Just off Carlsborg Road lies a quiet dojo where instructors and students alike study the martial art of Aikido.
Upon entering the dojo, a school where one practices a martial art, there are newly laid green Tatami mats across the floor, mirrors along the far side wall and in the front hang two photos: one of Morihei Ueshiba, who developed Aikido in Japan and is called “O’Sensei” by students, and T.K. Chiba Sensei, founder of Birankai North America who chief instructor Neilu Naini studied under in San Diego, Calif.
Naini presses her hands together and slowly bows before she steps onto the Tatami mats, checking in with her body and mind before she begins her instruction. She starts with stretching, preparation and basic exercises and then most of the class students and instructors are paired off to practice delivering and receiving techniques.
The dojo is intentionally quiet during the class and Naini’s students follow her movements with little talking and silent understanding.
Naini explains Aikido as a budo path or “martial way” that is very physical but non-violent, attempting to combine the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of life.
“When you enter an Aikido dojo, the primary focus is to physically practice the martial moves and forge your body to learn the movements,” she said.
“The goal is to work with your partner without breaking and without violence.”
Naini has been practicing the martial art of Aikido for 22 years. She started taking Aikido classes as a physical education credit at Swarthmore College and continues the practice for the development of community, embodiment of spiritual teachings and learning about the natural way to move the body.
In 1998, she moved to San Diego, Calif., to study under T.K. Chiba Sensei and in 2001 helped open Brooklyn Aikikai in New York. She currently holds the rank of Godan, a fifth degree black belt, and Shidoin under Birankai North America.
Naini believes Aikido can teach students conflict resolution through the body and mind in a non-competitive and non-violent way. Between partners, there is someone receiving and delivering an attack, but the ultimate goal is to harmonize and control the attack without breaking.
“We’re trying to receive energy and redirect it,” Naini said, explaining that in the class there are a lot of circular movements and different ways to lead and control a strike in order to blend energy and redirect it without hurting your partner.
The Aikido classes held in Sequim are part of Clallam Aikikai, formerly known as Port Angeles Aikikai, founded in 1993 and by founding instructor and Sensei Bill Marsh. Clallam Aikikai is affiliated with Birankai North America, founded by T.K. Chiba Shihan in 2000.
Classes moved to Sequim just five years ago according to Naini, who said she has seen increased enrollment in her roster which currently includes about 10 students. Naini explained if there is a need for the practice in the area, she wants to be able to open the doors to those students.
The classes she instructs include Aikido Basics on Thursdays from 7:30-8:30 p.m., Aikido on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6-7:15 p.m. and the first Saturday of the month from 10:15-11:45 a.m. and Sword and Staff on Tuesdays from 7:30-8:30 p.m.
It is $60 for the Beginner’s Program, 6 weeks of training starting Jan. 12. $50/month Aikido, $30/month Aikido, student rate and $40 annual Birankai dues.