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Stafford women earn Aikido black belts
Two Stafford women become the first people in the region to earn black belts in an aikido class for seniors

 Ida Ansell, who is more than 80 years old, uses a jo during aikido class. She says the classes have improved her sense of balance, something she has needed as she's aged. She exercises several times a week.
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Date published: 8/9/2010


That's not a cane in Ida Ansell's hand.

It's a wooden stick used in the martial art of aikido. And be careful, because the white-haired great-grandmother, who won't give her age except to say she's "over 80," knows how to use it.

So does her training partner, 61-year-old Kate Logan. The Stafford County residents recently became the first in the Fredericksburg area to earn black belts in the Seniors for Aikido class.

The two had to demonstrate the 31 ways to use the stick, called a jo. They also had to show their ability to thrust and throw opponents, grab shoulders and lock wrists.

When the women finished their black-belt test recently at the Aikido in Fredericksburg center in Spotsylvania County, fellow practitioners stood and applauded.

"I have not seen that before," said Aviv Goldsmith, the sensei, or teacher, at the local center.

Goldsmith developed the class for seniors, and offered a demonstration at the Rowser Building in Stafford 41/2 years ago. Logan was in the audience and signed up.

Ansell heard about it a few months later, and the two became training partners--and fast friends.

Ansell said the classes have improved her sense of balance, something she has needed as she's aged. Logan likes the way it has improved her focus.

Both appreciate the polite and courteous attitude among teachers and fellow members. They also like aikido's nonviolent approach, the way it teaches students to get out of harm's way and end the conflict as peacefully as possible.

It suggests neutralizing an opponent instead of pulverizing him. Aikido also stresses technique over speed and strength, and that's why Goldsmith thought it would be ideal for the over-55 crowd.

He modified the training for those whose bones are more brittle than they used to be. He took out the technique of falling to the mat and rolling away from the aggressor, a move regularly used in other aikido classes.

And he toned down the severity of moves that involved bending joints.

There haven't been any injuries, Goldsmith said.

During a recent class at Rowser led by Bob Kravetz, a 66-year-old who regularly hit the mats with a pop, he paired the older students with younger ones.

Kravetz reminded them of the guidelines.

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