BY CLAIRE HARLIN
Have you ever passed through Seagrove Park in Del Mar on a Sunday morning and seen a group of about 10 men and women wearing samurai garb and fighting with sticks?
Well, those sticks are actually called a “jos,” those skirt-like pants are known as the “hakama,” and those moves are part of Aikido — which means “the path to harmony with energy.”
Every once in a while, the upper level students of North County Aikikai, located at 813 Academy Drive in Solana Beach, take their Japanese martial art beachside to share it with those outside their studio, better known as a “dojo.” Their next practice at Seagrove Park is on Oct. 23 at 10 a.m.
Many of these students have been practicing Aikido for more than 15 years and some have even grown up learning under the dojo’s leader, Sensei Coryl Crane, who has been teaching in Solana Beach for 20 years. The practice is one of long-term dedication, Crane said.
“It’s about a process of inner growth,” she said. “You gain a sense of strength that comes from being centered and balanced.”
Unlike many martial arts, Aikido is not about fighting or asserting strength over others.
“It’s about the opponent in ourselves,” said Crane. “It’s about neutralizing a force of energy coming toward us and blending with it,” she said. “It’s not about attacking back, it’s about how you respond to the attack. You harmonize, blend, unbalance and neutralize, with no harm to the attacker. It’s not force against force; it’s force against intelligence.”
North County Aikikai student RC Miles sought out Aikido when he started working in the security field, which took him to dangerous locations and situations where “force was probable,” he said.
“I wanted to find a martial art that would teach me to use force to control situations without putting someone in the hospital,” said Miles, who has studied under Crane, his fourth master, for four years.
People come to Aikido for a number of reasons, including self defense and exercise — “You get a good workout,” Crane said. It is also one of the few martial arts that uses weapons, and very experienced students practice with live blades.
Others come because they are interested in the philosophy of Aikido, said Crane.
“They’ve read about Aikido and they appreciate the values of love and harmony.”
Those principles are what enticed Crane, as well as a number of her students, to dedicate their lives to Aikido. Crane, a sixth-degree black belt, was trained by someone who practiced under the art’s founder. A former stained glass artist, Crane discovered Aikido by walking by a studio in La Jolla in 1977, and the rest was history.
“I connected with what was going on there without even knowing what it was,” she said.
Miles said Crane is a special instructor in that she cares about her students’ practice as much as she cares about them “as human beings, as people living together in society.”
A young-looking 67 years old, Crane “has a sharp eye and doesn’t miss anything,” Miles said.
“I’ve seen other masters comment on her technique,” he said. “She’s very precise.”
To find out more about North County Aikikai, which offers both adult and kids’ classes, visit www.NCAikikai.com.