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Local Instructor Teaches Students Art of Aikido at YMCA

Brian Hanke offers classes on Aikido after learning the art while living in Japan.

In any of life’s endeavors the opportunity to learn, teach and travel is considered an honor.

Local martial arts instructor Brian Hanke’s passion has allowed him the opportunity to do all three. Hanke started studying martial arts 34-years ago. He’s studied in two different countries—the United States and Japan—and currently teaches classes in Aikido at the .

The St. Peters classes meet 90-minutes once a week. Some are drawn to Aikido for physical fitness and some have studied other forms of martial arts are curious about Aikido, said Hanke. Hanke also said that Aikido is similar to Judo, as both are defensive forms of martial arts.

“Aikido and Judo people see a lot of things eye to eye,” he said. “Aikido is about diverting their attack, taking their balance, and putting yourself in an advantageous position.”

Hanke describes Aikido as being concerned with the area 360-degrees around the body. Practitioners must learn to be aware of an intruder that could approach from anywhere. 

Hanke said the first concept he teaches students is not to use Aikido to hurt people for no reason. But learning the martial art is certainly physically demanding, as students hit the mat several times in a session. Hanke said he emphasizes three skills: the ability to hit the floor smoothly without being hurt, awareness of the area surrounding the body, and the ability to go offline toward an aggressor.

He also stresses that students take the time to develop physically on their own because physical fitness is important in returning to your feet after being knocked down. Hanke said he likes students to learn various moves by performing them and that beginning, intermediate and advanced students to work together during the process.

The Aikido instructor took up karate when he was a college student at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He eventually studied Taekwondo during his college years. Hanke travelled to Japan in the 1980’s and studied Aikido. He holds a black belt in Karate, Taekwondo, and Aikido. Hanke lived in Japan 12 years.

“I wanted to see what was the source,” Hanke said on living in Japan.

Naturally, Hanke learned through exposure to another culture.

“Society is the water through which they swim,” he said. “And this is something they know. We don’t know this. Westerners think they are the universe, it’s in their skin. We’re very, very self centered. We really think that the universe revolves around us. People from Asian cultures don’t. They are very familiar with the term of society and they recognize their place in it. I learned that if you’re paying attention you are present to the dynamics of society.”  

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