Aikido Teaches Strength, Peace
Sgt. Frank Vaughn
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – Students entered the classroom quietly, bowing to a picture of Morihei Ueshiba, commonly known to practitioners as O'Sensei -- The Great Teacher. They slipped off their shoes and socks, bowed again and quietly took their places on the mat in seiza, a kneeling position from which instruction is received.
The students were ready to receive instruction in the art of Aikido.
Aikido, like other martial arts, features techniques designed to disable an attacker. However, the peaceful philosophy of protecting the attacker as well as oneself is as important to successful practice of the art as the techniques, said Marine Maj. John Duvall, plans officer with Multi-National Corps - Iraq and Aikido instructor at the Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith Physical Fitness Center.
"We are here to train the mind, body and character," Duvall said. "Our goal in meeting an attacker is to give him the chance to reconsider. We want to attack the attitude, not the person."
The technique of Aikido focuses on avoiding attack and disabling an attacker; the philosophy aims to bring peace to a situation. These concepts work together to instill a sense of self-confidence in the practitioner.
Dr. Lisa Brooks, assistant professor of psychology at University of Maryland University College at Victory Education center and a student in the class, credited Aikido for changing her life.
Brooks, whose family resides in Gorham, Maine, said when she first started taking Aikido she had no confidence, but now she feels much more able to relate to people and confront conflict head-on.
"In the 12 years I've been studying Aikido, it has taught me a lot about discipline and motivation," said Brooks. "It has also taught me a cooperative way to solve problems."
Applying the concepts of Aikido to problem solving cannot be achieved overnight.
"I encourage all . . . who practice to pursue the deeper levels of understanding," Duvall said. It will take discipline, commitment and time, but the reward, a greater understanding and appreciation of yourself and the world around you, is well worth it."
Duvall understands the need for commitment firsthand. He began studying Aikido six years ago, but gave up in the first year.
"My background is in Muay Thai kickboxing," said Duvall. "I didn't think Aikido was an effective martial art. It was hard to overcome that and be able to embrace the philosophy of Aikido."
A six-month deployment changed all of that for him.
"My wife kept practicing while I was gone," Duvall said. "I got home and saw how far she had advanced. That motivated me to give it another try."
His renewed dedication has paid off. Duvall is now a first-degree black belt, or Shodon, in Aikido. He became an instructor here after receiving permission from his sensei, or teacher, in Japan.
"I can't bestow rank on anyone while they study here," Duvall said, referring to belts that are earned for progress in practicing Aikido. "But I want to provide the opportunity for those who are interested to learn Aikido while they are here."
Anyone who is interested in learning more about Aikido may attend classes at the fitness center Saturdays at 6:30 a.m., Sundays at 10 a.m. and Mondays at 7:30 p.m. The classes are an hour and a half.
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