By Michael Rothberg
Equipped with no weapon besides his bare hands, Ben Gaylord ’13 can take down a grown adult with the techniques of Aikido.
Like some other students, Gaylord has been mastering the art of self defense from a young age.
“Aikido is all about self-defense,” Gaylord said. “It emphasizes the use of finesse and fluid body movement over brute force and muscle power.
Unlike most martial arts, there is no punching or kicking, just joint locks, throws and hip movements.
Although he has never had to use Aikido in a real life situation, Gaylord said his training has made him significantly more confident overall and increased his body awareness as an athlete.
“I rarely ever find myself tripping, and it helps with balance and technique, especially concerning athletics,” said Gaylord, a varsity pole-vaulter and track runner.
Arielle Maxner ’12, who started training at age 6, is a double black belt in Shotokan Karate and has competed both on national and international levels.
“I did quite well in them, even though they were more nerve-wracking to me than training or testing,” Maxner said.
Like Aikido, Shotokan Karate focuses primarily on self defense, with fighting only as a last resort.
After every practice at the dojo, a training area, five basic rules were recited in Japanese: seek perfection of character, be faithful, endeavor to excel, respect others and refrain from violent behavior.
“When people hear that I did karate, they always ask if I can break bricks and such.” Maxner said. “We never did any of that, as that seems to be more for show. In fact, karate in movies is very much fake and showy, as ours was direct and rather quick. If you saw Shotokan karate being done in a movie, you’d probably be disappointed.”
Eventually, she had to quit because the hours of training were cutting into her time for homework, cello and sleep.
“Karate has definitely made me confident in my abilities to defend myself, but I’m out of practice now, so I’m not sure how well I’d do,” Maxner said. “Of course, karate is unarmed self-defense, and I’d be rather defenseless against a gun. A stick or a knife, maybe not.”
Elliot Storey ’12, a member of the varsity wrestling team, took up Krav Maga, an Israeli self defense technique, when he was 11 and recently became a certified instructor.
Krav Maga, Hebrew for “contact combat,” is the official self-defense system of the Israeli Defense Forces.
It is a non-competitive technique that builds on instinctual reactions to threats, using simple, effective moves, Storey said.
Throughout his training, Storey practices his defense or combat moves on partners with pads, along with some conditioning and sparring.
“While I have never been in serious danger, in minor scuffles the ability to assess the situation and prevent any parties from being harmed has been invaluable,” Storey said.