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March 30, 2015

Brynn Reiff: A Teacher by Training

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Brynn Reiff: A Teacher by Training

Very few people can say they’ve been training at Easton for more than ten years, and of these, even fewer can say they got their start as kids in the Tigers Jiu Jitsu program. Brynn Reiff is one of these few. He started learning Jiu Jitsu at Easton when he was just nine years old, inspired by a demonstration at the Boulder Creek Festival. He stuck with it, attracted to the cooperative aspect of training and collaborative learning. By the age of fourteen, Brynn had received his junior black belt, the highest rank in Easton’s former kids’ belt system. He soon began assistant coaching the Tigers classes. Now finishing the last year of his undergraduate Physics and Math double major at CU Boulder, Brynn continues to coach and train as a purple belt.

Brynn with Professor Eliot and Professor James after receiving his junior black belt, 2009.

Like his interest in Jiu Jitsu, Brynn’s love of science began when he was very young. He recalls a second grade field trip to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), where he and his classmates were–to their delight–allowed to use high-powered lasers to burn designs into chunks of fiberglass. Since then, science has been his passion, and he was recently admitted to CU’s Atomic, Molecular, and Optical (AMO) Physics PhD program, which consistently ranks as one of the top three graduate physics programs in the country. As a PhD candidate, Brynn will continue to work with the theoretical physics research group that he has been involved with since May 2014. Their research is focused on creating high-energy short-duration laser pulses, which can be used to record quickly occurring events such as electron motion. This is the scale on which many biological and chemical processes occur, and this research be applied to further advance fields like biological engineering and cancer research. Brynn hopes to eventually become a professor, teaching undergraduates and graduate students, and directing his own research.
The impulse to teach comes naturally to Brynn. In both Jiu Jiu Jitsu and physics, he’s had many mentors and teachers who have been instrumental to his learning, and he is eager to pay it forward by contributing his knowledge to the communities that have given him so much. As a Jiu Jitsu instructor, Brynn likes being able to show the kids what they are physically capable of, especially when they are able to do something they didn’t expect. To him, being a coach is about encouraging his students’ successes, and building up their confidence in areas of strength. When kids struggle, he works with them from parts of the move that they understand, coaching them into positions where they shine, and uses this to help them understand the rest.
He’s looking forward to applying his teaching experience in a new context as a Physics TA. In physics, he likes to show students that observations made in the physical world can fit into the complex mathematical framework that they are learning. Brynn sees a similarity between the beauty of good Jiu Jitsu and mathematics, which he wants to share with others. He says that reading a good mathematical statement in physics is like watching black belts roll–elegant and clean. Everything is efficiently executed, without any excess.


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