Students roll across a mat in the bowels of Darrel K Royal Stadium as the smell of sweat and the sound of instructor Adam Preble’s voice fill the air.
Preble is teaching Aikido, a modern Japanese martial art and self-defense technique, at the UT Aikido Club, the oldest club of its kind in Austin.
“We want to teach self defense, motor control and being able to stay dynamic in a stressful situation,” Preble said.
Preble said over the past year, the size of the classes has almost quadrupled. He also said he has noticed more women attending classes since the April murder of UT freshman Haruka Weiser.
“A few years ago, we would have been lucky to have 10 people in the first class,” Preble said. “This year we had 40.”
Chemical engineering sophomore Teresa Wang said she has always been interested in martial arts, but Weiser’s murder motivated her to attend her first class.
“After that event it was like, ‘Oh that was something I was already interested in and now it has this added bonus to keep me safe,’” Wang said. “It gives me even more incentive to come.”
Peter Baxter, mechanical engineering sophomore and a regular member of the club, said Aikido not only teaches him how to defend himself, but may have saved him from serious injury when he was hit by a car several weeks ago.
While Baxter was biking, he was hit in the side by a car, and he credits the forward roll he learned in class with his ability to escape serious injury.
“I got hit and went flying off my bike, but I was able to tuck into a forward roll and spread out the impulse,” Baxter said. “I really utilized the principles that come with Aikido.”
Aikido focuses on protecting oneself in a variety of situations, while also harmonizing with ‘Ki,’ what Preble describes as a model for quickly
understanding and working with conflict.
“It’s a fluid, grappling kind of art,” Preble said. “We want to teach people not to just punch somebody in the face, which gives you the benefit of being able to fight against somebody you might not necessarily want to hurt. Most sexual assaults happen with people they know.”
The UT Aikido Club hosts beginning, intermediate and advanced classes several times a week.