Aikido in Preventing Recidivism
In the fall of 1996 one of the members of the Pennsylvania dojo was charged with possession of marijuana and mushrooms. He was given a choice of either being kicked out of the dojo or continuing to train if he signed a contract, agreeing to train every day for six months. He would have to pay all his dues on time and attend all special trainings, including the 6 A.M. early morning trainings and special 3-day intensive trainings. He would have to get to the dojo early enough to set up and clean the mats before class. He also had to agree to be there and help with the kids classes.
After meeting with Lia Sensei and his parents, the probation officer recommended to the judge that the agreement be one of the conditions of his probation and the judge agreed.
I want to explain a little about what training aikido has meant to me and how it has made a positive change in my life.
I had been training with Lia Sensei for about six months, I enjoyed the training, but my attendance wasn’t so great and my heart wasn’t really into it. I was 15 years old and I was starting to drink and do drugs – mostly marijuana. My parents thought my attitude was changing, but I didn’t really see it at the time. Maybe I was just being 15.
To make a long story short, I was eventually apprehended by the authorities and charged with possession of marijuana and mushrooms. I also got caught at some petty vandalism that caused me and my parents a lot of grief. With great trepidation I told Lia Sensei, and she offered me a choice. According to the rules I should have been thrown out of the dojo. She told me I could continue to train if I agreed to train every day, no exceptions – six days a week for six months. I would have to pay all my dues on time and attend all special trainings especially the 6 A.M. early morning trainings. That meant waking up before 5 to get to the dojo to set up and clean the mats. I also had to agree to be there and help with the kids classes. I said I would do it.
Lia Sensei, my parents and I met with my probation officer and he recommended to the judge that our agreement be one of the conditions of my probation. It was hell. Well, at first anyway.
The two senior students in the dojo also knew about my agreement with Sensei and they really didn’t cut me any slack. I trained hard those six months. After a while my endurance started to build up and the marijuana burned out of my system. To my surprise, I really began to have a lot of fun with the kids’ class who all called me Jack Sensei. Lia Sensei eventually turned the class over to me most nights. Seeing the kids develop and improve gave me a lot of pride. I don’t know if it was true, but the senior students in the dojo told me I was improving too and Sensei tested me for third kyu.
When my six months was up I almost regretted not having the structure there, but I continued to train pretty hard anyway. I think the whole experience really changed me. It took me a while after the six months was over to really figure out how I had changed, but in a way I’m actually glad it happened to me. I think I have a lot more self confidence and focus now. I know that I can get through tough challenges because I proved to myself that I can keep going when I have to. That may sound kind of corny, but it seems really true. To this day, more than five years later, I’m still realizing the benefits of aikido and the challenge that Lia Sensei gave me.
6-Month Contract for Drug Offender:
I realize that item number 9 in the release form of Aikido Kenkyukai Pennsylvania clearly states, “The use of illegal drugs will be cause for immediate dismissal from the dojo.” I also realize that I am receiving this chance to remain an active student in the dojo only because I was not aware of this item in the release form, due to the fact that I never signed it. I do however, realize that the use of any drugs, illegal or otherwise is not conducive to my progress in a martial art and furthermore, unnecessarily endangers myself and other participating members.
I agree to abide by the following guidelines from the present until March 31, 1997, at which time my conduct will be evaluated and this agreement will be reviewed for possible revision and renewal.
- I’ll be picked up at my school every day by either Lia Suzuki or someone specifically sent by her.
- I’ll have the proper equipment necessary when I’m picked up.
- I’ll be responsible for the upkeep of my own equipment – I’ll wash and repair my own gi, etc.
- I’ll attend all scheduled Aikido Kenkyukai PA classes.
- I’ll attend all scheduled Aikido Kenkyukai PA special seminars.
- I’ll attend any seminars other than Aikido Kenkyukai PA seminars if Lia Suzuki is also attending or deems fit that I attend.
