BYU martial arts class strengthens campus community

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Among BYU’s student wellness classes, martial arts class SWELL 141 creates a strengthening environment for students.

Michael Pease, CEO and marketing director at Champion Grappler, coaches the class. Pease has practiced a variety of martial arts throughout his career but chooses to focus his instruction at BYU on the grappling art of jiu-jitsu.

“Kickboxing and karate are striking arts, which I have the utmost respect for. But the reality is, the grappling side, without a doubt, is the foundation of hand-to-hand combat,” Pease said.

Pease said a good grappling foundation prepares students to go into anything from law enforcement to participating in martial arts competitions.

“Whatever else they want to do, it’s easier to learn and more effective,” he said.

Training BYU students for more than two decades has enabled Pease to polish and adjust his teaching, making it more accessible for students at all levels, he said.

Whether they are fresh beginners or well-beaten pros, Pease said the basics he teaches are something all students need and can build upon.

“The foundational stuff that we teach isn’t stuff that just you kind of learn and move on to more advanced stuff,” he said. “It’s stuff that you work on and you then dive deeper into it, deeper into it and get a better understanding.”

BYU student Alaina Jones finds Pease’s instruction applicable to many situations and said taking the class a second time has increased her confidence and security levels.

“I don’t feel as nervous walking home by myself. And also there’s like a really good community here,” she said.

The class invites students to give each other constructive feedback, encouraging them to develop friendships and technique as they train, Jones said.

“It’s a great environment — lots of learning, lots of friendly, awesome, intense competition, lots of good friendships,” BYU student Ammon Richards said.

Richards practiced wrestling and other martial arts growing up. He said that aside from the class’ friendly, yet competitive environment, training offers him another way of seeing life’s obstacles.

“It’s hard in such a good way … and you got to be okay with being awkward and uncomfortable, because on the other side of that is progress, growth and lots and lots of fun,” he said.

Both Richards and Jones said future students should expect and appreciate initial failure, as the wrestle for success will give them greater growth. 

“The sooner you just accept the fact that you’re going to suck for a while, the faster you can learn the technique and improve and then get back up,” Jones said.

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