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Gaining confidence, tranquility through Aikido

Silvia Eschenlauer, Ramstein Youth Center Aikido instructor, demonstrates defense techniques to a youth Aikido class on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 11, 2012. Eschenlauer teaches Aikido to children of the Kaiserslautern Military Community Tuesdays 5:45 to 6:30p.m. and 6:30 to 7:15p.m. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Holly Cook)

Silvia Eschenlauer, Ramstein Youth Center Aikido instructor, demonstrates defense techniques to a youth Aikido class on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 11, 2012. Eschenlauer teaches Aikido to children of the Kaiserslautern Military Community Tuesdays 5:45 to 6:30p.m. and 6:30 to 7:15p.m. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Holly Cook)

Members of the Youth Aikido class practice different defensive techniques at the Youth Center on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 11, 2012. The children participate in the Aikido class to learn self-defense techniques Tuesdays from 5:45 to 6:30p.m. and 6:30 to 7:15p.m. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Holly Cook)

Members of the Youth Aikido class practice different defensive techniques at the Youth Center on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 11, 2012. The children participate in the Aikido class to learn self-defense techniques Tuesdays from 5:45 to 6:30p.m. and 6:30 to 7:15p.m. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Holly Cook)

Members of the Youth Aikido class practice different defensive techniques at the Youth Center on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 11, 2012. The children participate in the Aikido class to learn self-defense techniques Tuesdays from 5:45 to 6:30p.m. and 6:30 to 7:15p.m. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Holly Cook)

Members of the Youth Aikido class practice different defensive techniques at the Youth Center on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 11, 2012. The children participate in the Aikido class to learn self-defense techniques Tuesdays from 5:45 to 6:30p.m. and 6:30 to 7:15p.m. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Holly Cook)

Members of the Youth Aikido class practice different defensive techniques at the Youth Center on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 11, 2012. The children participate in the Aikido class to learn self-defense techniques Tuesdays from 5:45 to 6:30p.m. and 6:30 to 7:15p.m. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Holly Cook)

Members of the Youth Aikido class practice different defensive techniques at the Youth Center on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 11, 2012. The children participate in the Aikido class to learn self-defense techniques Tuesdays from 5:45 to 6:30p.m. and 6:30 to 7:15p.m. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Holly Cook)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Peace, confidence and self-awareness.

Mastering these qualities is just part of what children learn in the youth Aikido class.

According to www.senshiaikikai.com, Aikido, also known as the "Art of Peace," is a traditional Japanese martial art that was developed in the 1920s. The art teaches students to redirect the energy of the attack rather than challenging it. When using this technique, the aggressor loses balance and is thrown off or immobilized.

Since April, the class here has taught more than 150 children, aged 5 to 12, averaging 15 students per class.

"With Aikido you don't have to be young or skinny; it's built for everyone," said Silvia Eschenlauer Ramstein Aikido class instructor. "I can show the children how to use skills that don't need a lot of muscular abilities to perform."

Having the larger age range for the class allows the students practice the art with others who may be larger, smaller, older or younger. Due to the Aikido principle of "non-resistance," the children perform techniques against opponents of any size or age.

"Practicing in class with someone who is bigger than them lets them know that they can defend themselves against any size opponent," Eschenlauer said. "It helps build their sense of freedom and confidence." 

When the students practice techniques on each other in class, Eschenlauer coaches them on what they are doing right and wrong.

"Seeing the children receive reassurance from me and their partner, lets me know that they are learning," said Eschenlauer. "When they practice the technique multiple times, and get it right, I can see it in their eyes that they are more self-assured."

Students see the difference in themselves as well.

"It builds my confidence and strength when I get to work with the other kids," said Austin Horton son of Senior Master Sgt. Stephen Horton, superintendent of United States Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs, after being asked about his favorite part of the class.

Learning self-confidence, tranquility, timing and balance are key ingredients in the youth Aikido classes, which run from 5:45 to 6:30p.m. and 6:30 to 7:15p.m. on Tuesdays.

Deriving from the Samurai way of life, Eschenlauer uses Aikido qualities of martial spirit, humility, effective technique and intense training to show children that it's not about their size, it's about their will.