Sitting down across from powerhouse couple Floyd Blades and Christle Lowe, you’d never expect from their relaxed demeanor and easy laugh that they would practice martial art. When one thinks of “martial arts”, words like violence, opponent, and aggression are words that come to mind. Blades and Lowe, however, practice aikido, a non-violent form of martial arts.
Created by Sensei Morehei Ueshiba after World War II, Blades and Lowe’s particular branch of aikido, Iwama or Takemusu aikido is more than a form of exercise, it works both the body and mind.
“Aikido is a progressive study,” says Blades. “What we teach at the beginning is how to move forward while maintaining vertical alignment in the body. For a lot of people, that’s really challenging because we tend not to spend a lot of time with our bodies, most of us are all up here [in our heads].”
Blades says that getting everyone comfortable is key in laying the groundwork to a successful aikido study.
“Right out of the blocks, what we’re learning is a fundamentally different way to show up in conflict and in relationship,” says Blades. “My job as someone who studies aikido is to protect myself and you from your bad intent to do me harm. I don’t get to hurt you, break you, or bounce you off the walls. I have to find a way to safely neutralize the energy you’re directing towards me in a way where you land softly in a controlled way. I have to put you down gently in a way with enough space so that I can stand up and walk away from you, because if I go away, there is no one for you to be in conflict with, except yourself.”
Having studied the art for almost 20 years, Floyd has also studied more traditional forms of martial arts such as kung fu and karate, however, their core principles did not sit right with him.
“What I saw them teaching me was how to take another person apart. It was becoming progressively more uncomfortable for me.”
It is through this change that Blades met his partner, Lowe, in VIU’s Liberal Arts program and the two have become inseparable, both as partners in the dojo and in everyday life.
“[In aikido], we don’t have opponents, we have partners. I need this person in order to practice and for that person to be supportive of my learning. In turn, I must be supportive of theirs.”
Not only is aikido fun, Blades has found it also teaches empowerment, especially for women.
“Aikido teaches you that you never have to be afraid of anyone regardless of their size, because it doesn’t matter. Christle tosses my butt around easily and I outweigh her by 100 lbs. There is no good reason in terms of current psychology or orientation why she shouldn’t be able to physically outdo me. It’s not about power, it’s about using my energy and momentum in a way that allows her to govern that process and drop me like a rock without doing me harm.”
“It’s very satisfying too,” assures Lowe.
Aikido not only provides mental and spiritual benefits, it is also surprisingly refreshing.
“No matter how tired I am when I show up for class, I always finish feeling like a million dollars. I am refreshed, rejuvenated and it helps me sleep better. The buzz lasts a couple hours,” adds Lowe.
What university student could ask for more?
Blades and Lowe teach a beginner aikido class on campus every Tuesday from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. until November 24. Permission to join from the instructor is required until the next session in the Spring semester. For more information or direct inquiries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.