Sergeant Master Bryan Anderson and sophomore Emma Alberts. Eliz­abeth Bachmann | Col­legian

When he came to Hillsdale College on a four-year football schol­arship in 1975, Brian Anderson antic­i­pated grad­u­ating four years later with an art major and going on to teach. The pos­si­bil­ities of that life path lasted only until he saw his friend prac­ticing some kind of strange martial art in his dorm; this was Anderson’s first encounter with Taek­wondo.

Now an accom­plished blues gui­tarist, aspiring author, artist, and 6th degree black belt, Sergeant Master Anderson is passing on his skills to current Hillsdale stu­dents in his self-defense class and still credits his friend and teammate Ronnie Parker with intro­ducing him to the world of martial arts.

“I was watching Ronnie practice, and it was during our football early camp, and he was always prac­ticing over in the dorms, and I’d say, ‘Where did you learn that, man?’ and he would say, ‘You want to learn martial arts, you’ve got to take the class with Grand Master Tae Zee Park.’”

That is exactly what Anderson did.

“I was just going to try it for a semester, because I used to be into Bruce Lee, and I would make up my own moves when I was in high school,” Anderson said. “But I fell in love with it the first day.”

Anderson began class his freshman year and, by his sophomore year, Grand Master Tae Zee Park had put him in charge of the class, though he con­tinued to mentor Anderson.

“I spent a lot of one-on-one time with him learning real self-defense tech­niques — how to hurt somebody really bad, finger pressure points, things like that,” Anderson said. “I learned a lot from him.”

After grad­u­ation, Anderson worked as a coun­selor for a few years and then went on to work as a cor­rec­tions officer for the Michigan Department of Cor­rec­tions and Defense.

“I was just a beginning cadet, and they found out my history, that I am a martial arts instructor at Hillsdale College — I was a third degree black belt at the time,” Anderson said. “A lot of tech­niques were being taught wrong so I was cor­recting a lot, and so that’s how I stepped into the position of training people.”

After 17 years, he moved up to training the Emer­gency Response Team for Lansing, Michigan and the Lakeland Cor­rec­tional Facility.

In the midst of his self defense work, Anderson con­tinued to practice the non-martial arts he is pas­sionate about. He still jams with a blues band he started with some friends after college called “Who Dat? Blues,” which has pro­duced two CDs to date. He is also cur­rently writing and illus­trating his own book on self-defense, mar­rying his pas­sions for martial arts and fine arts.

About 10 years ago, Anderson brought his skills back to Hillsdale, and began a self-defense class that he still teaches.

“When I first started teaching I tried to show everyone so much stuff,” Anderson said. “And, you know, nobody retains that infor­mation. When you’re teaching anyone how to do some­thing in a short period of time, you’ve got to pick out one or two things that they can remember to do, and so I show them mainly how to use their feet, knees, and elbows in tight fighting.”

Even as he edu­cates stu­dents about how to protect them­selves, his first piece of advice is always to avoid getting into poten­tially dan­gerous sit­u­a­tions in the first place, and also how to defuse poten­tially dan­gerous sit­u­a­tions before they come to blows. He advises stu­dents to always remain con­scious of the doors, to keep obstacles like fur­niture between them and their aggressor, and to hold firm eye contact with their aggressor.

“If you can psych someone out before things start to get crazy, then you really win,” Anderson said.

Junior Rebecca Hen­reckson enrolled in the class this semester.

“I wanted to take this class because, as a woman, I feel like there are a lot of sit­u­a­tions that you encounter that you can’t avoid, where you feel uncom­fortable, and you’re thinking, ‘what is my escape plan?’” Hen­reckson said. “‘What would I do if some­thing hap­pened in this sit­u­ation?’ Knowing that I could defend myself if the sit­u­ation arose was really attractive to me.”

While he teaches his stu­dents to elbow and groin kick their way to safety, Anderson also likes to keep the class light and fun.

“I really like Master Anderson. He is very amusing,” said junior Adrianne Fogg, who is cur­rently enrolled in the one-credit class. “He always asks us at the start of class, ‘What moves have you seen on TV or in movies that you think would be fun to learn?’ We were watching Guardians of the Galaxy this weekend, and we saw a move and we said, ‘That’s so cool, we should try to learn it.’ So it’s awesome that you’re able to bring your world expe­rience into the classroom.”

According to Anderson, beginning a martial arts class is like learning to walk as a toddler. He expects stu­dents to spend a large chunk of the class metaphor­i­cally crawling, stum­bling around, and even falling before the truly begin to walk, or, in this case, kick.

But Anderson said one of the most important skills he can teach is con­fi­dence — and a good groin kick.

“You have to have the con­fi­dence to be able to protect yourself. That’s one of the things I like to instill into people, having con­fi­dence in yourself to believe that you can do this. And if you don’t have that belief, you will be taken,” Anderson said. “I watch all these action movies and I hate them — all these people screaming, help, and crying. I just think, ‘Get up and hit that guy, kick him in the groin.’”