A philosophical and spiritual path to wellness
Unlike other popular forms of martial arts, the Japanese discipline of Aikido does away with the competitive element and instead teaches one how to resolve conflict without harming one’s attacker. The peaceful form of self-defense has garnered a legion of practitioners the world over, including Pedro Florez, who adopted the sport five years ago. Below, the Aikido student shares his impressions on this healthful discipline.
It’s all in the movements
Florez, who had been seeking a non-aggressive form of martial arts began practicing Aikido as a way to deal with the stressful job he held at the time. “I was attracted by the fact it is called ‘the art of peace’, and I felt it was an appropriate way to deal with conflict in my life.”
Founded by Morihei Ueshiba in the 1920s, this discipline melds the late master’s martial arts training with his personal beliefs rooted in peace and reconciliation. Aikido, which translates to “the way of harmony” is a non-competitive form of martial arts rooted in bushido (samurai code of conduct), the goal of which is, as Florez explains, “to redirect the attacker’s energy towards him without [injuring] him.”
In order to do so, a student is taught various entering, blending, and turning techniques. “People don’t learn how to attack,” says Florez. Unlike other competitive forms of self-defense, a student of Aikido—which is practiced with or without the use of arms—must take care not to inflict any harm unto his attacker whilst defending him/herself.
Instead, one learns to view the situation from the attacker’s point of view and, as a result, to control the punches and kicks being thrown. “It is extremely important to take care of your attacker, not to hurt him,” emphasizes Florez.
In Aikido, attack techniques comprise of strikes and grabs while defense techniques include throws and pins. Given that the well-being of both the student and his attacker is of paramount importance, the practice includes, as Florez explains, “various exercises that render one aware of what your body can and can’t do.”
“Aikido provides balance and harmony with your surroundings,” he continues. “It grounds you, and strengthens your core.”
The benefits of Aikido are many. Much like other sports, Aikido improves one’s cardio health, flexibility, and coordination. In addition, the practice helps one to maintain balance, composure, and centeredness in times of crisis. Aikido is also known to reduce stress, anxiety, and pain.
When asked about the physical changes he has noticed since beginning Aikido, Florez shares, “I feel I have more energy.” He goes on to say that the practice has strengthened his spine, improved his balance, and built his confidence.
Although a relatively new discipline, its numerous health benefits coupled with its spiritual foundation have made Aikido the fastest-growing of the major martial arts. France has become the largest practicing country after Japan, and Montreal is proving to be an important urban center for the increasingly popular practice, which both women and men of all ages can take up.
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