By Eva Metz
Are you looking to get a kick out of your workout? Or do you just want to feel safer while traversing Grinnell at night? If so, join one of Grinnell’s on-campus martial arts groups: Aikido or Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Aikido, a Japanese martial art founded in the 1920s by Ueshiba Morihei, was derived from jiu-jitsu as a way to resolve physical conflict without harm to the attacker or defender. Jackie Brown, Biology, and Joyce Stern, Dean for Student Success and Academic Advising, formed Grinnell’s Aikido group in 2003 after taking several classes at the University of Iowa.
Brown, Stern and Charles Cunningham, Physics, designed the classes as a great way for students, faculty and members of the Grinnell community to interact. After beginning classes with warm-ups and basic movement exercises, teachers then introduce new techniques; much of the learning is experiential.
“Many of the techniques are difficult to explain, but they’re easy to feel,” Cunningham said.
Although there are no competitions for Aikido, the group participates in around two seminars, which provide participants with the opportunity to learn from a high-ranking instructor and meet other people interested in Aikido.
“When you go to an Aikido seminar, you are enculturated into a friendly atmosphere. That’s my favorite thing to do,” Cunningham said.
One unique thing about aikido is that upper body strength is not particularly important to success.
“Aikido accommodates people of all sizes and levels of physical fitness,” Cunningham said. “A five-foot tall, ninety pound woman can throw a six-foot three man.”
Similarly, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, another martial arts organization at Grinnell, is based on the idea that with the right technique and leverage, a smaller person can successfully defend against a larger person.
The instructor, Leo Rodriguez, Physics, and a group of students formed the club in fall of 2011.
Classes consist of half an hour of warming up, half an hour of learning new technique and half an hour of sparring. The jiu-jitsu club plans to attend several tournaments this spring.
“Sparring is my favorite part of jiu-jitsu,” said Tye Smith ’15, President of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. “It’s really challenging at first, but it’s really rewarding if you stick with it.”
Both clubs meet in the Bear Dance Studio and Multipurpose Room, and they encourage new people to come anytime. Be sure to wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing and to bring a water bottle.
Jiu-jitsu meets on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm and has open mat from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm on Sundays. Aikido meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm.