COVINGTON, Ga. - The Aikido School of Self Defense will celebrate 20 years of being in business Dec. 3.
The school is operated by Sensei (pronounced Sen-Say) Michael A. Stabile, his wife, Sensei Ginger, and their daughter, Sensei Danielle.
After training in Middletown, New York, the Stabiles opened their first dojo on Iris Drive in 1997 offering classes in the art of Nihon Goshin Aikido.
The family-owned and -operated school is currently in the Salem Square Shopping Center at 3281 Salem Road. It is the oldest Nihon Goshin Aikido school outside the New York/New Jersey area.
Sensei Michael explained the meaning of the art.
“It means Japanese self-defense in the way of harmony with the energy,” he said. “The energy of your attacker.”
Sensei Michael also explained the word “sensei” directly translates to teacher.
“The Japanese, or more philosophical, which is how I like to say it, is ‘One who has gone before,’” he added.
The Stabiles made the decision to relocate to Georgia after coming for a visit.
“As soon as the airport doors opened up in Atlanta and I smelled the air,” said Sensei Michael, “I looked at her and said ‘This is where we need to be.’”
Sensei Michael said he felt lucky their dojo has lasted.
“We got lucky. Having a traditional dojo that lasted five years was a big thing,” he said, “I don’t teach aerobic kickboxing. I don’t teach Tae Bo. I don’t have all these other things.
“I teach Nihon Goshin Aikido. We have a class in the morning. We have a class in the evening.”
The Aikido School of Self Defense also does not teach on contracts.
“What separates us is that we don’t have contracts,” Sensei Michael said, “If you don’t like what we’re doing, or if it’s too hard, you’re free to go and you owe us nothing.
“And, if you wanted to, you can come six days a week, which is another thing most places don’t do.”
Asked about a comparison to sports such as judo, Sensei Michael explained the difference.
“It’s more of a martial art, which meant the way of the military, than a sport,” he said.
“What we teach in here, if it doesn’t work out there, we’re not teaching it in here.”
Sensei Ginger put it succinctly.
“A sport competes,” she said,” We don’t compete.”
The Stabiles say they operate a traditional dojo with between 30-40 students ranging from 4 to 70 years of age. Some students travel from as far away as Marietta and Milledgeville to train.
“We teach you what you can do. Our goal is not to make you a martial artist, but to make you feel safe out there. We’re here to help people.”
Aikido students learn to use an aggressor’s momentum to their advantage.
“The bigger they are, they harder they fall,” Sensei Michael said.
Sensei Ginger said, “We can’t do Akido unless somebody actually attacks us in some way, whether they grip us, or actually throw a punch. Then we can defend ourselves.”
Sensei Michael added,” Inside of Nihon Goshin Aikido there’s karate, there’s judo, there’s jiu-jitsu, there’s a lot of different things, so that nothing is left.
“That’s why we only teach this — because we believe this is all you need. This is a very traditional art.”
Students can also learn to defend themselves against larger assailants.
Sensei Michael said most people who walk in door for the first time are looking to learn self-defense.
“Some people say they want to learn boxing. I tell them they’re in the wrong place. If they say ‘I want to win trophies,’ I tell them they’re in the wrong place.
“I will not mislead anybody.”
Asked the secret to the dojo’s longevity, Sensei Michael said, “We opened the dojo with three words in mind: honor, loyalty and respect.”
“Our phone numbers are right there on the door, so our students can always get us. If they have an emergency, or they have a question they want to ask. The first thing I do when somebody joins the dojo, I say, ‘Welcome to the family.’”
The Aikido School of Self Defense also offers self-defense classes for school, work and church groups. For more information visit their website at aikidoschool.com.