Aikido: The art of peace

Addressing conflict with balance at the Shala with Aikido instructor John Launius

John Launius has dedicated thirty-one years to teaching Aikido, yet he offers an unconventional piece of advice on the best martial art for self-defense: Track and Field. According to him, the surest way to avoid harm is simply to escape the attacker’s reach—emphasizing peace and practicality over confrontation.

However, escape isn’t always an option. When evasion fails, facing the threat becomes inevitable. This is the crux of Launius’s training. Eschewing the traditional garb and grappling of standard Aikido, his “soft-style” approach focuses on minimal contact. Students learn a ‘Stun-And-Run’ strategy—disorienting the assailant long enough to make a safe getaway.

Enrollment in these sessions isn’t merely a transaction—it’s an investment in personal safety. For around $200, members can access ten classes, a value underscored by Launius’s impressive credentials, including his stint as a defense contractor for the Department of Homeland Security. More than just a martial arts instructor, John is a mentor whose worth can only be fully appreciated through personal interaction. Details and registration are available on the Aikido event page on the calendar to register.

Aikido training at Conscious Shala

John Launius often highlights Stephen Segal as a pivotal figure in American Aikido—a sentiment echoed by many of his long-time students. Beyond his cinematic exploits, Segal adapted Aikido into a practical, effective self-defense system. John praises Segal’s approach for its street readiness and spiritual depth, noting, “Segal’s style is street-effective and contains a deep spiritual element.” Those curious about this style can explore a 52-minute documentary available on YouTube.

In Segal’s teachings, there’s no pulling punches; strikes aim close to their target, and falls aren’t performed unless genuinely compelled by the assailant’s force. This authenticity is central to the Aikido John teaches at the Shala, emphasizing the ‘honesty of the attack.’ John asserts in his classes, “If you are not trying to make contact with your training partner when you are attacking, then there is no real attack, and so there can be no real defense.” He advocates for a generous, physically honest approach in training to prepare students for real-world confrontations—where practice failures translate to real-world success.

“If you are not trying to make contact with your training partner when you are attacking, then there is no real attack, and so there can be no real defense,” John often says during classes. Going further to add, “We need to be generous with our bodies so that the people who train with us can learn to defend against themselves. The goal is for you fail when you practice in here so you can succeed when it really matters, out there.

This training attracts a diverse group, from Burners looking to apply movement skills from fire dancing to safety-conscious college students, to those seeking community within the Shala. The consensus among participants is clear: they gain far more than anticipated, finding both skill and solidarity from their first session onward.

The Path Beyond Thought (2001)

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