- In the case of injury or sickness, which does not allow me to train, I will still attend the above mentioned seminars and classes to watch the training.
- I’ll be responsible for the full amount of all monthly dues, seminar fees, and expenses incurred.
Signature and date
AKI USA has provided over $25,000 worth of services to those in need. Recipients have included low-income children and veterans and their families. We believe that financial strain should never be a reason to not experience the benefits of Aikido training.
Taking Aikido "Off the Mat"
Since 1999, we’ve been involved in ongoing projects employing Aikido in work addressing substance misuse and emotional/behavioral problems. We’ve offered workshops and seminars to jail inmates, recovering addicts, mental health patients, veterans with PTSD, and other under-served populations. The dojo also has collaborated with Probation Departments, by creating Aikido programs for At-Risk youth.
Peaceful Resolution of Conflict
Aikido, “The Art of Peace”, offers tools for the peaceful resolution of conflict, helping to put an end to violence in our communities. Aikido techniques do not utilize strikes. Instead, the attacker is subdued, using deflection and timing.
Humanitarian & Philanthropic Projects
"I want to explain a little about what training Aikido has meant to me and how it has made a positive change in my life.
I had been training with Lia Sensei for about six months. I was 15 years old and I was starting to drink and do drugs - mostly marijuana.
To make a long story short, I was eventually apprehended by the authorities and charged with possession of marijuana and mushrooms.
Lia Sensei told me I could continue to be a member of the dojo if I agreed to train every day, no exceptions - six days a week for six months. I would have to attend all special trainings, even the 6 A.M. early morning trainings. That meant waking up before 5 to get to the dojo to set up and clean the mats. I also had to agree to be there and help with the kids classes. I said I would do it.
Lia Sensei, my parents and I met with my probation officer and he recommended to the judge that our dojo agreement be one of the conditions of my probation. It was hell. Well, at first anyway.
I think the whole experience really changed me. I think I have a lot more self confidence and focus now. I know that I can get through tough challenges because I proved to myself that I can keep going when I have to.
To this day, more than five years later, I’m still realizing the benefits of Aikido and the challenge that Lia Sensei gave me."
"Hello. I am Justin, an aikidoist who was once diagnosed as having acute schizophrenia.
Through encouragement from Aikido Kenkyukai and its Pennsylvania dojo, I have found My Aikido - training my mind and my will to move beyond hardship and toil.
From Lia Sensei's helping me start Aikido, through Kirisawa Sensei, and now with Steve Sensei, I have learned many difficult meanings lost within a sickened mind, at which there is much undoing to be done.
I feel unable to speak of the joy and wonder I can achieve, together with the support of my fellows.
Now my future ahead at least, looks promising.
"I was an inmate in the La Morada Women's Minimum Security Jail in the summer of 2000. During that time I was fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in some workshops given by Lia Suzuki. Lia Sensei was teaching something she called ACT (AiKi Conflict Transformation)."
"I would like to tell you how, on several occassions, Lia's teachings were incorporated into situations that might have otherwise become volatile. Anger was met with kindness and even the guards commented on how well we handled our conflicts."
"I have been a productive member of society for six years now and still incorporate Lia's teachings, when necessary, into my life."
"As a founding member of the Aikido for Veterans Project ("AFV"), Lia Suzuki Sensei and Aikido Kenkyukai International USA are committed to helping military veterans returning from war ease the transition from military to civilian life through the practice of Aikido.
In August, Suzuki Sensei traveled to Boulder, Colorado to volunteer as a guest instructor at the first Aikido for Veterans Seminar targeted toward military veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ("PTSD").
The seminar successfully introduced veterans to breathing and mindfulness techniques and Aikido techniques focused especially on centering and balance while moving, as well as Aiki Conflict Transformation principles.
Suzuki Sensei also serves as an active Advisor to AFV and is helping the group coordinate additional seminars for veterans in the future."
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