By Anna-Marie Menhenott
PORT ST. LUCIE -- Teenage years can be difficult. With pressures from school, home and friends, it can be hard to always make the right choices.
When Spencer Papp, 17, found himself heading down the wrong path, he turned to the Japanese martial art known as Aikido.
Aikido, founded by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), focuses on turning organized movements into expressions of energy to resolve conflict with harmony.
Spencer, who started studying martial arts at The Aikido Center in Port St. Lucie under sensei Steve Jones, has seen his life turn around since entering the center.
"I was just making bad choices and heading down the wrong path," Spencer said. "I've learned how to defend myself, but also how to use techniques and how to focus more."
Aikido doesn't teach kicks or punches nor a fighting attitude. Students learn nonviolent alternatives for dealing with conflict. Someone trained in Aikido learns to recognize signs of impending confrontation and danger, thereby reducing their chance of becoming a victim.
Spencer recently achieved his green belt and plans on continuing his study throughout his life.
"I want to achieve my 10th degree dan and continue on and own my own dojo. I want to give back to the community and teach other kids that there are different ways to focus aggression and ways to stay out of trouble," Spencer said.
Those studying Aikido learn things such as teamwork, respect, discipline, cooperation, focus, physical fitness, and self-defense.
Spencer's mom, Tammy Papp, agrees that there are major changes in Spencer.
"He was getting into trouble and really starting to make mistakes that at some point would be costly," Ms. Papp said. "Since he started Aikido, he's made a complete turnaround. His history fair project this year was about Aikido. He always helps the sensei during the classes, teaching the little kids and generally being a positive role model. It's an amazing accomplishment."
The Aikido Center is located inside Down to Earth Yoga 1981 S.E. Port St. Lucie Blvd. For information on joining a class, call (772) 418-4108.