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Teacher advances as student

November 5, 2004 1:08 am


Craig Naylor (left), a professor at University of Mary Washington, works out with Jeff Martin at the Fredericksburg Aikido Club yesterday. sp05naylor.jpg

University of Mary Washington music professor Dr. Craig Naylor (left) recently earned his second-degree blackbelt in Aikido. Naylor, 50, trains at the Fredericksburg Aikido Club.

UMW professor aces test for black belt

The basics of Aikido never left Dr. Craig Naylor.

Even when he wasn't practicing the nonviolent Japanese martial art for 10 years, Naylor still lived by the same principles.

He would diffuse any potential confrontation with carefully chosen words. And he maintained "proper balance," both mentally and physically.

After putting down Aikido to concentrate on graduate studies and teaching, Naylor picked it up again in 2002.

Last Saturday, the 50-year old University of Mary Washington music professor became just the second person at the Fredericksburg Aikido Club to earn a second-degree black belt.

Naylor passed the qualifying test in Montpelier under the supervision of seventh-degree black belt master instructor Bill Witt.

"It wasn't to hard to get back into it because I had applied the same philosophies to my life," Naylor said. "In a situation where a neighbor starts yelling, I may say 'Are you having a bad day?'"

Naylor trains regularly at the Fredericksburg Aikido Club located on Leonard Drive in Spotsylvania County.

He said he simply "got the urge" to give Aikido another shot after moving to Spotsylvania from Montana.

He hadn't practiced the discipline since his days as an undergraduate student at Humboldt State University in northern California.

He received his first-degree black belt from a club in Los Angeles in 1991. Naylor said Aikido is tailor-made for him since he's only 5-foot-4.

Aikido students are taught to neutralize instead of defeating their attackers.

"I'm a shrimp," he said. "But I've witnessed someone who was [4-foot-11] and weighed 100 pounds disarm six or seven people at once. Someone that's 6-foot can be thrashed easily, because in Aikido low leverage is what's important."

Naylor has had no problems transforming from teacher to student.

That's partly because his urge to continue with Aikido just happened to coincide with Aviv Goldsmith taking over as teacher, or "sensei," at FAC.

Goldsmith is a highly respected instructor in the area. His wife, Donna Pienkowski, also trains at FAC.

The relationship between Goldsmith and Naylor has been one key reason for Naylor's ascension.

Goldsmith, who is in Jamaica this week, is passing his passion for the sport on to others in the area.

"It's been a very interesting experience," Naylor said. "He's made my technique a lot more precise. I had a lot of bad habits."

Other FAC students admire Naylor's abilities. In Montpelier, Naylor took the 30-minute long test with training partner Nick Marmalejo of King George.

In the first set of techniques, Naylor was forced to defend an attacker with both on their knees. Later Naylor had to deal with a standing aggressor while he remained kneeled.

None of it was a problem for Naylor.

"His precision and the fluidity of his movement is what's special about him," Marmalejo said. "He's able to take hold of what's going on and really handle aggressive attackers."

Added Pienkowski: "He's able to translate everyday living into Aikido. Once that base is there, it's easier to learn the techniques. He already had the heart and soul of it."

While Naylor practices Aikido at night, during the day he teaches electronic music and music theory to Mary Washington students.

He also composes music and is a band conductor.

He said that many of his students don't know about his Aikido prowess.

But there is an Aikido club on campus and those who participate are aware of his third favorite passion: music and the outdoors are his top two.

"I don't talk about [Aikido] unless someone asks me," Naylor said. "So I think most of my students will be a little surprised."

To reach TAFT COGHILL JR.: 540/374-5526

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