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Spotsylvania County's Dwight Petersen recently received his second-degree black belt in Aikido--the first such honor to be awarded in this area. It was earned, in part, by Petersen's commitment to sharing the modern martial art with the Fredericksburg community.
Petersen sits in 'seiza,' waiting for instruction during his Aikido class at Paragon Gymnastics
in Spotsylvania County. His interest in martial arts began when he was in college.
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Date published: 2/28/2003
"ONE WHO HAS GAINED the secret of Aikido," said its creator, the late Morehi Ueshiba, "has the universe in himself."
At times, Dwight Petersen, 58, has felt as though he had the cosmos to himself when it comes to his commitment to Aikido.
He recently received his second-degree black belt in the nonviolent Japanese art--the first such honor to be awarded in the Fredericksburg area.
Membership in the Fredericksburg Aikido Club he created is soaring. A fresh fourth-degree black-belt instructor has climbed on board. And the club has a new site and an expanded schedule.
It's a long way from the sparsely populated classes Petersen started leading nine years ago in his single-car garage in Spotsylvania County's Parkwood subdivision.
"There were times, literally as well as figuratively, when he was the only one there," said dedicated Aikido student, Dr. Robert Kravetz. "[Dwight] has held the club together."
Like other martial arts, filled with white robes and rituals, Aikido melds the mental, physical and spiritual realms.
But Ueshiba, a master of spear fighting and the Japanese arts of jujitsu and kendo, created Aikido to be different. He wanted to break the cycle of violence and competition he saw in other martial arts.
Aikido students learn to neutralize attacks while protecting, not defeating, their opponent. Pupils move with, rather than against, an attacker.
They take turns practicing techniques with a partner, sometimes with a bokken and a jo (a wooden sword and staff).
"The essence of what they are doing is taking their attacker's momentum and redirecting it," said Aviv Goldsmith, FAC's new "sensei" or teacher.
There are no tournaments or competitions, and students don't change colored belts as they climb the ranks. "It's not a sport. It's an art," said Petersen, who earned his original black belt more than six years ago.
Because it gives control to those who aren't necessarily the strongest, Aikido attracts all ages. "As I get to be 65 and 70 and 75, I hope to still be doing this," said Kravetz, who is 58 now.
For some, it becomes a lifelong practice, its philosophy seeping into the psychology of everyday life. Devoted students say Aikido helps them quell conflict at work, at home and on the road.