Alma mater

Alma mater

I had the pleasure of going back to my alma mater Columbia University to teach a jiu jitsu seminar yesterday. It was wonderful to see the amazing progress the students have made under the direction of club leaders Andrius Schmid and Jason Yang. Back in the 1990’s the club was started by Christian Barry, Matt Serra and myself. The sport was so different then! Mr Barry advertised the first class as “Brazilian fighting jiu jitsu and Vale Tudo” with a picture of a vicious fight from mounted position. Almost one hundred people showed up for the first class - every angry nut job and lunatic came out of the woodwork of Columbia and showed up in the wrestling room. The entire class immediately descended into a chaotic mass sparring session as dozens of repressed academic types with some kind of obscure martial arts background/fantasy went berserk on each other in a mass rage/ warfare scene that was pure comedy gold! Next class five bruised and scratched people showed up and the Columbia jiu jitsu club was born! 😂😂😂 Time has worked its magic and now it is a very big and well run club - I had a great time showing the gifted students there elements of the squad’s Kimura system and its links to other subsystems we routinely use in competition. It was wonderful strolling around the campus afterwards and reflecting upon the great influence of my dear mentor, Isaac Levi, my Ph.D supervisor, and his insights on research programs that I use every day - albeit in a context very different from what he expected. In the end, learning is learning, no matter what the context. I am so grateful to be able to take the gift of great teaching and mentoring I received and give a small amount back to a new generation of students, despite having completely changed paths in life.