In a weekend dominated by classical music recitals, nothing cleanses the palate like a little hand-to-hand combat. This Saturday, Harvard Aikikai will wake up audiences with a lively demonstration of Aikido throws and weapons techniques in the Science Center.
According to Harvard Aikikai board member Yün-ke Chin-Lee ’10, Aikido is uniquely suited to performance at an arts festival, combining the grace and fluidity of dance with the explosive energy and dynamism of martial arts. Aikido, often translated as “the way of the harmonious spirit,” is not simply about overpowering the opponent. “The techniques emphasize subtlety over brute force, which is great when you don’t have the physique of Xena,” Chin-Lee writes in an e-mail.
The highly improvisational format of Aikido exhibitions is closer to a jazz concert than a self-defense class, requiring practitioners to constantly adapt to one another’s techniques. “The demonstration partners have no idea what the response will be so they really have to be on top of their game,” Chin-Lee says. “It’s a lot of fun to watch.”
Harvard Aikikai, an official dojo of the United States Aikido Federation, is now in its 28th year. The club has attracted a close-knit group of undergraduates through its free classes, open to the entire undergraduate community. These events provide personal training from professionals like Sioux Hall, Harvard Aikikai’s Chief Instructor, who has been teaching Aikido across North America for more than 20 years.
Though the instructors practice advanced techniques, Harvard Aikikai’s weekday classes at the MAC and Quad gyms are open to all skill levels. As a freshman, Harvard Aikikai President Jan Ng ’09 was struck by the welcoming environment. “Martial arts can be intimidating to learn, and I really appreciated how encouraging the other club members were about getting everyone to improve as best they could,” she says.
Ng says that the instructors will demonstrate some “more advanced permutations” of basic Aikido moves on Saturday, including throw-downs and one-on-one weapon work. The demonstration will feature instruction and performance from members and teachers of Harvard Aikikai, replacing flowing oboes with flying elbows. Hi-Ya!