George Mason Faculty Members Share Martial Arts Skills with Students

Posted: December 10, 2002 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Patty Snellings

Higher education research indicates that faculty-student interaction may favorably impact the quality of student life and learning outcomes at colleges and universities. But two professors at the Prince William Campus didn’t have that research in mind when they started getting physical with students.

Don Seto, an associate professor in the School of Computational Sciences, and Edward Maguire, an associate professor in the Administration of Justice program, have spent several years learning martial arts forms that they now share with students. Both agree that a good physical workout is just the thing to top off a long day’s work.

Seto is the adviser and instructor for the George Mason University Kendo Club. Kendo, the art of Japanese samurai swordsmanship, teaches humility and perseverance. “The physical, mental and spiritual demands of the sport force you to realize how much you have inside yourself and how to use that energy to conquer your own fears,” says Seto. He has been involved in the sport for more than 13 years and has achieved the rank of Yon-Dan, a fourth-degree black belt.

George Mason alumnus Ernest Lissabet joins Seto as assistant instructor for the club. Lissabet has achieved Ni-Dan status, or a second-degree black belt.

The club was chartered by the university in 1997 and has served more than 30 undergraduates and numerous alumni since its inception. It is fully sanctioned by the All U.S. Kendo Federation, the official governing body of the sport in the United States, and is one of only three federation-sanctioned clubs in the Washington, D.C., area. George Mason’s club shares sister-school status with the Osaka University Kendo Club in Japan, whose members have visited George Mason twice in the past 18 months.

U.S. federation-sanctioned kendo clubs also are found at Harvard University, Rutgers University, The Citadel, the United States Military Academy at West Point, and at half of the state-supported colleges and universities in California.

Maguire, who holds a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and colleague Eddie Edmunds, who holds a purple belt in the art, lead students in a different form of martial arts. Brazilian jiu-jitsu, they explain, is a cutting-edge, street-tested art of self-defense that promotes cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility, and muscle tone development. In contrast to other forms of self-defense, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is submission-oriented and teaches the principles of leverage. As a result, a smaller person can overcome his or her attacker without causing personal harm.

“This is the best form of martial arts for criminal justice professionals,” says Maguire, “because it is a method to resolve conflict and gain compliance without kicking and punching.”

Maguire hopes to formally charter the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Club at George Mason in the spring, but already, under the guidance of Maguire and Edmunds, students have demonstrated their skills at various university functions and in the community. About 25 students currently participate in classes held at the Fairfax Campus. Negotiations are under way for classes to begin next year at the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center at the Prince William Campus.

Followers of martial arts often practice their sport into their later years of life. “It is absolutely thrilling and satisfying to compete against a nonfragile 70-year-old,” says Seto, “and realize that age cannot conquer the human spirit.”

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