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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
Petersen discovered the physical and mental benefits of the martial arts when he took a college judo class. "Some years later, I realized I was probably never going to get any exercise the rest of my life," said Petersen, who then worked in San Francisco as a computer programmer for the Army. He is now employed by Intuit in Stafford.
He flipped through the Yellow Pages in search of a Judo "dojo," or training place, and stumbled across an Aikido class, instead.
He found something in its falls and rolls. Something spiritual. Something he couldn't give up.
His work whirled him around the country and beyond--to San Francisco; Takoma Park, Md.; Italy. And everywhere he landed, he sought out an Aikido sensei.
"Finding a home not too far from a dojo was a major consideration," Petersen said. But when he moved to Fredericksburg in 1992 with his wife, Karen, he could find no dojo, no sensei, no club. So Petersen was forced to take another path.
He coaxed two senior students at a Washington dojo into travelling south to teach. He recruited Aikido enthusiasts, bought supplies and prepared his garage for classes.
But when it came time to train, there was a problem. The D.C. instructors thought they'd agreed to travel to Frederick, Md., not Fredericksburg. Petersen's garage was too far away.
He didn't give up.
"I had people who wanted to train, and I wanted to train, and I'd already bought mats," he said. "So we just went ahead."
As senior student, he reluctantly appointed himself instructor. Then membership grew, and he set out to find another place to practice.
The FAC burned through its share of locations through the years. They currently train at Paragon Gymnastics in Spotsylvania, and are in the process of moving to a new site on Spotsylvania's Leonard Drive.
All the while, Petersen has sought a professional sensei to take over teaching classes. He credits the club's recent popularity to the arrival of Goldsmith, who trained in Japan and served as a dojo "cho," or chief, in Reno, Nev.
"I am no longer expected, quite so much, to know more than I do," said Petersen, who was relieved to turn over the reins.
He was shocked last month, when Goldsmith presented him with his "nidan," or second-degree black belt, awarded for Petersen's technical knowledge and commitment to sharing Aikido with the community.
Achieving higher ranks is an intense process that takes plenty of time and patience. So Petersen can't be sure when he'll reach the next level.
But that isn't the point.
"I find that people come to class feeling better about themselves," Goldsmith said. "Then they leave and make the world a better place."
For more information on the Fredericksburg Aikido Club, call 540/582-9600 or look online at aikidoinn.com.