Monday, March 5, 2007

Prof brings Jiu-Jitsu to classroom

By Yousef AbuGharbieh

As faculty adviser of the recently formed Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class at Duke, political science professor Scott de Marchi has taken the phrase "interactive teaching" to new heights.

De Marchi leads a weekly class that meets to learn and practice the techniques of BJJ, a combat sport that focuses on grappling, choke holds and joint locks. De Marchi learned BJJ while working out with Team R.O.C, a mixed martial arts team based in Chapel Hill.

De Marchi said he agreed to teach the BJJ class-which is part of a larger martial arts club at Duke that includes taekwondo and judo-after students expressed interest last fall. He added that his goal was to make expensive martial arts training available to all interested students.

"A lot of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu clubs are expensive-$100-so I created the club for students who couldn't pay," de Marchi said.

Class sessions are mainly instructional, but involve a significant amount of sparring, said freshman Ashley Disilvestro, martial arts club vice president.

"A typical practice begins with [de Marchi] demonstrating several escapes, joint locks and choke holds," Disilvestro said. "We practice each of them, and then we spar for the remainder of practice."

BJJ, a sport that is unfamiliar to most Americans, can best be compared to wrestling, although there are some significant differences, participants said.

"All the moves that you got penalized for in high school are the ones you're supposed to do in Jiu-Jitsu-in the sense of chokes and going against joints," freshman Frank Jemison said.

BJJ matches can only end when one combatant taps out and admits defeat. Even so, injuries are rare and the club maintains a friendly atmosphere, de Marchi said.

"Since everyone is training and trying to help one another learn, very few people get hurt. If you look at judo, BJJ or wrestling, people are much nicer than in team sports. Nobody gets angry, nobody mouths off. It's much friendlier," de Marchi said. "There's an ethic in all of these sports to help everybody get better, as opposed to basketball where you just want to win."

Nearly all of the participants are new to the sport, and most said they do not have ambitions of competing. For them, practicing BJJ is just another way to exercise, Jemison said.

"It's a really good work out," freshman Elad Gross said. "If you fight, all your muscles are strained for 3 to 5 minutes. It works muscle endurance."

Gross added that taking BJJ has made him more confident about his ability to defend himself.

"I think it's very useful for self-defense, especially if you're in hand-to-hand combat. You'll be able to incapacitate the person," he said. "I feel more prepared to go into a fight and defend myself, if necessary."

Other class members agreed with Gross, adding that BJJ gives a person much more practical techniques for self-defense than other martial arts disciplines.

"I think it is more useful than other forms of martial arts because you fight an opponent that's closer to you," Jemison said. "It may not look as graceful or as technical as other martial arts, but I think it caters much more to real life because you learn what to do when somebody's on top of you punching your face."

Many of the class's members-several of whom are de Marchi's former students-said that they value the opportunity for faculty-student interaction in a less formal, more social setting.

De Marchi said he does not think there's anything strange about teaching students how to fight.

"It's just wrestling," de Marchi said. "I play basketball with students too."


No comments: