I stumbled upon this school by sheer serendipity. Sometime ago I was looking to get into Zen, I was recommended by a friend to try out Aikido instead. It was strange that he recommended me to try a martial art when I was primarily looking for something to relax my mind. He asked me to watch out for two main things when considering a school: - that it's not commercially driven and teaches the art the traditional way - that the teacher takes personal interest in the development of his/her students A couple of months passed by before I finally googled aikido schools in Manhattan out of curiosity. After looking at a few schools, I stumbled upon the website of this school and right off the bat the first criteria seemed to fit. Something about the zen like minimal website convinced me give Aikido and this school a try. So I made my way to check the school out. On my very first day, I was welcomed by the students at the dojo and given the option to jump in and try out the class for free! Honestly, seldom have 2 hours passed away faster than the way they did during this class. I felt like a kid again when everything was just so new! Wagener Sensei (the teacher) was very aware of the beginners (there were 2 more), and centered the entire class around us. He also took time to demo us some of the advanced techniques with another teacher later. It felt like I was watching a movie in real life! Right after the class he and the other students came around to ask me about my first experience with Aikido, and answer any questions I had. Second criteria check. Personally what has spoken to me most over time is the beauty and grace of Aikido, and the depth and quality of the instruction at this school. Not limited to the technique and form, the teachers go at lengths to explain the philosophy behind everything that is taught and Aikido itself. All of the students here are super helpful and accommodating, and take sincere interest in your development. This creates an atmosphere that is fun, supportive, non-competitive, and yet challenging at the same time. In summary, it's been a blessing to discover a school that actually exists to spread this amazing art the traditional way i.e. in a sincere, peaceful, and non-egocentric environment. I strongly encourage anyone who's flirted with the idea of trying martial arts or is just looking for an exciting way to unite their body and mind to try a class at this school!
I started coming to ZAM about two months ago. I'd never done any kind of martial art before, but had always wanted to try. I'd been searching for a while for a dojo, but had never found one that felt right. Basically as soon as I walked in, I noticed the atmosphere - friendly, relaxed, and welcoming. The guys and girls (yes, the dojo is roughly 50% women!!) I met are all very kind and eager to share the art of Aikido. I've found that it's a wonderful place to learn and to make mistakes, as everyone is very supportive and will help walk you through the tricky movements, no matter if they are an instructor, high ranking student, or a fellow beginner. Though everyone is so friendly and there may be a lot of joking around in the downtime before or after class, the actual instruction and practice is taken very seriously. Proper etiquette is emphasized, as is the real risk of injury that comes with improperly performed technique. Wagener Sensei will often remind the students to "take care of each other," as overly eager or overly aggressive movements might result in injury. There is a great respect for the art and for those who practice it in the dojo. Aikido itself is a challenging discipline. The challenge doesn't come from competition, as Aikido is not about besting or defeating an opponent. It comes from learning to link your mind and body through movement and breath... while someone is coming at you. Aikido is as much a challenge for the mind as it is for the body. I have found that increasingly its principles and theories are blending over into my non-dojo life; I am more patient but more confident, for starters. Wagener Sensei has created a supportive and caring, but at the same time, serious and hard-working community. I consider myself very lucky to have found this dojo.
Practicing at Zenshinkai Aikido of Manhattan is consistently one of the highlights of my week. All of the students who practice at the dojo are very welcoming and make beginners and more experienced students alike feel comfortable learning in a judgment-free environment. Classes are run very traditionally, emphasizing etiquette and respect for the art form, which I can relate to very well as a classically trained dancer. It's also wonderful to practice in a school that incorporates Zen meditation. Life in New York City can get so crazy, it's nice to balance it out with such a rewarding routine. Because it is a small school (about 25 students), the instructors are able to give corrections to all the students. Wagener Sensei, the head instructor, is very invested in every students' development. While the atmosphere is very focused throughout class, everyone is encouraged to practice with joy and take good care of each other. What really spoke to me from the very start is how much importance is laid on the connection between the philosophy of Aikido and the physical techniques involved. Class isn't just about learning movements for self-defense purposes. The spirit of harmony and compassion in Aikido is always a major component of the instruction. I'm so happy to be practicing at such a wonderful school!