77 year old Aikido master hopes to see the benefits of the martial art spread to Pohnpei

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By Bill Jaynes The Kaselehlie Press Pohnpei, FSM—JULY 2017
17 year old Kai Rekdahl, a first degree black belt in the Martial Art of Aikido, held up his hand as if ready to strike Sinsei Mutsuko Minegishi over the breakfast table at Ocean View. Minegishi is 60 years older than Rekdahl but nietherneither of her breakfast companions were at all worried. Even if Rekdahl actually did want to hurt her, he would not likely have been able to do so. Minegishi has been practicing and promoting Aikido all over the world since she was 32 years old. She reached up and gently guided Rekdahl’s hand in another direction. “He means me harm,” she said, “but I don’t want to hurt him so I redirect his energy in a way like water flows so that neither of us is hurt.” It was a small demonstration of the principles of Aikido. Minegishi had asked Rekdahl, who has been practicing the martial art with her at least three times a week since he was nine years old, because “Aikido requires to practice with a partner. I needed him to assist me,” Minegishi wrote in an email.

Rekdahl’s entire family of six are involved in Aikido in Guam. His parents, his younger sisters and his youngest brother who is five years old are all involved. Minegishi, who has promoted Aikido in 35 countries, was in Pohnpei in early June to promote Aikido here. “Founded by Morihei Ueshiba, Aikido is a martial art that focuses on harmonizing with your opponent to bring peaceful resolutions to situations involving conflict,” an Aikido website said. While in Pohnpei, Minegishi spent the mornings teaching a group of young people that grew in number each day. In the evenings, after business hours she taught adults. She used the rest of the time to talk with community leaders and groups about the Aikido and its benefits. She also has been looking for an ideal candidate to lead Aikido in Pohnpei. That’s not an easy task. Her standards for an Aikido teacher are high and are not solely related to the person’s knowledge of the techniques of Aikido. The person must be a self-disciplined, physical and spiritual role model for the students.

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She also worked to find a volunteer who would be willing to handle the administrative details of running an Aikido program here, someone separate from the Aikido teacher. Minegishi is member of the Rotary Club of Tumon Bay. While in Pohnpei she also visited the Rotary Club of Pohnpei hoping to drum up support for establishing an Aikido program here. She said that along with a training location, mats are essential. Aikidogi, the loose fitting “uniform” of the martial arts are also necessary since some of the moves practiced involve gripping the clothing of the opponent. But Minegishi would probably disagree with the use of the word “opponent” as would most practitioners of Aikido. Aikido is not a competitive sport, and even the word “sport” is probably unacceptable as we understood. You will never see an Aikido competition at the Olympic Games or anywhere else. Advancement in Aikido is not achieved by besting an opponent but by demonstrating proficiency in techniques that become increasingly difficult as rank increases. Those who practice Aikido work in cooperation with a partner, “still employing effective techniques against an energetic and realistic attack, yet doing so by blending with the attack and redirecting its energy back to the attacker,” the Aikido web page said. Minegishi said that many police officers in Japan are trained in the art of Aikido because it allows them to subdue attackers without brutal or deadly force. She is the Chief Instructor at “Guam Aikikai” and is currently finalizing plans for a new dojo, a facility for Aikido in Guam. She intends to bring in potential instructors from several countries on a scholarship basis for intensive training in the art so that they can take Aikido back to their home countries. Aikido is especially helpful for self-defense and for situations where aggressors need to be subdued.
She said that last July Guam Aikikai held a special seminar regarding “Violence against women and children”. Students from Kiribati, Guam, Thailand, and New Caledonia attended the seminar. She hopes that she can also help to enable Pohnpeians to defend themselves in a non-harmful way. Minegishi said that one of her regrets is that she started the practice of Aikido so late in her life. She said that children are much more agile and learn more quickly but added that it’s never too late to start. New people came into her classes every day, and as is the way at any Aikido dojo, the more experienced students helped the new students to understand what was going on. “It’s never too late to start”, she said. “The goal is theo develop to the highest level of growth that our inborn potential allows. It’s not a competition. A coconut is not a banana. There is no comparing; no competition. A green belt is not envious of a black belt and a black belt does not look down on green belt.” She said that it’s all about the joy of personal achievement and realizing that we are all one a part of the universe and everyone has an equal right to live and develop.

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