Anyone that has seen the Tom Cruise epic, "The Last Samurai," might have a brief idea of what the martial art of Aikido is all about. Despite the film's historical inaccuracies, the movie showcases the martial art originally used by samurai warriors in Medieval Japan.
"Although they are many other martial arts schools in the area, we're more traditional here," said Robert Waltzer, sensei at .
Waltzer, a fifth degree black belt in Aikido and martial arts trainee for 40 years, opened the dojo on Northern Boulevard in Little Neck in 1997.
According to Waltzer, Aikido of Queens stays true to the traditions of Japanese Dojos — which may be why passersby are not able to peek into any of the school's windows, since there are none.
"The Japanese schools aren't into commercialism," Waltzer said.
According to the Sensei, Aikido was a martial art once only known to the samurai and their families. That all changed when O Sensei (Great Teacher), Morihei Ueshiba (1883–1969) traveled throughout Japan and demonstrated the style all over the country.
"Aikido is different than the other martial arts because it is strictly a self defense art that blends with an attacker's energy instead of clashing with it. Aikido evolved from the Samurai warrior.
"Techniques that were used on the battlefield, we teach here," Waltzer said.
The school offers classes for children age 4 to adulthood from all walks of life. Besides Sensei Waltzer, one of his students, Sempai (highest ranked student), Andrew Pannullo also teaches at the school.
"I studied Tae Kwon Do until I was about 20 or so and participated in competitions, and I got tired of the cycle. I read some books and wanted to learn Aikido," Pannullo said. "While I working at Patrick's Pub [the now-closed drinking establishment next door to the Dojo], a co-worker came in one day and told me that there was a Dojo opening next door."
Aikido is a non-competitive martial art form, according to Waltzer, who said he believed that defeating someone for a trophy was not a good way of life.
"The essence here is on the technique, where self defense is a science not a sideline," Waltzer said.
Aikido of Queens' class schedules feature Little Ninjas (4–6 years old) on Thu. 4 p.m. to 4:40 p.m. and Sat., 11:30 a.m. to 12:10 p.m.; the Junior Division (7–11 years old) on Tue, Thu. and Fri., 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., Wed., 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Sat., 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
For adults and teens, the Dojo is open Mon.–Fri., 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., Tue. and Thu, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., and Sat., 8:45 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. There are also special discounts for police, correction employees and firefighters, as well as private classes.