Bulls that use the force

Martial arts are most often represented by the unrealistic violence of kung fu movies, but for students in the University of South Florida Aikido Club, their martial art is about fluidity and diverting energy.

USF has had an aikido club since 1975. The club’s teaching focuses on on-competitiveness and conflict resolution.

“A lot of other martial arts are concerned with hitting the opponent,” club President Meredith Abel said. “With (aikido), it’s more about deflection, throwing and pinning rather than hurting someone.”For Abel, the move to aikido came after a long practice of karate.

“Aikido is more fluid and has a much different philosophy than other martial arts,” Abel said. “Karate is a lot of kicking, punching and blocking; this is much less violent.”

The moves in aikido are most closely related to some of the techniques found in jujitsu and kenjitsu. The key to aikido is using an opponent’s force to gain control of them.

“If I can accept your aggression and divert without hurting you, that’s a higher concept,” instructor Gary Clementi said. “Part of aikido is learning the concept of how to deal with others’ bad energy in a peaceful manner.”

Aikido participants are broken down into two groups. The “nage,” or defender, who does the throwing and pinning, and the “uke,” who receives the technique. Exercises done at club meetings are taught by several instructors.

The term aikido translates to English as “the way of harmony of the spirit,” according to aikiweb.com. Aside from its use as a self-defense technique, aikido has been said to spiritually enlighten and improve the physical well-being and peace of mind of its participants.

“It’s a spiritual path,” Clementi said. “It’s self defense, but aikido is a higher martial art because we don’t aim to destroy.”

Gabriel Estevez has been involved with the aikido club for the last year and understands firsthand the benefits aikido can provide.

“It helps me gain a sense of harmony,” Estevez said. “It gives me a sense of accomplishment and makes me feel more confident about myself.”

The club offers an opportunity for interested parties, both student and non-student, to receive instruction from an aikido club associated with the aikido schools of Ueshiba under the Jihon Juku Academy of the Warrior Spirit. The classes are open to anyone who wants to watch or participate year-round on campus in the gym.

“It’s an intimate group,” Abel said. “A lot of martial arts disciplines are really serious, but with this it’s OK to smile and have a good time. We’re all friends.”