When Tampa resident Robert Young decided he wanted to learn the Japanese defensive martial art of Aikido, he was a bit apprehensive that it might not be possible since he is hard of hearing.
Aikido is performed by responding to oral commands which are given in Japanese.
But Young wasn’t going to give up without a fight, so he asked a local Aikido dojo to create a special class utilizing American Sign Language (ASL).
Sensei Gina Boccolucci, owner of Florida Aikido Center had learned to spell in sign language as a child and was more than willing to work with Robert.
They began by working together one-on-one. Boccolucci developed signs for the different Aikido self-defense techniques and Young gained the confidence to join in the dojo’s regular classes.
“At first, I had a hard time realizing what I needed to do to communicate, but Young had a strong commitment and waited patiently for me to figure it out,” Boccolucci said. “It was an enriching experience, so I’ve decided to make a specific program of it.”
That was two years ago.
Now Young is joined by Nancy Wyman, who is hard of hearing, and Helen Kansky, who is deaf. Wyman, 47, recently relocated to Safety Harbor from Michigan.
“I enjoy the opportunity to exercise and to meet new people,” Wyman said.
She recruited her roommate Helen Kansky to attend with her. Kansky, 71, also enjoys practicing the art of Aikido.
Young, a married father of two, makes the classes a family affair, frequently bringing his wife, Yari, and children, Evie and Alex.
“(Aikido) is a great stress reliever and has improved my outlook on life,” he said.
Besides the ASL and regular Aikido classes for adults and children, the Florida Aikido Center also offers classes in the Chinese guided meditation practice of Qigong, which is specifically for improving and curing physical and mental conditions, and the Japanese self defense arts of Iaido and Kobudo.
"My primary focus is to make sure that they all leave having learned at least one thing that will help them with self defense," Boccolucci said.
The Florida Aikido Center is located at 4405 W. South Avenue #D, Tampa, FL 33614. For more information e-mail:Info@FLaikidoCenter.com or call: (813) 410-1904.