Aikido Center of Jacksonville
Dojo Newsletter September 2008

Rodney Grantham Sensei
We were saddened to learn of the recent passing of Rodney Grantham Sensei, founder of the Aikido Center of Atlanta.  John Miller, one of our instructors, began his study of Aikido under Grantham Sensei in 1982, before eventually relocating to Maryland.  Grantham Sensei, a true martial arts pioneer, started his Aikido journey in the early 1960's, after having received his yudansha in Kodokan Judo.  The Aikido Center of Atlanta is hosting a memorial seminar on October 4th.  Please let us know if you plan to attend.

Dojo History
We are pleased to welcome back one of our earliest students, Paul Elia.  Paul tested for 5th kyu before taking a (temporary) fifteen year break from training.  Never one to pass up an interesting story, your editor spoke with Paul about the early days of our dojo. 

Paul started training under Curtis Rosiek, the founder of our school, in 1993.  By all accounts, Rosiek Sensei had a relationship with Tom "Doc" Walker Sensei, the much loved founder of Sand Drift Aikido in Cocoa, Florida.  (Walker Sensei was instrumental in establishing the United States Aikido Federation in its early days).  Paul tested under Walker Sensei, and according to Buck Pittman, our dojo in those days was called Sand Drift Aikido, presumably after Walker Sensei's school. 

After Rosiek Sensei left, Chris Rozette assumed the position of chief instructor, followed by Dee Seabolt Sensei in 1998.  Under Rozette Sensei, Dee, Mike Sands and Buck joined the dojo, then located in a dance studio off San Jose Boulevard.  (In the intervening years, prior to our current location, we also trained at the Jewish Community Alliance). 

Needless to say, we've got quite a few "war stories" from back in the day, which we plan to share with you in the upcoming months.  Several of those stories involve the everyday tribulations of introducing a new martial art to Jacksonville, as well as the cast of characters we met during that journey (including the Hatsumi ninja who showed up one Saturday....)

We'll leave you with one tidbit, however.  It may surprise you, but a connection exists between Yamada Sensei, Jacksonville, and what quite possibly may be the most convoluted game of paintball ever put to film.  Any guesses?

Welcome back, Paul.


Florida Aikikai Seminar with Claude Berthiaume Shihan
On August 16 and 17, Aikidoka from Florida and Georgia traveled to Florida Aikikai for its annual seminar with Claude Berthiaume Shihan.  Berthiaume Shihan is the chief instructor of Aikido de la Montagne in Montreal, Canada.  His martial background is both varied and extensive.  Claude Berthiaume Shihan

After receiving his yudansha in 1974, Berthiaume Shihan began studying Iaido under the tutelage of Mitsunari Kanai Shihan of New England Aikikai.  Approximately ten years later, following extensive training in Japan, he developed close ties with the United States Aikido Federation through Kanai and Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan, the chief instructor at New York Aikikai.  He has traveled extensively throughout Canada, the United States, the Caribbean, South America and Europe conducting Aikido seminars. 

Berthiaume Shihan is one of seven technical directors in the United States Aikido Federation.  He was awarded the rank of 7th degree black belt in 2004, and is an Aikikai Shihan, or master instructor.

The seminar itself was incredible, with (by my estimate)Claude Berthiaume Shihan over seventy Aikidoka in attendance.  Techniques ran the gamut, from strikes to grabs, and included suwari-waza.  Following the seminar was the traditional party and sushi dinner, graciously provided by our hosts.  As usual, we've tried to capture the experience in one of our snazzy slideshows.  But really, pictures can only go so far.  We had a blast.

Also, on behalf of Buck and Ryan, I would like to thank Grady Lane and Joe Turner for helping us polish our technique at Brevard Aikikai on the Friday before the seminar.  Sensei also thanks you for your patience and good humor.

The Nonviolent Martial Art by Ryan Szesny
Editors Note: From time to time we feature student articles in our newsletter.  Ryan Szesny, one of our dedicated students, began his training in April 2008.  In this article Ryan shares his thoughts on Aikido and nonviolence.

Ryan SzesnySome may disagree, but to me, Aikido is not about fighting - it is about not fighting.  I believe that Aikido is about ending a confrontation while causing as little injury as possible.  In class we spend a lot of time considering the physical form of a conflict (the attack), but its philosophy can be applied to any confrontation (an argument, for example).  For lack of a better comparison, I think of Aikido as "protesting" a fight.  In other words, I am not going to stand and get hit, because that just perpetuates violence (on myself, in this case).  I am also not going to strike back, because in so doing I give my attacker permission to continue the fight.  Instead, I avoid the strike, and at the same time, let him blow off some steam.  (Or in Aikido terms, taking the attacker's balance, and then ensuring he can do no more violence to me or himself).  This way, we can reestablish our good standing with each other.

Aikido is the martial art for dealing with drunk friends and obnoxious in-laws.  If you have to break an arm to subdue an attacker, then you have not solved the problem of violence - Your attacker, obviously, will be upset after he recovers.  However, if you can calm your partner before the situation degenerates, you can still be friends after the confrontation ends.

O’ Sensei once said that he made Aikido as a gift for the human family.  It is for this reason that we try not to harm each other, since we are all, in this larger sense, connected.  In addition however, in every class I have attended, there is always the possibility of “pay back."  By "pay back" I mean the possibility that if you throw hard, you will be thrown hard in turn.  That is to say, uke becomes nage and nage becomes uke (sometimes in the same technique!)  I feel our training emphasizes the point that it could just as easily be you in the situation that the attacker is in, so we should take some pity on the person, while dealing decisively with the situation at hand. 

Every technique I have seen so far has one thing in common: We avoid the attack and deal with the real issue, our attacker and his reasons for the confrontation.  We enter off line, partially to avoid a contest of strength, but also to avoid expanding the conflict.  When there is something to fight against, there is conflict, but your attacker cannot fight if you simply choose not to fight back.  It seems to me that it always comes down to this choice: Whether or not you choose to fight.  Aikido gives someone who is committed to not fighting a very good option.

Comments?  Questions?  I am sure Ryan would appreciate the feedback.