LONG BEACH - While many people commonly think of self-defense skills when they hear about martial arts, the Peninsula will soon be introduced to a self-discovery martial arts option - aikido with Glenn Leichman.

A Japanese martial art founded by Morihei Ueshiba, aikido was developed in the 1920s and 1930s. According to Wikipedia, "Ueshiba's goal was to create an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury." Leichman says understanding and practicing aikido involves learning physics and geometry, posture, keeping your head up, keeping the body in line and shifting your weight.

Leichman describes aikido as a martial art with forms of reaction. "It's kind of like jazz - it has a form, but it has some improvisations. It's also like dancing, it's like meditation, but in movement ... It's a meditation, a total inward focus, but while in motion."

"The best aikido is when you never have to fight - when you fight is when you get hurt," he explains. "It's for when I need to take care of myself, but I need to take care of [the other person] too, to end conflict and calm everyone down without anyone being hurt. "The biggest difference [from other martial arts] is there is no intention to hurt anybody. If you hurt somebody, you have failed. It's all about diffusing the conflict."

Depending on the kind of aikido, emphasis may be placed on improvisation and creativity, health, energy flow and cleansing, flexibility or other benefits.

After receiving his doctorate from and teaching for five years at an England university, Leichman chose to leave his tenure and see other parts of the world. He traveled the Orient Express to Istanbul and throughout Asia. When money was getting low, he went to teach conversational English in Japan for three months in 1979. It was in Tokyo where he gained interest in aikido and shiatsu, a medical, hands-on therapy that utilizes pressure points. When he returned to the U.S., he found a local aikido dojo (training studio) in Seattle, where continued to study and train.

Getting wrapped up in life, Leichman eventually took a break from aikido for nine years until his daughter enrolled in a class - he was hooked again. For the last 16 years he has been practicing aikido "nonstop," and has even traveled to Japan and parts of Europe to learn from Endo sensei, his teacher.

In 2003, Leichman invited his sensei to demonstrate his skills at the dojo in Seattle. The dojo wasn't able to host Endo sensei, so Leichman began a search for land to build a dojo of his own. After looking at possibilities in Manzanita, Ore., Maryhill and along the Columbia River, he made a stop on the Peninsula to visit friends. While it was his first time ever in the area, he didn't hesitate in purchasing a five-acre spot on Sandridge Road for his dream dojo, Aikido on Willapa Bay. A little over two years ago, he also created Aikido on Willapa Bay-Seattle, where he holds classes five times per week.

Currently the Sandridge location only has a 32-foot by 32-foot wooden deck structure, which provides a great outdoor place for aikido when the weather allows. A complete dojo will be built when Leichman moves to the Peninsula full-time.

Aikido on Willapa Bay sponsored Endo sensei's visit to Seattle in 2005 and each year after. On average 80 to 120 people attend the demonstrations.

"We live in Seattle, but are developing a retreat center down here, and we spend a lot of time down here," he explains. "I think that after a certain amount of time, the desire to have my own studio became irresistible ... I love training at aikido. The feeling is of a meditation in action - and of freedom."

Leichman says the mission of Aikido on Willapa Bay is to focus on the awakening of the spiritual, the sharpening of the physical and the mental, and the nourishment of the psychological being of the individual. He seeks to create a cohesive community promoting musubi, or connection, not only in the practice of the art, but also by overcoming fears of contact and intimacy. He feels that others could also benefit from it with "greater awareness, more flexibility, a calmer sense of self, improved physical fitness, and the ability to defend oneself."

Aikido on Willapa Bay is located at 14010 Sandridge Road in Long Beach. Leichman currently offers periodic classes and seminars during the summer months and plans to be teaching aikido on the Peninsula as early as the fall of 2009.

For more information, visit the Web site at (www.leichbro.org/aikido); or contact Glenn Leichman at (gleichman@comcast.net) or 206-919-4372.

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