The Daily Gamecock

Not quite Karate: Aikido students lead demonstration

Martial art engages body, mind


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The Seidokan Aikido Club hosted a self-defense demonstration led by USC psychology professor Doug Wedell Wednesday evening at the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center.
With energy and humor, Wedell, a seventh-degree black belt who has practiced Aikido for 35 years, explained the Aikido philosophy and some key self-defense techniques to club members and curious new faces. He also led students in partner exercises and demonstrated more advanced techniques in full force.
Using Aikido methods for self-defense, Wedell explained, is about "taking the attacker's energy and transferring it so it's no longer dangerous to you or them."
He taught students to utilize "dynamic relaxation" techniques when defending themselves, demonstrating the strength of controlled relaxation as opposed to tension in maintaining one's balance when dealing with attackers.
"You say, 'Well geez, if I stay relaxed, aren't I going to get creamed?' The idea is that you want to be ... calmness in action ... If I get all excited, see, I have lost my center," Wedell said.
Some experienced club members were invited to demonstrate their skills with one another and use Aikido weapons. Wedell also invited some experienced Aikido students to attack him full on, demonstrating how self-defense techniques may work in a practical situation.
Advanced Aikido techniques are not necessarily easily picked up and useful for beginners in a self-defense situation, Wedell and some experienced club members said.
"Aikido isn't learned in a day, a week," Wedell said. "I'm on my 35th year and I'm starting to understand it."
USC graduate Erik Frankforter, a former club officer and current club coach, explained that the physical defensive benefits of Aikido come only after much practice.
"If you want a quick-help self-defense, learning how to punch and kick ... Karate is probably better for you," Frankforter said. "If you want something you can practice over a long period of time ... Aikido will catch up in terms of self-defense."
Personal safety and self-defense are topics of particular interest on campus following a recent string of high-profile violent incidents around the nation and in Columbia, including the assault of a man near Five Points last week and a handful of violent crimes over the summer.
Club president Zoë Toth, a third-year biochemistry student, has practiced Aikido for almost two years and said she would feel comfortable in a defensive situation with the mental and physical skills she has learned.
"The main thing is having the confidence to move in and look at [an attacker] and say, 'Back off,'" Toth said. "There are a few things I would try with Aikido, but I think the main thing is just being aware of your situation."
The Seidokan Aikido Club meets Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Martial Arts Room behind the rock wall at the STrom and is open to interested students of all skill levels.