Senior Master Brian Anderson is 60 years old, and 40 of those years have been spent teaching taekwondo at Hillsdale College.
During that time, Anderson has shown dedication not only to the art of taekwondo but also to his students.
Anderson took up Judo in high school, prior to coming to Hillsdale as a student in 1975.
“I was watching a lot of the martial arts movies the summer before I came to Hillsdale College, and when I got here, one of the seniors, Ronny Parker, a blue belt in taekwondo, told me about Tae Park class, which was for a credit. I said I’ll try it for a semester and see how that works. A semester and 42 years later,” Anderson said, laughing.
Only two years after beginning taekwondo, Anderson turned into a teacher of the the discipline, because the original teacher never showed up to class.
His love for the art and his students is evident. Nearly every student who walks past Anderson says hello, and Anderson knows and greets each one of them in return.
“He is very loyal. He loves what he does and you can see that in the way he teaches,” senior black belt Hans Noyes said.
According to Anderson’s students, you don’t have to spend much time with him to be impacted by his teaching and passion. Junior Kristin Freeman has been attending his classes for three weeks and she said she has already noticed improvements in her daily life.
“I feel very centered and one-minded in the fact that I want to get stuff done and stay focused,” she said.
Junior Madeline Gish is in her third year under Anderson’s teaching.
“I know that a lot of my techniques have improved since I’ve gotten here. He has a lot of practical experience using his skills,” she said. “I love it. I couldn’t imagine myself doing any other sport.”
Taekwondo is not just a physical art, and Anderson takes that very seriously.
“When you become a master, you become a master of a lot of things. You’ve got to master the knowledge of people and understand how people are. You’ve got to help a person understand themselves, and how they can make themselves grow,” he said.
Anderson said his favorite part of teaching is working with younger kids.
“They are so easy to mold into a positive figure,” he said. “They enjoy life and have such an innocence about them. I really enjoy teaching a person what to do in a crisis situation.”
Anderson not only said he enjoys teaching, but he showed it, too, excitedly demonstrating how to use a plastic bag, a phone and a pen as defensive resources. He doesn’t take his job lightly, nor does he take for granted the abilities he’s been given.
“I like giving something back to the people. I was given a gift, so like to share,” he said. “God didn’t intend for me to die without sharing, so I want to share this gift as much as I can.”
Anderson offered a few pieces of advice to students.
“Learn some type of self-defense, and learn how to verbally communicate your feelings. This helps de-escalate a situation. Just talking can get you out of a lot of stuff,” he said. “Don’t put yourself in a situation you can’t get out of. Your body will tell you things that you won’t hear because you just want to have fun. You need to listen to what that little guy is saying on your shoulder. Understand you.”
In addition to teaching taekwondo, Anderson is a football and track-and-field alumnus of Hillsdale College. He went on to play as a running back for the Kalamazoo Cougars, a semi-pro football team. He is also just a few hours short of his masters in art. He has taught personal defense and safety classes, trained at the department of corrections in Lansing, and trained EMTs. Anderson also plays in a blues band, right alongside Parker, the man who introduced him to taekwondo 42 years ago.