Growing up in a tough neighborhood of Kansas City, Kansas, Andrew LeBar learned from an early age to hold his own. When someone pushedhim, he pushed back.
“I had hard eyes,” recalls LeBar, who still carries the stance of a bulldog and has the square jaw to match. “If you look like a victim, you’re going to be taken advantage of.”
Heading back to school at the University of Kansas in his 30s, LeBar decided to try aikido, a Japanese martial art, thinking he might pick up some self-defense techniques. At first he was intrigued by the group’s teacher—a “little old Japanese man.” LeBar had never seen anyone move with such grace or agility.
Then the sensei began to speak, and LeBar felt his foundation shift.
“It was about dealing with someone’s direction or force in a peaceful way—taking that energy and changing it.”
While other martial arts might involve punching, kicking, or grappling, aikido teaches students not to resist or confront an attacker, but to unite with their opponent and move together, leading the other person’s energy in a new direction.
It didn’t take long for LeBar to reali …