n an Aikido class Nandini Nair finds that martial arts can be about harmony

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“Because of Aikido I was able to defend myself from an attack,” says Yulia Pal. Aikido helped in saving her when violently attacked while taking a walk in the city’s Jahapanah park. Paritos Kar, fourth Dan of Aikido Aikikai Foundation of India, who has learnt this art from Japan, has been teaching this non-combative art form for four years in Delhi.

Aikido is different from other marital arts because it is not competitive. With Aikido meaning “harmony” it is little surprise that this form is more about a philosophy than competition. But make no mistake, it’s not a soft spot at all as it provides a complete workout and can disarm attackers. Kar says, “Aikido helps in self defence, fitness, confidence and discipline.”

There are only four members in today’s dojo with the festive season keeping most of the others away. But there’s an unusual dignity and serenity about this class located near Lady Shri Ram College. Everyone speaks in hushed tones and addresses each other with a gentle bow. The members are dressed in the traditional white pants and angrakha-like shirts called keikogi. The seniors and Kar himself wear a hakama, a black drape that is tied waist down.

The class begins with a brief meditation. We sit on our knees, with legs folded back and feet touching each other. This is to clear the mind and help in concentration. While Aikido originated more than 100 years ago in Japan, it has no religious leanings. And the meditation is more about clearing one’s mind than about praying to any force.

Next come the gentle warm up exercises. They include punching the air with one’s fist and drawing back. Then there are body rotations. This is followed by stretches. The stretches are performed standing upright and some other lying on the floor. While standing, the knees are bent gently and rotated. In the floor exercises, one holds the back of ones knees and rolls back and forth like a baby. Then the feet are gently pounded with the hands, followed by a quick and efficient rubbing of the ears and neck. These series of exercises lasts for only about 10 minutes and helps to get the joints lubricated and make the body supple.

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With Aikido being mainly about throws, students first pay attention to rolling and falling. Because of the throws, it is practised indoors and with partners. Rolling requires technique and is not about just barrelling down the floor. 

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I stare open mouthed as students adroitly roll down the 30 feet of padded mat. First they do so silently, and then with a sonorous thud. This is for the experts, and I decide it’s time to roll out of the class.

Nandini Nair (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Photos: Shanker Chakravarty 

The Hindu (Saturday, Nov 01, 2008)
http://www.hindu.com/mp/2008/11/01/stories/2008110152910400.htm