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That Which Does Not Kill Me…

Second in a University Diaries series featuring professors.

(First That Which Does Not Kill Me here.)

Today’s TWDNKM:


At first glance, math and the martial arts do not seem to have much in common, but for Pat McDonald, professor of mathematics at New College, the similarities are obvious.

“In both cases there are fundamental skills that you need to know,” said McDonald, 45. With a firm understanding of the basics, you then “chain the fundamentals into more complex and intricate patterns in order to succeed.”

McDonald, who got his doctorate in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is not just at the top of his field in mathematics. He is also a pan-American champion in Brazilian jujitsu.

He says he became interested in Brazilian jujitsu about seven years ago while working out at the fitness center in New College. “There were usually a few people in jujitsu outfits and one time I was challenged to grapple, in a submission match.”

McDonald says he thought he was doing pretty well at first.

“I dropped the guy and had a choke on him. I noticed he was changing color. I asked him if he was OK. Then the next thing, I was tired and my face was on the mat and my arm really hurt.

“I thought it was a fluke and demanded a rematch. The same thing happened, and I was hooked.”

It turned out the man he was grappling with was Derek Taaca, a world champion purple belt.

In March, McDonald won first place in the Senior Three Lightweight Brown Belt Champion in Brazilian jujitsu at the Pan-American games in Los Angeles.

McDonald had to bow out of the next competitions, including the World Championship in Brazil, because of a broken thumb and a bleeding intestine.

The internal bleeding happened while he was training.

“I had my opponent in a triangle choke,” he said. “He tried to escape by forcing his hand between my legs. I moved to relieve the pressure and his hand jammed against my abdomen. It was very painful.”

He went to the hospital, where doctors found blood in a cavity between his abdominal muscle and the small intestine. The doctors treated him with strong antibiotics and monitored the injury…

Margaret Soltan, July 27, 2009 6:51AM

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