Central Coast Living: Aikido

Hey there very peoples!

Yet again I find myself erecting a post long after my target date (this time: psychological turmoil and a stomach bug). But I’m back now so here we go.

For better or for worse I have always had a fascination with ancient warfare but haven’t always found a way to learn about it. But in the last couple years I have found several books and programs that have helped flesh out my understanding. After learning about various fighting methods and martial arts, I thought maybe I’d ought to take up one of them. What better way to exercise my fascination with ancient warriors than to learn how they fought? Plus, it’d get me out of the house and give me a means of exercise.

Easier said than done. My problem? I gained a fascination for these obscure and little known martial arts systems:

Lua: A brutal form of self defense invented by the ancient Hawaiians. Lua means “to strike the second blow”. It teaches that you let the enemy make the first move and then viciously counter with moves designed to break bones and dislocate joints. Lua fighters were even trained to catch and deflect oncoming spears. But, I’d have to go to Hawaii to learn that and aside from the fact that it costs an arm and a leg just to visit the place, I like it here in California.

Pankration: Originating in ancient Greece, Pankration is believed by many historians to be the first all encompassing martial art. Pankration means “all powers” and it used everything: jabs, kicks, grappling, and just about everything in-between. Pankration was adopted as a sport when the Olympics were created (albeit in a more watered down version). Needless to say, I was unable to get aboard for the same reason as Lua.

Bokator: Bokator is the fighting style that defended the Khmer Empire for 700 years. Bokator was lost to time until it was rediscovered in the 20th century by studying the reliefs on the walls of Khmer temples. As with most of Cambodia’s cultural institutions Bokator was nearly wiped out by the Khmer Rouge. But once the rouge fell and Vietnamese occupation was eliminated, Bokator was saved from a second extinction. Bokator is similar to Kung Fu in that it uses many strikes based on animals (ironically one of the most powerful moves in Bokator is the duck). Yet again I found frustration in wanting to practice a far flung martial art.

There were a few others that I wanted to try but those three were the ones I wanted to take up the most. But that was never going to happen. So I had to see what was available here. While I was desperate and was going to take whatever I could get, I did have one standard: no karate (or as Archer called it “The Dane Cook of Martial Arts.”)! That, unbelievably, really narrowed my options. I found a Krav Maga class and a Judo dojo in SLO. But Krav Maga is really intense and the Judo dojo was a little out of reach. So what was I to do? Well I found another place in the listings: Aikido of San Luis Obispo. They described themselves as open to anyone wanting to try and that they fostered a peaceful non-competitive atmosphere. Sounded like something worth checking out.

I have been enrolled in the Aikido dojo since May. I’m telling you, it is great stuff. It’s easy going, you know; it’s not about tirelessly straining your body to its limits, but slowly building up a catalogue of moves and developing fluid body motions. You see, Aikido is very different from most other martial arts. Most martial arts employ intense and active regimens to train your body in moves designed to maim and cause grave harm to your enemy or opponent. That’s the way it’s been for thousands of years. Martial arts were always a means of defending yourself during combat (that often meant killing your enemy or at least painfully disabling him). One man decided that needed to change.

Aikido was conceived in the 20s and/or 30s by Morihei Ueshiba (we refer to him as Osensei which means “Great Teacher”). Osensei was a martial arts practitioner who was dismayed by the violent nature of mankind’s fighting styles. So Osensei set out to create an art without the martial mindset. His goal was to create a fighting style that would allow the user to defend them self but not harm the attacker in the process. And thus Aikido was born.

Aikido uses the flow of energy (most often the attacker’s momentum) to disable your opponent. Aikido works from the hata or center (I’m still trying to get the lingo worked out). The hata lies where your naval is and is the source of everything in Aikido. Lots of footwork is involved, despite the fact that some moves can be implemented in a sitting position! A great many moves are like machines in that they have lots of moving parts. And take my word for it; the subtle mechanics are the hardest to learn!

But not to worry. If you take it slow and break it down move by move, you’ll get the hang of it. And that is why I like Aikido. It’s non-competitive and everyone isn’t out to prove they can kick your ass. The higher ups are willing to work with you to help you get it right at the pace your comfortable with. And that’s not all the good Aikido has done for me. I have found that it provides a balance in my life. I read so much about ancient warfare and learning about some of the most brutal and horrifying things men have ever done. That could possibly be perceived as a negative influence. And a martial art could bring that out in nasty ways. So I think learning a peaceful martial art really cancels all that out and helps me stay in a state of equilibrium.

If you’re ever interested in trying it out, by all means stop by. We have a little observation area that you can sit in and watch more experienced people practice. And if you think it’s something you want to try, intro classes (at least for now it seems) are every Tuesday at either 7 or 7:15 (I can’t remember). And if you already do Aikido and are visiting from out of town, you are more than welcome to drop by and practice with us (we’ve had many people do so already). For more information visit the dojo website at

Till next time!