Tag Archives: girl power

Making it count

Making it count


Brown Belt


Having achieved her brown belt, my daughter’s Aikido Sensei gave her about half a minute to rest on her laurels before starting the push towards her next goal.

She is ranked at 2.5 and must reach a 0.5 level before she will be invited to test for her Shidon or first rank Black Belt under the rules of the the Aikido World Alliance, the parent organization for her Dojo.  That will take three to four years, and given her age she will then wait at her 0.5 rank for some time before the AWA confers their invitation.

Her Sensei figures that as she is on her road towards a Black Belt — she is now not only an apprentice trainee with respect to all of the techniques that she must master, but more importantly she must also begin to learn the responsibilities of achieving the rank.  That is all pretty heady stuff for an 11-year-old, and yet, having been thrown to the front of her class to lead the warm-up, she has become cognizant of how difficult it is to command the attention and respect of a group of people long enough to actually get something done.

What she’s also learning is that small things matter.

In Aikido, stance is everything — much as in boxing — and finding the balance means a lot not only to her practice, but in her role as a novice teacher, to those of her students.  Thus she now sees when something is wrong and has begun to correct the tiniest of movements.  This process of breaking it down is helping her to ascertain the faults in her own practice — at least that’s her Sensei’s ingenious plan, though this last is perhaps the hardest to achieve.

Sometimes it is not really possible to articulate what happens beyond the realm of the pure mechanics of a particular set of movements.  In Aikido, that might mean the execution of a series of moves with a partner — pretty difficult stuff in that both partners must also act in a kind of harmony with each other even as the one may be attempting to toss the other to the ground.

Boxing offers something similar — a remarkable improvised dance executed by two well-skilled fighters balanced for ability and for that little something extra that comes from the heart.

The power of art

The power of art

My daughter started studying her martial art a few weeks before her 6th birthday.  As a young one on the mat she was an absolute mighty-mite executing perfect forward and backwards rolls that were the envy of the Dojo.  Now entering her 6th year as she turns 11, she has become a mature Aikidoist with a love and appreciation for the art and physical prowess of the sport — and for the confidence, mental discipline and sense of accomplishment it has given her.

As a discipline for young women, Aikido provides a clever alternative for girls to learn an art where size and weight are less an issue that one’s ability to execute well-timed defensive moves that takes advantage of an opponent’s forward momentum to land them on the floor in awkward positions (and the chance to run away from trouble once they’re down on the ground!).  Aikido also offers training in weapons to include the “Jo” (long-stick) and the “Bokken” (modeled after a Japanese sword).  With such moves Aikidoists become skilled in the defensive possibilities of such weapons and of the adaptive possibilities of broom handles and mega-umbrellas.

Whether it’s boxing, aikido, karate, Tai-Chi or any of the other martial arts, a brief course of study for a young women can offer a taste of the possibilities for personal defense and their own physical power.  I know that in my daughter’s case, it has given her a confidence in her physical capabilities that has translated itself into the schoolyard where she can hold her own with the best of them physically and mentally.  That’s not to say that she’s ever been in a physical fight, but the mental toughness of her martial art has given her the confidence to walk away from confrontations and the sense of self necessary to keep the mental taunts of the bullies out of her head which can be just as devastating if not more so.

I’ve also watched as other girls and boys for that matter in her Aikido classes and at places like Gleason’s Gym have transformed into clear thinking young people who are cognoscente of their abilities and mindful of the responsibilities of the unique skills they’ve garnered through the disciplined study of a martial art.  Sure, it’s not for everyone, but offering the opportunity to young girls in particular means raising a generation of women who will grow-up understanding the possibilities of their own physical prowess.