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Teaching Offutt the way of a harmonious spirit

U.S. Navy Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Lloyd McWhirt demonstrates an Akido throwing technique on his assistant, Brad Clear, May 22 at the field house on Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. McWhirt runs his own Dojo in downtown Omaha and gives free Aikido lessons to the Offutt community at the Offutt Field House. (U.S. Air Force photo by D.P. Heard/Released)

U.S. Navy Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Lloyd McWhirt demonstrates an Akido throwing technique on his assistant, Brad Clear, May 22 at the field house on Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. McWhirt runs his own Dojo in downtown Omaha and gives free Aikido lessons to the Offutt community at the Offutt Field House. (U.S. Air Force photo by D.P. Heard/Released)

U.S. Navy Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Lloyd McWhirt demonstrates an Aikido joint-locking technique on his assistant, Brad Clear, May 22 at the field house on Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. McWhirt runs his own Dojo in downtown Omaha and gives free Aikido lessons to the Offutt community at the Offutt Field House. (U.S. Air Force photo by D.P. Heard/Released)

U.S. Navy Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Lloyd McWhirt demonstrates an Aikido joint-locking technique on his assistant, Brad Clear, May 22 at the field house on Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. McWhirt runs his own Dojo in downtown Omaha and gives free Aikido lessons to the Offutt community at the Offutt Field House. (U.S. Air Force photo by D.P. Heard/Released)

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- United States Navy Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Lloyd McWhirt works full time at U.S. Strategic Command in the plans and policy section, but on Thursdays at 11 a.m., he gives free lessons in Aikido at the Offutt Field House.

"This is just my way of giving back to the military community," McWhirt said.

Aikido is a Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba that redirects the opponent's energy. Aikido is performed by blending with the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of the attack rather than opposing it head-on.

McWhirt has been practicing martial arts for more than 20 years. He started in college by practicing Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido and has experience with other martial arts including Jujitsu, Judo and Yiliquan Kung Fu.

"I have tried the 'hard' styles like Karate and Tae Kwon Do but they did not seem to fit my personality," McWhirt said. "My desire to work smarter in training leads me to study Aikido."

McWhirt taught Aikido at the LaVista Rec Center for more than 12 years and in March 2011, he started Aikido Shuurin Dojo in Omaha, Nebraska, and currently holds the rank of Yondan in Aikido.

This year, McWhirt decided to give free lessons to anyone who has access to Offutt AFB and wants to learn.

"I love the art of Aikido and I love to teach," McWhirt said. "Any chance of teaching someone to defend themselves is definitely worth the time and effort."

Through work connections and the military, McWhirt has traveled throughout the country and other parts of the world and has had the opportunity to train with many great Aikido instructors.

Currently, McWhirt is teaching classes alongside Claudia Brown-Jackman at Aikido Shuurin Dojo.

There is no competition and no sparring in McWhirt's Aikido classes, which allows students to learn the art without fear of winning or losing.

McWhirt's charitable contributions are not limited to the Offutt community he also helps out a great deal with a women's self-defense class taught by Brown-Jackman at Aikido Shuurin Dojo. Giving back to the community is not all about free classes, sometimes it's about pain.

"I have helped with [women's self-defense] class and I can tell you that as 'the attackers' we really sacrifice our bodies for the sake of their learning," said Brad Clear, McWhirt's teaching assistant. "[McWhirt] volunteers quite often and takes all of the bruises and pain in great stride."

Clear has known "McWhirt Sensei" since 2008 when he was with Sarpy Aikido and when he started Shuurin Dojo. Clear then decided to make Shuurin Dojo his Aikido home with McWhirt as his chief instructor.

"As every good teacher does, [McWhirt Sensei] adjusts his lessons to the ability of his students," Clear said. "In the kid's class, he is gentle and explains things from a kid's point of view."

McWhirt holds classes for teenagers to older adults with a wide range of backgrounds, abilities and limitations and always takes great care in helping them develop their skills, he added.

"[McWhirt] has created a real family atmosphere at Shuurin Dojo," Clear said.

The dojo has put on family barbeques at Lake Zorinski in Omaha, held lock-in events for the kids, date nights for the parents of kids in classes, and even holiday parties.

"My wife had to have major surgery and [McWhirt] organized the dojo folks to make sure my family was taken care of," Clear said. "I showed up for class one day and there was homemade food sitting in the freezer and a list of phone numbers I could call if I needed anything."

[McWhirt] truly believes in an Aikido family, and it shows all the time, he added.

For those interested in learning Aikido, McWhirt gives free lessons at the Offutt Field House every Thursday at 11 a.m. If you can't make the free class but would still like to learn Aikido for self-defense, he also teaches at the Shuurin Dojo on Mondays and Thursdays which is located at 14117 S. Street Omaha, Neb. 68137.