Tim Hughes pulls Peter Leventis to a 90-degree angle while working on individual techniques.
TARPON SPRINGS – Inside his martial arts school along North Pinellas Avenue, Sensei Chris Leventis teaches his students how to defend themselves against the everyday attacks – muggers in alleys, drunk relatives at reunions and angry fans at baseball games.
Nihon Goshin Aikido is a form of Japanese self-defense, focused on using an attacker’s momentum against him or her. In Japanese, aikido translates to “the way in harmony with the spirit.”
“I like to say you have to blend with it,” said Leventis, a Tarpon Springs resident who has been studying and teaching Aikido for 24 years. “You can’t always get out of a jam with a kick and a punch.”
Most Aikido techniques follow the principle of the circle; if the assailant goes to the right, go to the right and create a circle of body parts. Other attacks call for triangle or square configurations, but all feature the same concept: blending with the attack.
“The beauty of this is that we can dictate the level of response,” Leventis said. “I can use a nerve pressure point to make you stop or I can break your arm.”
Each Aikido technique is typically associated with up to 20 applications, different scenarios in which the move could be useful. Once students have mastered the techniques and earned their purple belts, they will learn ura, or the reversal of tricks for a situation in which an attacker also knows Aikido.
“Eventually,” Leventis said, “it just becomes a big chess game.”
Because of its emphasis on self-defense, Leventis said Aikido is a great type of martial arts for women to learn as a form of rape prevention.
“You don’t need a lot of strength and power for Aikido,” he said. “Sometimes, too much strength is a problem.”
Aikido classes for children run from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays followed by adult classes from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Private classes also are available by appointment. Classes cost $85 a month with no contract, as well as a one-time membership fee for the Nihon Goshin Aikido Federation and $40 for the uniform. For more information or to register, go to www.aikischool.com or call 808-9911. The Aikido Academy is located at 11 N. Pinellas Ave.