Aikido teaches women awareness |

Aikido teaches women awareness

When someone throws a verbal or physical punch, Mark Zamarin shows how he moves to the side, letting the impact of the violent words or blow pass across his shoulder. It’s an example of what he calls "de-escalating a fight," a lesson he has learned through Aikido, and part of the curriculum he teaches through his Park City Aikido classes, and his monthly Women’s Self Defense Class.

Zamarin, the founder of Park City Aikido, has been teaching his Women’s Self Defense Training class for six years. He began to share tools from the non-violent, non-aggressive Japanese martial art with women in the community when his daughter entered college. Now, he is trying to expand the course.

"The main thing is, I reject the notion that women should be victims," he says. "You have to stand up for your life the way you want it."

Zamarin recalls the first class he taught had 15 to 20 Park City High School graduates. He quickly realized that the mothers were also interested in the course. Now, taught at the Park City Racquet Club, the classes are held on the first Saturday of each month from 1 to 3 p.m. for $5.50.

A pilot for 27 years, Zamarin discovered Aikido when he moved to Park City two decades ago, after studying Karate for several years. Aikido is a "softer" form of martial art, with the ultimate goal of harmony. The name translates to "the way of harmony with the spirit of the universe," in English. When confronted by an attacker, the Aikidoist doesn’t strike back, push, pull or dodge, but rather enters and blends, according to Zamarin.

Zamarin has a worldwide certification through the Wagokan Aikido Suren Dojo in Osaka, Japan, he says. The art and is derived from many of Japan’s traditional "budo arts," namely Dito Ryu Aiki Jutsu. Aikido movements can cause bodily damage or death, but its goal is peace, says Zamarin.

By instructing women strictly on self-defense techniques, such as hand grabs, Zamarin claims, women can save themselves from 95 percent of the dangerous encounters they could find themselves in. It’s a matter of reacting appropriately within the first six seconds of an encounter, and coping with a surprise attack, he says.

"This is a crash-course in Aikido headwork, meaning we try and make you aware of where your brain is at," Zamarin explains. "If you survive an initial grab, and get through the first moments of an attack, you can survive."

The techniques are based upon the FBI’s statistic that women typically have a six-second window during an attack. If they don’t respond within that time frame, the odds of survival go down.

"Where your brain’s at" has a lot to do with Aikido’s practice of being aware of surroundings at all times. Zamarin provides the example of a post-grocery-shopping experience in a parking lot: hands tied up with plastic bags, while simultaneously talking on a cell phone and opening a car. Would that customer notice an attacker hiding on the other side? Zamarin asks.

"If someone surprises you or stuns you, weapons are worthless," he notes. "We teach very specific skills that get you through that ‘deer-in-headlights’ feeling."

Zamarin explains one of the central principles of Aikido is to love your enemy and realize the reason someone attacks you is because they are hurting. It’s a compassion for your attacker, a way to peacefully coexist with threats, and a way of not adding fuel to the fire, he says, and that Aikido attitude can be useful every day.

Aikido Training is held every week, Tuesday through Thursday from 7-8:45 p.m. and Saturday, from 3-5 p.m., with Women’s Self Defense Training on the first Saturday of each month from 1 to 3 p.m. For more information, contact the Park City Racquet Club at 435-615-5401, or visit the Web site at

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