Whitley Defends His Way to Aikido Black Belt

Surrounded by supportive and cheering students and colleagues , AHS teacher Marc Whitley locked eyes with his opponent before completing the final test to reach the Aikido black belt level.  On Wednesday April 13, 2016 , long time science teacher Whitley invited students and colleagues to come watch him receive the highest belt in the martial art of Aikido: the black belt.  This evening was his third test of his training and proved to be a success. Whitley returned home with a black belt.  

Walking into the final black belt test was a big moment in Whitley’s Aikido career.  A part of the Aikido martial art form is creating stressful situations, which includes having many people watching, which Whitley did.  This adds to the stress and nerves and makes the person learn to handle them.

“I was incredibly nervous, more so than I have been for almost anything in my life,” Whitley said.  “It was really weird because I felt prepared and I felt comfortable, but I got really really nervous.”

AHS junior Juliette Woodrow was one among many of his students to show up and cheer him on.

“It was really cool to see a teacher in an environment outside of school doing something they are passionate about,” Woodrow said.  “I wanted to support Marc because it is the least I could do to repay him for all the support he has given me.”

The martial art of Aikido is based on defending oneself against an opponent through peace and without hurting the opponent.  This is one of the reasons Marc enjoys participating in Aikido.

“The reason I like it is because it is not a fighting art,” Whitley said.  “Its intent is peace and conflict resolution.  I find it interesting because you deal with conflict in a physical way and you try to resolve that conflict without hurting someone, which is really a challenge because whenever we are faced with conflict our first instinct is to fight back and not to embrace your opponent and not to gently remain harmless.”

The process leading up to the actual receiving of the black belt is long and tedious and  Whitley described it as being full of training.  There are a sequence of exams for receiving each belt that include different dojos.  On top of training, the process involves a lot of reading.  Whitley attended dozens of workshops throughout his training, even traveling to Denver and Boulder for a few.

“It is kind of fun to do that too because then you train with other instructors and other people.” Whitley said regarding the workshops.

Whitley first was introduced to the Japanese martial art of Aikido when he was a high school student himself at AHS.  There was presentation in the school gym during his time there lead by local teacher Tom Crum which Whitley was “blown away by”.  His mother had also been a participant and trained in Aikido while he was growing up.  Whitley began his own training during his year abroad in France, following his high school graduation.  

Whitley’s coach is Brad Manischewitz who trains Aikido students in the Roaring Fork Valley.  He teaches at one of the three Aikido schools in the valley; the other two are in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.  

Though he has now become a black belt official, Whitley feels as though he is still in the beginning of his training.  After his exam he discussed this with his instructors.

“When you get to that point it is really just a signification that you are now prepared to really thoroughly train,” Whitley said.  

Though it is not official, Whitley even brought up the possibility of bringing his love of Aikido to AHS by creating an Aikido club.  Since he now has his black belt he is cleared to teach and instruct other students who may want to participate in the martial art themselves.  Be on the lookout next year just in case the Aikido club comes to life and join to learn from the black belt himself, Marc Whitley.