Taste of Japan in central Moscow

A Japanese aikido guru has held a masterclass in Moscow to inspire students of the martial art which promotes peace and harmony.

Aikido is derived from the samurai fighting techniques of ancient Japan and started to extend its global appeal over the past two decades. Students are taught to use their attacker's aggression and power against them. This is done through the use of throws, joint locks and pins.

The Yoshikan style has the second largest aikido organization worldwide and is often called the hard style because of its hard training methods. It emphasizes self-defense techniques and is one of the martial arts taught to the Tokyo police.

So despite its physical demands, the aim of Yoshikan is not about attacking your opponent but restoring a state of calm as eighth dan master Takeniko Sonoda explains:

“Every martial art's aim is not to fight. The aim is peace, because peace is very difficult to achieve. If we want to make peace we have to be strong, not only against the enemy, but strong inside ourselves.”

The dramatic nature of the moves means aikido can be adapted for Hollywood action films, which have helped spark a worldwide interest in the martial art.

“It happened when I was just ten years old, and I was very impressed by the aikido of Steven Segal, and this movie star impressed me very much. I tried to find something like this, where you can control your opponent very easily and do it very effectively,” says Viktor Rudakov an aikido practitioner.

Actor Steven Segal is a 7th dan black belt in aikido and is the first foreigner to operate a dojo or a training center in Japan. His films have helped make aikido more popular and attractive. Students of Yoshikan also value the philosophy behind the fighting.

“First of all, it's the spiritual development. Of course, the physical development is important because I have to keep fit, its one aspect, but the spiritual development is more important for me because when I understand that I develop my spirit and my mood and everything in me, inside and outside me, I think Yoshinkan is one of the best things in the world,” says the masterclass attendant Irina Senincheva.

Judging by the all round benefits these students can gain from such a demanding martial art it’s difficult to argue against that.