I began my study of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at University of California, San Diego, in a weekly recreation class. It was a friendly environment, but due to the infrequency of classes and my older brain, it took a long time for techniques, and even the governing concepts to begin to make sense. But, because of my persistence and interest, the instructors recommended I begin to study with their teacher, Roy Harris.

After inquiry, I began to study at the Harris Academy in February 2007, and I’ve been energized and enthusiastic ever since. For a very reasonable price, I have the ability to attend any number and combination of classes each week, and have been attending an average of three classes weekly. As a long-time student of traditional Okinawan Uechi-Ryu Karate, I had the humbling and enlightening experience of starting over in a martial sport that uses the same principles, only employed while mostly horizontal. Moving my center, using my torso instead of arms, not contesting for space but rather evading, creating space by moving myself rather than my partner, using internal energy instead of external strength, the importance of breath control and relaxation, linking techniques, seeing moves before they need to occur, and development of body wisdom and reaction time are all attributes and skills that came with the package. Though they’re used in stand-up martial arts, the application of them was a whole new skill set, and it very much continues to evolve.

Roy Harris is a master teacher. I’m not even talking about his technical skills, but rather his ability to synthesize concepts and extract the essence of what is happening and needs to happen in given situations. He explains how levels of understanding evolve and grow, and how technique fluency and naturalness evolve. He is very supportive, but also demanding. He gives the student what they can and should understand at their stage of development. He sets the tone for the whole school, and that is mutual respect, and kind, helpful treatment of each other.

Students learn early to spar cooperatively, rather than competitively, unless by mutual agreement. The result is a very safe environment for all, regardless of age and physical conditioning. Generally, higher ranks spar with newer students at their level, occasionally showing them attacks and defense situations from their point of view. Partly because of the safe and positive atmosphere, and also because of the intrinsic fascinating nature of the art, I look forward eagerly to each class.

Because of my training in BJJ, I have developed a level of physical fitness that I hadn’t ever experienced before. I have run, done stand-up, used a ski-trainer, joined a health club, used gym weights, but never had as much confidence in my natural strength as I do now. The extremities are only extensions, and I am learning to use my body primarily. The result is a multiplication of my effectiveness. My breathing continues to improve, with an increase in my vital capacity, and slowing of my breathing. Having one’s breath keep up with their needs also importantly involves learning to relax in tight and demanding situations, and BJJ has been teaching me that.

As a 61 year old physician I can say that your teaching, and your deep and comprehensive course of study (non-ending, practically speaking) has improved my health, conditioning, resiliency and attitude. I look forward to many years of study with you, and would like to thank you for being an outstanding role model to all of us, and for being such a great teacher and master of a school and art.


Paul Haydu