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Interview with Mark Johnson. West Side Owner, Jiu-Jitsu Teacher, Shakespeare Quoter. Part I

September 5, 2011

An Autobio

by Mark Johnson

Writing your own bio is a daunting task.  How to be informative, yet modest, how to be truthful and yet not boastful or braggadocios?  I don’t think I can do it, but I’ll try.  I’ve been a high school English teacher at Ogden High for 16 years now and really enjoy torturing kids with Shakespeare and Harper Lee.  My favorite of course is beating them about the head with Maya Angelou and Lord Alfred Tennyson.  This is my joy in life.  Teaching.

I played football for Utah State University where I received an athletic scholarship.  At eighteen I left the Bay Area, where I was born and raised, and came to Utah.  I love California, but I decided to stay and raise my family here.  My 4 kids are a constant source of gray hairs, but I love them.

(VolitionMag) Could you tell us about the genesis of West Side Jiu-Jitsu Academy?  How did it start?  Why?  And what has your involvement been with it? 

(Mark Johnson) Oh, the beginning.  West Side started as an after school program at Ogden High School, where I teach English.  I taught a rag-tag group of lovable kids who needed some lessons in self-defense (Brazilian jiu-jitsu specifically).  The class started to grow and I had a lot of adults who wanted to take the class, so I rented 800 sq. feet of ghetto fabulousness in downtown Ogden for $400 a month, so amongst the crack heads,  hookers and other lost souls, I opened up West Side Jiu-Jitsu Academy. (I now rent a 4,000 sq. foot facility in downtown Ogden, there are no crack heads or hookers in our current spot).

(VM) What are the goals of the academy?  What are you trying to accomplish?  Small scale and/or large scale.

(MJ)  Enlightenment.  Enlightenment through jiu-jitsu (and the other arts we teach at West Side) that’s the goal. Now when I say enlightenment, I don’t mean like the Buddha, I simply mean understanding, understanding of ourselves, other people, the Universe.  West Side is a place to discover yourself.

My goals for the school are simple: to remain small, friendly, and useful.

(VM)  In addition to Jiu-Jitsu, what other forms of martial arts are taught and practiced at the Academy? (Please give a nutshell description of each)

(MJ)  MMA (mixed martial arts)–The UFC stuff

Muay Thai–A stand up art from Thailand which incorporates the hands, elbows, knees and feet; it’s also known as the art of eight limbs.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu—made popular by The Gracies, is a form of grappling that emphasizes leverage and the use of chokes and joint manipulation.

to be continued…

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