Living in Jackson

Surviving 2020

October 2, 2020

Will smart health habits and grit be enough?

A group of women from Jackson is being trained like professionals. They meet at 5:15 A.M. at the Commercial Exchange building. Daily exercises strengthen their core muscles and improve their flexibility while they learn ground fighting techniques, submission holds and grappling skills. The Scrap Jitsu Martial Arts Studio touts Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, striking arts, strength and conditioning and nutrition. A women’s self-defense class called WHAM coaches women on how to disable or escape from an attacker and avoid becoming a victim.

"Leave your ego at the door", Mike Belcher, Scrap Jitsu principle, projects to students from beside a floor mat. "The culture here is accepting and non-judgmental. We train smart but we stay humble." Coach Belcher, a University of Michigan structural engineer by training, is one of two experts teaching Brazilian Jui Jitsu to children, aged 5-12, to disabled veterans or vets with PTSD, and to adults who want to keep in touch with their bodies. "It’s more than physical fitness. Jui Jitsu requires concentration. It trains the mind. You learn how to handle pressure and know your personal limits in a safe environment."

"Our coaches focus on building the next generation of leaders," Mike says. "Kids learn structure and accountability. They do not arrive late for class. I meet them at the brass door at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Horton Street and lock it a minute before class is to begin. If they arrive late, they miss class. If they miss class, they are out. I teach them how to deal with bullies in a non-confrontational way. I tell them, ‘Just keep strolling. Don’t cause hurt. Use the tools you have learned to keep the bully from hurting you.’ Some home-schooled children use Jui Jitsu classes as a physical education credit."

Respect and compassion are main streamed by the team of six coaches. Twice a month kids are taken to the Interfaith Shelter or the Humane Society for community service.

"The size of our large second-floor studio allows each student 90 square feet of workout space. We use hospital-grade disinfectants to scrub mats and equipment after each workout session, and mop floors and clean restrooms daily."

Born in Hanover, Michigan, Mike trained in Dallas with Carlos Machado, the U.S. Godfather of Brazilian Jui Jitsu. I held my hands out and up in front of my face and asked him if his hands were considered lethal weapons.

Mike laughed and quoted Patrick Swayze from the 1985 movie, Roadhouse. "I can be a nice guy until it’s time not to be nice." He says he and the other coaches poke fun at that lethal weapon line. He said, "There is no such legal consideration. That line is used to scare people by guys who can’t fight." He adds, "We are not scary guys. We think of ourselves as warriors in a garden, peaceful, but capable."

Mike quietly stressed kindness and compassion are key to surviving all the madness of 2020.