September 23rd, 2005

Dance

Why Aikido

A number of people have been asking me recently why I study aikido and how I got into martial arts. These are actually two different questions, the former easier to answer. Aikido was simply the best choice I had when I decided to begin studying martial arts and it's one that's worked out well for me. When I began I was horrendously out of shape and so I needed an art that didn't rely on upper body strength to generate power. Also, as it was taught by my (then) girlfriend, the instruciton was easily available. Lastly, while aikido does take longer than nearly any other martial art to develop proficiency, it is one of the most effective arts in the world.

Then there are the other benefits I've discovered. Aikido is an incredibly energizing art. When you practice aikido you spend an hour trading energy with a partner. The result is nothing short of rejuvenating. At the end of an aikido session I feel stronger, healthier, more awake and alert, and at peace. It is a very meditative art, not in the sitting in one place without moving sense, but it clears the mind.

Why I decided to start martial arts in the first place is another matter.

I'd heard all the benefits of martial arts before. Everything I've listed above along with the bonuses of not having to be afraid. Sure they sounded good and martial arts were cool, but it was a lot of work and I was busy. So I didn't bother. They just weren't important enough.

My sophomore summer I had an internship in Lake Geneva. The turned into a part time job, most of which I did from Beloit, except for a weekly business and sales meeting that I drove up for. One day as I was heading to my car in a little hidden away parking lot I saw two people in the otherwise empty lot. An Hispanic man and woman, both young (late teens, early twenties) were by a jeep. The woman was backed up against it and the man was leaning over her, his arm blocking off her exit. She looked terrified and when they heard me walking by she flashed me a look that quite clearly said, "Get me the Hell out of here."

So there I am standing like a chump, not knowing what to do. If I try to interfere this guy can take me apart and I won't have done a damn thing to help. All I can do is put myself, possibly both of us, in danger.

So I get in my car and drive away...

... to a police station two blocks away. I told them what I'd seen, they sent an officer out to investigate. I never found out how it ended up as I had to rush back for class. Maybe it was a false alarm, maybe she was really in trouble, who knows? But I was absolutely terrified by the prospsect that if my assessment was correct and the police hadn't been there I'd have had to be the one to interfere, and I'd have been near helpless to do so. That's not a feeling I ever want to experience again. If I'm ever again placed in a position where there's even a chance I will have to defend someone, a stranger, a friend, or myself, I will be ready for it.

Aikido is the method of said preperation, one because it teaches physical defense, two because it teaches not only conflict avoidance but peace.