Aikido strengthens body, mind

POULSBO – It’s quite an impressive moment to witness nine children ages 5-10 standing in complete silence and attention.

And they were definitely enjoying themselves; the smiles on their faces gave that away.

After a white-robed instructor gave directions on how to perform a type of protective, forward-roll-fall, the little students began to practice.

The smiles grew even more as the kids tucked and rolled on to the mat. Some of them were instant masters of the skill.

The children are enrolled in Kitsap Aikido’s Monday evening children’s class, which runs from 4:30-5:30 p.m.

Holly Cassidy’s 8-year-old son Caden attends the class and has for one-and-a-half years. Cassidy’s overjoyed at all the goodness Aikido brings to her son’s life.

“Aikido is all about the art of defense, not fighting. It’s a really peaceful martial art, and it helps bring focus,” she said, adding Caden is an only child and since participating in Aikido he helps “the little ones” a lot more. “His focus and attention have matured. He’s more open to the concept of meditation. He talks about it and pretends to do it and I like that it’s setting that up.”

Aikido is a very peaceful and harmonious form of martial art. Aikido, first established by Morihei Ueshiba, 1883-1969, highlights the art of defense while diminishing the need for, or concept of, violence.

“It’s the art of not fighting,” said black belt Dan Delaney, Kitsap Aikido’s chief instructor with more than 30 years of Aikido experience. “It attracts a lot of people who are looking to deal with a conflict in life without hurting themselves or another.”

Through his 30-year career with Aikido, Delaney said his practice has helped him learn to curb his temper. It’s also helped him resolve potentially violent conflicts with little or no force.

Delaney shared a story about a time when he was a high school teacher in California. A fight had broken out between a 6-foot, 4-inch basketball player and a 5-foot, 8-inch “wrestler.” One teacher had grabbed the shorter man and as the taller man was on the move to fight again, Delaney was able to step in the way and put him in an Aikido control hold, halting him and standing him on his toes.

“I was able to walk him to the principal’s office and talk to him just by holding his hand,” Delaney recalled. “There was no humiliation, no harm, and to me that was a gift of my Aikido training.”

Aikido participants are sometimes referred to “Men (or women) of peace,” as they don’t pick fights, but they don’t run either.

Kitsap Aikido first opened its doors in 1994 and moved to its present location off Viking Way in 2002, as more space was needed.

The organization is a 501 C3 nonprofit, and all six instructors donate their time; there are no paychecks here.

“They really want to teach and have Aikido used in everyday life so they want to share it,” Cassidy said of the organization’s nonprofit status. “It’s almost as if they’ve been given a great gift and a responsibility to share it with the world. I just love it. It’s fabulous.”

Members pay a one-time $25 initiation fee and current dues are $50 per month for adults and $25 per month for children. Family discount rates are available for $80 per month, regardless the size of the family.

“We’ve never turned anybody away for lack of finances,” Delaney said. “We just collect money to pay the rent.”

This month Kitsap Aikido is rolling out a new “boomer” class, for the area’s older residents to hone their defense, flexibility, balance, breathing and physical fitness skills.

“There’s no reason you can’t start in your 60s or older,” Delaney said. “Anybody can do it.”

For a complete list of classes or more information visit Kitsap Aikido’s Web site, or call Delaney at (360) 697-3772.