By Kira Lang ~
Have you ever heard of aikido? Ai – Ki – Do – roughly translated in English means the way or path of spirit/harmony. Aikido is a Japanese martial art rooted in the concept of non-conflict resolution.
I stumbled upon Aikido Centers of Manasquan about eight years ago when I began to search for a martial art to learn; something I desired to learn as a child but never had the chance. I had no real knowledge about martial arts, let alone aikido when I first walked into the dojo. I left the dojo that night feeling as if I was led there by fate. I have a lot of fight in me, but from a place of self-betterment – not aggression towards others. As a loose concept, that is aikido – keep improving but do not destroy others in the process. A quote from the creator of aikido, O’Sensei, Morihei Ueshiba, which reflects this idea, is “Aikido is the spirit of loving protection for all beings”. The techniques of aikido blend the momentum of the “attacker” (uke) with the “victim” (nage) who passes the energy and redirects it in such a way that protects the attacker, while at the same time transferring the control to the “victim” thereby achieving compliance.
Aikido Centers of Manasquan recently celebrated 20 years in business in 2018. The dojo-cho (head instructor), Tim Vazquez, brings a dynamic understanding of the art that is beyond description. His ability to teach the traditional concepts and blend them with current day practicality is the foundation of his continued success. Though his students can continue to pass on his lessons to new students, there is no replacement for him.
Aikido draws in like-minded people. Students typically share the same drive for learning techniques, and the desire to improve personal ability. Aikido is an education of self-defense and self-improvement. It requires commitment and curiosity. Practice may be scaled to accommodate varying abilities and comfort, however, a certain tenacity for literally getting up and down off the ground and working past perceived physical limitations is the key component that keeps long-time students coming back. It takes time to learn aikido, it can be overwhelming in the beginning, but eventually things come together.
The physical transformation aikido can provide students include constant strengthening of core muscles, and improving flexibility and balance. The transformation of the mind manifests in balanced relationships with others as well as self-confidence. After continued practice, students develop a flow between body and mind, awareness of surroundings and refining of the heart and spirit. The members of the dojo become family, but beyond the doors of the dojo, the community of aikidoka provides a worldwide network of like-minded individuals.
The public is welcome to come and observe a class to see the power of aikido. This is the best way to understand the value it provides. The internet, as it often does, draws a picture of aikido that does not provide a tangible understanding of the art. I highly recommend you come to see for yourself! Vazquez Sensei instructs on Tuesday and Thursday from 7p-8:30p. Call ahead or just stop by and visit, and remember to take your shoes off at the door!