laberge.