Black belt a perfect fit for Downey
Aikido is a perfect fit for Patrick Downey; the non-aggressive martial art is without "macho" elements, allowing a deep focus purely on flexibility and movement.
A lengthy relationship with the Nelson dojo has seen Downey complete his shodan (adult black belt), after practising the self-defence art in Nelson since he was 7 years old.
Downey, 24, was one of 10 students from the Aikido Nelson and Motueka club, who successfully negotiated grading at the Tahunanui dojo on Saturday.
The students were aged from mid-20s to mid-50s, every student successfully passing their test ranging from the fifth kyu grade through to shodan.
With the Nelson dojos recently joining the national Aikido organisation called Shinryukan New Zealand, the students were graded by the head master Nobuo Takase Sensei. A New Zealand resident, Takase Sensei is personally credited for building a strong Aikido organisation with dojos in every large town in the country.
Instructor Martin Hartman, of Mahana, said it was an honour to have Takase Sensei teach a seminar and grade in Nelson. Hartman said his students had represented their dojo and their region with pride. "They did exceptionally well," said Hartman.
"Takase Sensei was very happy. He said we had a very high level of knowledge and expertise."
Hartman (fifth Dan) and Cornelia Baumgartner (fourth Dan) began training Aikido in Switzerland in 1978.
After moving to New Zealand 25 years ago they founded the Nelson and Motueka Dojo and have since taught hundreds of juniors and beginners.
One of them, Downey, started as an Aikido beginner in 1995 and features in many of the old pictures on the wall of the Nelson Dojo. Downey earned his junior black belt in Nelson in 2005 before going to study in Wellington; seven years later he is back in Nelson and has now made shodan.
"It is really good fitness and flexibility, a pretty unique way of using your body," Downey said.
"You are able to just focus on your body. It allows me to focus in a way that other exercise has not given me."
Downey said he started practising a martial art for the same reason many young children did, although it was the uniqueness of Aikido that kept him coming back.
"Like lots of little boys I wanted to do a martial art and Aikido was a good fit for me. It is not overly aggressive and doesn't have a lot of the macho culture associated with it that some of the other martial arts do."
Hartman said it was pleasing to see someone like Downey returning to Nelson and continuing with the martial art.
"Its very satisfying and also very inspiring for the kids and teenagers we have," Hartman said.
"They can see where it leads to if they keep training."
Aikido is a Japanese martial art developed so that practitioners could use it to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury.
It is a non-competitive, non-aggressive art performed by merging with the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of the strike rather than meeting it head-on.
The techniques are completed with throws or joint locks in demonstrations only.
The Nelson Mail