Many know judo as a Japanese form of wrestling, but for the analytical chemistry professor and acting principal of UTM, judo is more than the physical processes that seemingly comprise the sport—instead, judo is the philosophical practice of a conscious and tactful mind.

Once a scrawny 13-year-old boy from Etobicoke, Ulrich Krull joined judo because his parents believed it would add confidence to his step. However, his parents didn’t realize at the time that the sport would also teach him philosophical values that would follow him for the rest of his life.

“Judo loosely translates into ‘the gentle way’,” Krull says when asked to define the sport. “It refers to the concept of how you use the energy in the world around you. The old saying, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ is a good representation of the principle of ‘the gentle way’.”

Deceivingly muscular, Krull relishes the opportunity to share the origins of the sport that has given him so many fond memories and opportunities. “Before the Meiji restoration, when the shogun moved out and they shifted to a democratic parliament, there was a young man who trained in the acknowledged samurai class, learning many martial arts forms,” says Krull.

“Once the restoration took place, the samurai class became outlawed and the young man transformed his samurai practice into a sport where you still practice the same skills and techniques required to defend yourself, but the philosophy changed into something more relatively safe—he named it judo,” he adds, suggesting the reason behind the term ‘the gentle way’.

Krull’s first-degree black belt represents only a beginner judo athlete, but when it comes to his mental approach, understanding and appreciating what the sport accurately demonstrates, he’s a non-fictional Yoda. “If you push your weight back into the world, you are not sharing the gentle way—confidence comes from a slightly different perception than [what] some others may have. It’s not a matter of walking into a situation and saying ‘I can handle myself’; you say, ‘I can handle the situation,’ ” he says.

Gripping his black belt firmly, Krull reminisces about a particular class he wishes he had attended. “When I was young, going through the beginner stages of my judo belts, I had unfortunately missed a class. In that particular class, they were teaching a choking technique where you press against your partner’s jugulars until their brain loses oxygen and they fall asleep,” he says. “The next week when I came back, I found myself upside down, held up by my [belt], being put to sleep by my partner who, unluckily for me, attended that class. […] The moral of my story is for students to go to class—you never know what you’ll miss.”

Krull, UTM’s judo instructor, has found joy meeting students in a different context. He believes students should take more time to get to know their instructors on a personal level.

“If you’re not connecting with your professors as people, you are not getting the full value of what university can be. When students come out to a class and meet me on the mat, I’m not necessarily the same formal person I am in the classroom,” he says.

When you think of predominant qualities most faculty members have at UTM, one would assume that they are driven and excellent at exceeding; these people have a repertoire of talents waiting to be uncovered. When you take the time to discover what your instructors know outside of the classroom, you’re not only advancing your social skills, you’re strengthening your weaknesses.

Professor Krull recognizes that the school year is an intense responsibility for all students and adding physical fitness to their already overloaded schedule could cause them to shy away from activity. However, he agrees that students who maintain a level of physical fitness in their daily routine have a better chance of staying sharp-minded throughout the entire academic year.

“My research supervisor in graduate school happened to play squash, so he taught me how to play and pushed me hard. I would attribute my successes to the fact [that] I felt better about myself in school, I had more stamina, and gained the ability to focus more attentively on my studies,” Krull says.

if you want to participate in a group activity that challenges both your physical and intellectual capacity, judo has something to offer everyone, here in the athletic facilities.

Not up for it? The ambitious professor who finds deep meaning and purpose in judo, shares one last lesson: “You want to accept the challenge in life and reach for things that are difficult to do.”