Americans have been into Martial Arts since the early 70s. From Bruce Lee to Kung Fu movies to the Wu-Tang Clan, westerners have embraced the idea of one person using martial force to not only subdue one opponent, but rather an army of them. But, when faced with an assailant in real life most of the fantasy goes out the window, and all you’re left with is instinct. The normal reaction is to run in the opposite direction, that way you escape and no harm is done to either side; a law embedded throughout Aikido’s ideology. While running from an opponent or opponents is not part of Aikido, protecting the attacker from injury is.
Aikido literally means “the Way of unifying (with) life energy.” A derivative of Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, Aikido is performed by blending with the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of the attack rather than opposing it head-on. Labeled as a grappling art, an Aikido master will often lead the attacker’s momentum through a series of entering and turning movements that land his or her opponent in a controlled joint lock; thus, diffusing the situation with no harm to anyone involved. (pull)“As a nana-dan (7th degree) black belt [in Karate], my goal at the end of the day was to hurt my opponent, but with Aikido, it’s not as much about hurting as it is about helping,” Shin-Budo Kai Aikido president Mike Paradiso explains.(/pull) “When I began training with Imaizumi-Sensei I had to leave behind what I had learned and start with a clean slate.” Sensei (master/teacher) of Shin-Budo Kai Aikido, Shizuo Imaizumi began studying Aikido as a student at Tokyo’s Waseda University in April of 1959. By 1965, with the rank of san-dan (3rd degree), Imaizumi Sensei began his career as a professional Aikido instructor while simultaneously training under O-Sensei Ueshiba (Ueshiba is noted as the founder of Aikido). Imaizumi Sensei came to New York in July of 1975, and founded the New York Ki Society. In September of 1987 he stepped down from the Ki Society, and within a year opened the Shin-Budo Kai dojo. “On average, students who come to Shin-Budo Kai begin understanding Aikido fundamentals after two or three lessons,” Imaizumi Sensei admits. What he means by “understanding Aikido fundamentals” is basically how to control the balance of energy (ki) between you and your adversary. Imaizumi Sensei demonstrated the effectiveness of energy balance when he asked me to sit on my knees (seiza-style) opposite him. With both of us sitting face-to-face on our knees Sensei put his arms out and asked me to push him back with everything I’ve got. By his appearance one could easily be fooled into thinking this old man is a “pushover,” but he remained undaunted as I leaned into him with all my might. Then, in a instant, Sensei shifted his body slightly and I fell on my side faster than an empty coke bottle in the wind. I learned that Aikido is a powerful Martial Art, and when used properly can transcend age. It may not be the Jackie Chan scene from 1995’s Rumble In The Bronx where he kicks the crap out of everybody, but a well trained Aikido student will have the ability to walk into a situation where he or she is outnumbered, diffuse it, and walk away without hurting or being hurt by anyone involved. That is the Way of Aikido.