LaCorte Shihan Interview on His Passion for Aikido
AT THE NEW NORTH COAST AIKIKAI, OWNER AND SENSEI SALVATORE LACORTE IS SHARING HIS PASSION FOR AIKIDO WITH PEOPLE OF ALL AGES AND ABILITIES
For North Coast Aikikai studio owner and sensei Salvatore LaCorte, aikido is a passion he discovered back in 1980 as an engineering student at Lakeland Community College.
By Patricia Nugent
Aikido is a martial art that you best understand by knowing what it isn’t.
It is not combative or violent. It is also not competitive.
And while it’s an excellent means of self-defense, that’s only because it teaches the student to move in harmony with an opponent to bring a peaceful resolution to a conflict.
At the newly opened North Coast Aikikai in Willoughby, a wide variety of programs and levels of study suit children ages 7 to adults and seniors.
Meet the SenseiFor studio owner and sensei Salvatore LaCorte, aikido is a passion he discovered back in 1980 as an engineering student at Lakeland Community College.
“I had been doing karate for some time and thought taking a class in aikido would be easy” he says, laughing. “I didn’t like it much, went to the teacher with a drop slip and she refused to sign it, saying I had to finish what I’d started. I did, end up loving it and studying with that teacher, who became my sensei and role model, Linda Vecchio. Years after the incident, I asked her what she saw in me that was so special that she wouldn’t let me out of the class. She told me that if I had dropped it, she would’ve gone under the class minimum of students and not been paid. This really humbled me, it’s not about being special, it’s about being you.”
Since then, he has studied with well-known senseis and has become a teacher himself.
He says that aikido has been growing over the decades, and there are currently about 200 schools affiliated with the national federation in this country.
Aikido techniques neutralize an attacker by throwing the attacker off balance and redirecting the momentum. It’s excellent for building coordination and confidence.
North Coast Aikikai studio owner and sensei Salvatore LaCorte (left) with instructor Dave Dojo-cho.
Using an Opponent’s Force“Aikido does not rely on physical strength, but rather focuses on blending with an opponent and using their own force against them,” says Sal, who is a native of Lake County. “You won’t see people breaking boards or shattering glass here with punches or kicks. Techniques neutralize an attacker by throwing the attacker off balance and redirecting the momentum. It’s excellent for building coordination and confidence. I believe it will help people overcome physical or emotional difficulties and foster lifelong capabilities for avoiding conflict and resolving differences. It’s helpful against bullying, too.”
Sal says that his classes are about 50-50 women versus men.
“No matter your gender or age, once you master these techniques, you feel very in control,” he adds. “Training emphasizes whole-body movement and balance similar to yoga or Pilates.”
The Teacher-Student PerspectiveGeorgette Frate-Mikus is a female instructor who has been working with Sal for nearly 40 years.
At 75 years old, she is still practicing and teaching classes here at the dojo.
“Aikido offers the physical benefits of exercise and training as well as discipline, patience and self-control,” she says.
Student Claudia O’Neal started aikido in 2019. Her husband started classes first and enjoys it, so much. She sat in on a class and then signed up. “Aikido practice provides both wonderful exercise as well as a sense of community,” she says. “Especially coming through the pandemic, it’s wonderful to have a place where you feel supported and are always learning new maneuvers to master. I love my dojo peeps.”
North Coast Aikikai is a member school of the United States Aikido Federation and is in a strip plaza at 36495 Vine Street in Willoughby. They share a space with Rick McClain’s All American Karate. Call 440-622-6485 or visit NCAikikai.com for more information.