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Aikido brings new life to martial arts dojo

23 Jan 2004 | Lance Cpl. David Revere

"Those who are skilled in combat do not become angered, and those who are skilled at winning do not become afraid," said the famous philosopher, Zhuge Liang.  "Thus, the wise win before they fight, while the ignorant fight to win."

The Japanese martial art, aikido, could be represented in those words.  Aikido focuses not on mindlessly punching or kicking opponents, but rather on using their own energy to gain control of them or to throw them away.

Offered by Marine Corps Community Services, the new aikido class is held every Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30-9:30 p.m. in the IronWorks Gym Dojo room.

According to Vincent Midgley, a student and an organizer of the new class, the goal of Aikido is not the defeat of others, but the defeat of the negative characteristics which inhabit one's own mind and inhibit its functioning.

"In simpler terms, one of the things that make aikido fun and unique is that it is self-paced and you are not in competition with anyone," said Midgley.  "Aikido teachings also help us understand that there are many different types of people, so there are many different types of aikidoka (aikido practitioners).  By training cooperatively, even potentially lethal techniques can be practiced without substantial risk.  This type of cooperative training also allows for people of all ages, sizes and shapes to enjoy the benefits of a healthier mind, body and spirit through aikido."

One of the students, Rohan M. Crawley, is also a student of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, judo and jujitsu.  "I've seen basic concepts from all three," said Crawley of his aikido training.  "I'm here to learn something new while developing myself further as a martial artist."

Aikido has plenty of new techniques that separate it from other forms of self-defense.

"Aikido is unique from most other martial arts in so many ways," said Crawley.  "While martial arts like tae kwon do and judo are more competitive and arts like te tse bu kan and ju jitsu are more lethal and combative, aikido is simply effective.  Rather than stressing how good you look as in competition, or how hard and fast you can strike, aikido focuses on technique." 

The student's instructor is addressed as Sensai, literally meaning, "One who has gone before."  The Sensei is well experienced in body control and manipulation.

"Even when we think we've got the technique right, Sato Sensei comes by and shows us that there is still some little thing that we are either doing wrong or could do better," said Crawley of his instructor.

As a balance to the exacting exercise, aikido emphasizes peace and mental balance.   In fact, the literal translation of aikido is, "the way of harmony of the spirit."

"As a Marine, I'm a little high-strung," said Crawley.  "Strangely, aikido relaxes me a great deal."

"There is a term commonly used by aikidoka, 'aikido for life,' which has many interpretations," said Midgley.  "What it means to me is that aikido is not something that one can learn and then move on, it is something that a person incorporates into their life."