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Blending Physical Therapy with Martial Arts
[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/russek-aikido.jpg.]
Russek, a martial artist from a young age, believes there are overlaps between physical therapy and the martial art she has practiced for 20 years, Aikido.
Aikido is an art that focuses on mastering one's own energy. It places great emphasis on motion and the dynamics of movement. The goal is not to beat an opponent, but to control one's own ego and improve oneself, in harmony with the opponent. It teaches that warriors learned their skill so they could serve and protect people -- as Russek does with physical therapy.
"The physical aspects of Aikido overlap with the physical aspects of physical therapy in many respects," Russek said. "For example, in physical therapy, when I am laying my hands on a person to stretch out a muscle, I have to be relaxed for them to relax. If I touch a person when I am tensed, they'll tend to be tensed. In Aikido, it's exactly the same way. The same physical skill and the same sense of connecting to a person from my center that is used in Aikido are used in physical therapy."
According to Russek, the physical aspects of both practices require consistency with how the human body functions most effectively.
Russek's physical therapy focus is on chronic pain syndromes. She is primarily interested in headaches, fibromyalgia and hypermobile joint syndrome.
PHOTO CAPTION: Clarkson University Physical Therapy Professor Leslie Russek and Civil Engineering graduate student Andres Orlando demonstrate an Aikido technique meant to redirect energy and transform conflict into harmony.