David Neville took up a new hobby seven years ago when things in life were not going his way and he needed to try something new. Neville said he was unemployed, angry and depressed, but the minute he first walked onto the mat and learned aikido, he forgot about all of it.
Neville, assistant professor of German and director of language learning technologies at Elon, is in the process of bringing a new club to campus called the aikido club.
Aikido is a Japanese martial art, and the club is designed for students who have an interest in becoming more physically fit, learning defense skills and are interested in Japanese culture.
The club is open to anyone, Neville said.
“Anyone can do (aikido),” he said. “I’ve worked with women in their mid-60s. It’s not a question of strength, it’s really technique and physics and movement.”
Although there is sometimes a perception that women cannot do martial arts, they bring skills to aikido that men often have to learn, according to Neville.
Twenty-eight students have already signed up for the club. Once the club formulates bylaws, compiles the list of interested students and submits both documents to Janis Baughman, director of student activities, the club will obtain official university recognition.
Kristen Unger, a doctoral student in physical therapy, is a first-degree black belt in aikido and will help teach the aikido club. She has been doing the martial art for 10 years.
Unger said she likes aikido because she can apply the main concepts of non-resistance, flow and relaxation to everyday life.
“The art improves your physical coordination, balance and ability to defuse and deal with confrontational situations effectively both on and off the mat,” Unger said.
Neville said he thinks practicing aikido really helped his mental health. That is something Neville hopes aikido can bring to people at Elon.
“For students here at Elon, they have their different stresses, be it relationships, homework, whatever,” Neville said. “I hope that they will be able to manage (those stresses), flow with them and deal with them.”
Unger agrees that aikido can help manage stress. She said it helps students learn to relax, which she thinks improves grades, focus and concentration.
In the area are two places to practice aikido. One location is in Greensboro and another in Durham.
Neville continues to gauge interested students and faculty. He said it is a great hobby and is something students can continue doing anywhere they land after graduation.