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Hitting Opponents and the Books


Vol. 40 No. 2
ByCandace M. Ruocco

Candace M. Ruocco, Saint Louis School of Law

Jarrett Leiker really packs a punch—and not only in the sparring ring.
A 2009 honors graduate from and a 2L at the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law, Leiker is also a nationally recognized martial arts instructor and 16-time world champion. He started studying martial arts at age three and spent the next two decades competing in hundreds of domestic and international tournaments. His world titles include traditional weapons, creative weapons, musical weapons, traditional forms, and point sparring.

When not busy hitting his opponents, he’s busy hitting the books. Beneath the surface, there are many similarities between studying martial arts and studying law, he says.

“Both take a lot of discipline,” Leiker says. If you’ve ever taken a beating from a particularly Socratic law professor, Leiker says he can relate. “Being in the ring is similar to being in a 1L lecture . . . no one is in there helping you, and when you get called on, you’ve just got to go for it.”

How does he juggle such demanding responsibilities? “Time management,” Leiker says. “You must set a schedule, write it down, and stick to it.”

On an average day, Leiker wakes at dawn, trains, prepares for and attends law lectures, teaches an evening martial arts lesson, trains again, reviews his class notes, and goes to bed. One of his tips for fitting so much into each day is “effectively utilizing downtime and weekends.”

In addition to refining his scheduling talents, Leiker says his martial arts career has helped him develop the resilience to overcome difficult and unexpected obstacles. In 2005, Leiker was diagnosed with spondylolistesis, a degenerative spine disorder. After a nine-hour spinal fusion procedure, nearly everyone doubted Leiker would ever practice martial arts again.

Familiar with Leiker’s determination, his doctor advised him not to let spondylolistesis limit him. With remarkable care and diligence, Leiker rehabilitated his body. After two years of strenuous rehab, Leiker zealously returned to the competitive circuit in 2007. Within a year, he was once again crowned World Champion at the World Karate Association (WKA) International Championship. By 2009, he captured four gold medals at the WKA World Championship in . In fall 2010, he won three gold medals for Team at the World Kickboxing and Karate World Championships in .

Fully recovered, Leiker is now a world-renowned athlete. He can be seen competing on ESPN and gracing covers of the well-known Century
Martial Arts catalogs.

While studying martial arts is Leiker’s passion, he also promotes the general benefits of all exercise.

“Working out is a stress reliever,” he says, adding that even the busiest of law students can always find time to work out. “You don’t have to pound coffee to stay awake. Breaking a sweat for 20 minutes makes you feel just as energized and even more productive.”

Leiker’s future is equally promising. After law school, he says he hopes to work in sports law—perhaps negotiating franchise agreements or real estate deals for his family’s martial arts schools.—Candace M. Ruocco, Saint Louis School of Law



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Student Lawyer Student Lawyer magazine provides guidance on educational, career, and related issues for ABA Law Student Division members and other subscribers. It is published four times a year by the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association. Student Lawyer is available online to members of the ABA Law Student Division and to print subscribers.

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