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Bridging martial arts and non-violence at Canning's Floating Bridge Centre for Learning

Oakley Moser is one of the students at Floating Bridge Centre for Learning.
Oakley Moser is one of the students at Floating Bridge Centre for Learning. - Contributed

A multi-discipline martial arts centre for learning in Canning is teaching how aikido can be used to meet violence and aggression with loving kindness and compassion.

The Floating Bridge Centre for Learning is promoting the use of the skills of aikido, as well as Tai Chi, meditation and sound healing, to de-escalate conflict and encourage self-knowledge and personal growth as well as fitness.

Dawn Higgins, one of the founders of the centre, said in a recent interview that aikido is a relatively modern martial art, also known as the "art of non-resistance." Students, she says, can approach it simply as a fitness regime or as a philosophical worldview and a spiritual discipline.

“Aikido is essentially evolving our response to stress and conflict by offering different paths people can take to meet the challenges of their world with creativity and curiosity rather than perpetuating conflict and stress and illness," Higgins said.

"If you are seeking body, mind and spirit development, aikido is for you.”

The name Floating Bridge comes from a Japanese creation myth, where two gods stand together on the floating bridge between heaven and earth from which they create everything.

Higgins said the centre is currently holding classes in various locations and building its student base. Future plans include acquiring a building to house the only traditional residence program for Canadian and international aikido students east of Montreal.

"Our centre does not have one specific location yet. It really is floating," she said.

All-ages appeal

The centre's co-founder and head instructor or sensei, Andrew Haight, has been practicing and teaching the art of aikido for nearly 30 years. The fourth-degree black belt said the centre's students range from age six to 72 and contends the practice is beneficial for students of all ages.

“We don’t teach a kid how to defend themselves in a fight, but rather how to gain confidence and be able to stand their ground without using violence to fight violence," he explained.

"When they come towards me, I don’t slam them on the mat. But rather, I help send them in a direction and teach them how to roll their body in a safe way. They know I’m not trying to hurt them, and we are having fun within the movement.”

Older adults benefit from a martial arts practice which is vigorous but not violent, he adds.

“They are moving the body within their physical limitations. This helps with flexibility and keeping and maintaining leg strength and stride to help with walking and moving. This keeps both mind and body active,” he said.

Peaceful marshal art

Warner Himsl has been a student at Floating Bridge for two years. While a lot of other martial arts are pretty combative, responding to violence with more violence, aikido appeals to him because it responds to force in a peaceful way, in an effort to work towards the cessation of violence.

“Society is very competitive. In our busy environment, we are losing sight of compassion for our fellow human beings and the importance of it," he said in an interview.

"Participating in a peaceful martial art that does not perpetuate violence is rewarding spiritually and physically for me."

He believes it will also appeal to others.

“If you are a peaceful person and you want to be able to respond to physical aggression in a non-violent way, that actually feels rewarding rather than feeling guilty for harming the other individual, then aikido is the right art for you," he said.

More information on the Floating Bridge Centre for Learning is available at https://floatingbridgecfl.com

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