SU students explore martial arts in the community

A group of Honors students check out Aikido of Central New York for an evening of education and empowerment.

Samurai warriors in kimonos, high kicks soaring through the air, swooshing limbs: all stereotypical images that flash when one thinks of Japanese martial arts. Aim for the kill and -- KA-POW!

A group of Syracuse University students swapped stereotypes for reality though when they visited Aikido of CNY this week and got a crash course in the martial arts.

Aikido, a Japanese martial art derived from the intense forms of close combat, jujutsu and kenjitsu, focuses instead on doing the least harm possible to one’s attacker. Founded in Japan by Master Morihei Uyeshiba in the post-World War 1920s, it was devised as a method of self-defense that simultaneously increased harmony. France opened the first outside aikido centre (called a dojo) in 1953, and Germany and the United States soon followed suit.

In the U.S., the art gained most prominence in the 1990s through Steven Segal movies, says occupational therapist Jonathan Reid, owner and chief instructor at Aikido of CNY in Syracuse. Reid has owned the aikido dojo for the past 40 years. Currently, the center has 65 diverse members of all nationalities—45 adults and 20 children.

To expose Syracuse University students to the art, assistant director of civic engagement and academic training, Karen Hall, organized a dojo visit for 12 undergraduate Honors students on Feb. 19.

Hall, who has been practicing Aikido for seven years, says that aikido can be visually beautiful when done correctly.

“Aikido is very circular and pretty,” she said.  “Its purpose is to redirect negative energy from the opponent and let it flow -- like water -- away from you.”

Reid, who instructed the group of students, is a fifth degree black belt and an aikido practitioner for over 20 years; he loves the exhilaration of the movement in the practice.

“Aikido is a very dynamic art,” he said. ”Because the power of aikido comes from redirecting the flow of movement, even a small person or a child can easily throw a large person. It is therefore an ideal art for women and old people.”

The students that attended the session expressed that learning the several aikido techniques of self-defense --  ikkyo (basic pin of the opponent’s arm), shih onage (four directions throw), and kote gaeshi (turning in of the wrist to throw) -- empowered them.

“I am from a small town so I feel scared going out with my friends at night,” said sophomore Alexandra Doney.  “I am taking away from tonight’s practice a lot of confidence. It was nice to be taught by experts and you can tell they have a love for what they do, so I ended up loving it too.”

For freshman Quameiha Raymond-Ducheine, the hour-long session was very challenging, but fun at the same time.

“I didn’t have experience in any form of martial arts, but the people here are so patient,” she said. “I’m taking away more physical intelligence, like how to relax myself and react physically at the same time.”

Sophomore Clark Masterson, the only male student from SU who attended the event, thought it was a good exercise.

“I’d never done this before, so it was good to work with people who know what they’re doing,” he said.  “It’s something I’d definitely want to do again.”

For those who want to get a feel of this sublime martial art, the Aikido club on campus offers free sessions and meets Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 7 p.m.

Japanese martial art terms:

  • Ai: joining, harmony
  • Ki: spirit, life energy
  • Do: way, path
  • O Sensei: Great Leader
  • Dojo: formal training ground for Japanese arts

For more aikido terms to impress your friends, check this out.   

Aikido is a great thing to

Aikido is a great thing to learn. Great for a self defense

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