Aikido Training for Women: Harness Your Potential

By Wendy Harnwell, as seen in the County Women’s Journal, June/July 2008

You wake up and realize that a stranger has broken into your bedroom. Or your husband drank too much and is threatening “to smack some sense into you.” How can you keep yourself safe without permanently hurting him?  Walking to your car, in the mall parking lot, heavily laden with packages, you notice a creepy guy near your car. Can you trust your gut and if so how do you handle the situation? Or the guy you had a drink with now has hold of your wrist and wants to “take you to another club that he knows about.” He’s making you nervous and you don’t want to go with but you also don’t want to cause a big scene. How can you get him to let go? These are situations in which someone is trying to control, violate or destroy your safety, health, peace of mind, money, time, or even your life.

“Aikido has taught me to wait for my moment, to pick my battles and to have intention in my actions, to stay committed to a chosen path of action and see it through,” asserts one aikido practitioner. Aikido is a martial art that serves women “on and off the mat.” It emphasizes that women are capable and have options, and that there is always a way to frame a situation so that size and strength don’t determine the outcome of the struggle. With aikido training women move out of the “victim mentality”, understanding that the only enemies we really ever fight are our own feelings of anxiety, panic and helplessness. Aikido training emphasizes that intuition, attention and gut instinct are significant allies in personal safety. A black belt candidate says, ”Aikido helps women develop their strengths…timing, agility, grace, observation and psychology as opposed to brute force.” Lower ranked women have success also: “…it’s a great feeling for a small-sized woman to throw a hefty man down with sheer centralized power, rather than physical strength.”

Aikido classes consist of warm-up and stretching exercises for the body and focusing exercises for the mind. Demonstrations and practicing take up the bulk of the classes that are generally one hour long. Aikido training teaches powerful and highly adaptive self-defense techniques that are actually even more beneficial for the mind and spirit than the body. “Many women have not experienced this type of physical conflict and resolution,” observes one dojo member. The physicality of the learning experience of Aikido, as opposed to lectures and reading, drives the lessons deep into the psyche and muscle memory.

A teen who started aikido as a child says, “Aikido has taught me how to face the impossible and never to get frustrated, never to give up, to focus my energy… It has been a positive force in my life for 10 years…the benefits I reap have grown exponentially.” Aikido takes years to learn to do perfectly. But each individual class offers immediate benefits such as physical exercise, stress relief, social contact and fun!

Author Wendy Harnwell holds a brown belt in aikido and is a member of Wilmington Aikido. She says, “You live your life on many levels, moving through a multitude of social interactions. Aikido training will serve you in all of them.”

Wilmington Aikido is owned by Sensei Rick Berry, who holds the rank of 5th degree black belt and is the author of Stepping off the Mat. Sensei Berry shares his aikido expertise and his life wisdom on the mat and off. Read his blog at

The Wilmington Aikido Dojo is a community of people who are all moving forward in their lives and welcome you to join them on the path.