City gets a school for Aikido, a hybrid Japanese martial arts form that uses efficient techniques of movement

At the very end of the quiet, long-winding Ethiraj Lane lies Chennai’s first Aikido school, Aikido of Chennai, where this hybrid Japanese martial arts form will be made accessible to enthusiasts of the city.

It has been four years since the form was brought to Chennai by Masayasu Otsuka, 4th Dan black belt. The school has Tamil Nadu’s first Dan black belt, V. Senthil Kumar, as its instructor.

Safety quotient

At the inauguration, four Aikido experts exhibited the skills and techniques of this fairly modern and not-so-popular Japanese martial arts form. Before the black belts took over, nine kids, after paying respects to the large photograph of the art form’s founder Morhei Ueshiba, deftly rolled on the turf showing off how to ‘roll safely’. They provided a taste of what Aikido was all about — using the force of the attacker to neutralise and control him.

Gautam Ramdas, Aikido enthusiast instrumental in setting up the school, says, “With Aikido, you can control the attacker and ask why he wants to hurt you.”

The explicit non-violent message is the feature that sets Aikido apart. This was superbly demonstrated by the four Aikido experts, three Japanese experts and an American, Patrick Lynch. It seemed as if they were doing a smooth dance involving dodging, blocking and joint manipulation. Patrick Lynch, a 5th Dan black belt, said, “It’s almost like watching people do yoga in air.”

Aikido, which belongs to Jujutsu school of martial fighting an armed attacker without a weapon, is a technique that combines the underlying principles of several Japanese martial arts. While Aikido was used extensively and lethally in World War II, today, the proponents of Aikido prescribe the use of proportionate non-deadly force.

Senthil Kumar received his 1st Dan black belt in Sri Lanka. “The emphasis is on non-lethal self-defence techniques and controlling your attacker,” he said.

In one of the best segments of the evening, Makoto Ito, the sixth Dan black belt from Hombu Dojo, Japan, fought two attackers coming at him aggressively with knives. The master was so smooth that one realised he was fighting only when his attackers were thrown around. Among the interested audience was Sanjay Arora, ADGP, Operations, who said, “The commandos operate in very uncertain terrains. At times they have to be defensive and offensive. Aikido can be useful when non-lethal methods are needed.”

But, why is Aikido not as popular as, say, karate or judo? “There are no Aikido competitions because manipulations of joints cannot be allowed in competitions. Judo is popular because it is an Olympic sport. Several techniques used in Aikido are still dangerous. If we remove the manipulation of joints, then it would become a stripped-down version of Judo,” says Patrick Lynch.