Staying fit with NU ParaCombatives Ju-Jutsu

    Students stretched to warm up before the actual demonstration. Photo by David Zhang / North by Northwestern

    Let’s face it folks. There are a lot of sketchy people around Chicago. Some of them even go to Northwestern. And knowing how to defend yourself against these potential attackers could be a valuable tool sometime in the future.

    Self-defense is exactly what the Northwestern ParaCombatives Ju-Jutsu Club teaches. The club held a demonstration for interested students at Blomquist at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 28, while more than 30 students sat, shoeless, and watched from a large ground mat.

    “The focus of the club is all about defending [yourself from] common street attacks,” said Adam Orlov, the club’s head instructor.

    Orlov instructed the club members – who ranged from white to brown belts – to warm up, and then gave a brief history of the martial art and the club. It was founded in 1977 by Northwestern alumnus John Lewis. According to Orlov, Lewis’ passion for ju-jutsu drove him to teach it for 25 years to both NU students and students from other universities. His skills were also passed on to police units and the U.S Army.

    Photo by David Zhang / North by Northwestern

    After Orlov talked logistics – the club meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m. at Blomquist – the real fun started.

    Six club members, of various belt ranks and dressed in white gis, were called into the center of the mat and paired off. They practiced diverting attacks (some involving sticks and rubber knives) with arm holds, strangulation and plenty of throws. Every time a member hit the ground, he or she got up immediately and brushed it off, ready to fight again.

    As David Streck, another instructor, said, “You don’t have to be here for three or four or five years to [know how to] defend yourself.”
    Leah Bowen, a sophomore in McCormick, joined ParaCombatives Ju-Jutsu in winter quarter of last year. She said she has learned a lot so far.

    “[Ju-jutsu] is a good way to work hard and [perfect] something,” Bowen said.

    Practicing a martial art is also an excellent way to get in shape. All of that throwing people around, punching, hopefully avoiding the counterpunching — it’s definitely a work out, said Brett Margolis, a Weinberg senior.

    The British Journal of Sports Medicine found that middle-aged practitioners of a martial art “displayed greater aerobic capacity, balance, flexibility, muscle endurance, and strength, and less body fat than sedentary controls matched for age and sex.” This is a long way of saying that, if you start practicing a martial art now and continue with it, you’ll be way healthier (and less of a fatty) than other middle-aged folks.

    For NU ParaCombatives Ju-Jutsu Club members, however, learning ju-jutsu is not just about being able to defend themselves against unsavory characters, nor is it about getting a great work out.

    “It’s been my most valuable college experience,” Margolis said.


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