In defence of a gentle art of non-violence

THERE is an art to falling down and not hurting yourself, as many aikido practitioners can testify.

Break falls, or ukemi, are used by students to practise throwing techniques without hurting each other.

The falls will be one of the first things taught to participants in an aikido beginner’s course in Oakleigh next month.

Fulori Smith, a black belt at Aikido Shudokan, where the course is being held, says it will teach prospective students the basic stances, movements and self-defence applications of the martial art.

‘‘It’s basically a taster of aikido,’’ Ms Smith says.

The course is designed for students who want to try martial arts or are curious about aikido.

‘‘Everyone starts off together, so it’ll be a whole bunch of people who don’t have necessarily martial arts experience,’’ Ms Smith said. ‘‘We’ll have enough instructors on the mats that that won’t be an issue.’’

Aikido was developed as a non-violent martial art in the early 1940s by Morihei Ueshiba.

‘‘The idea is to be able to do the technique without hurting someone,’’ Ms Smith said. ‘‘Everything we do is based on someone else attacking you.’’

Aikido does not have any sparring or competitions but instead focuses on refining techniques.

‘‘That’s not to say that it’s not effective. The self-defence we do is still quite rigorous but the idea is never to beat someone up or learn how to fight,’’ she said.

By the end of the beginner’s course, participants will have a better understanding of the martial art and, if they want to continue, be ready to train in normal classes. But for those concerned they are not strong enough to try aikido, Ms Smith says size does not matter.

‘‘Our head instructor is shorter than me and he’s about 55 kg.

‘‘We’ve got a range of sizes and ages that train with us and because of the idea of aikido, which is to use someone else’s power to lock or throw them, you don’t need strength. You just need correct technique. It’s just about using your partner’s power and the mechanics of the body and leverage to do the technique.’’

The beginner’s course in aikido will start on March 5 at Aikido Shudokan’s Oakleigh dojo, 21 Warner Street, Oakleigh, and run for a month. There will be two classes per week for an hour.

There will also be another course in April, May and June. Cost: $80. Details: 9480 1570.

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