Amanda Tucker never thought a martial arts class would change her husband's life.
Adam Tucker, 22, was overweight and plagued by a short temper. Then he started going to J.D. Paul's free Aikido classes in the Hayden Middle School gym.
"The first night he went, when he came home, he was like, 'I love it. I'm going to do this for the rest of my life,'" Amanda Tucker said.
Since that first class in February 2005, Adam Tucker has lost 70 pounds and found a new outlook on life. He's not the only one.
Paul, who is Hayden's parks and recreation coordinator, said the free Aikido class has had a profound effect on most of the students who attend.
Aikido originated in Japan after World War II. It lacks offensive techniques, instead focusing on balance and the art of falling, Paul said.
"Instead of conventional martial arts, where you hit people and try to hurt them, we try to be very gentle," Paul said.
Aikido means "way of peace." Paul's workouts include formalities such as bowing and meditation. A shrine with a photo of Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba sits just off the mats.
The martial art is used as a tool to teach people how to act in society. The training changes the way people deal with every day situations, Paul said, adding that his students have become better members of society.
Like many first-time martial arts students, Adam Tucker had misconceptions about Aikido. He thought of Hollywood movie stars such as Jackie Chan, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Bruce Lee. But the Hollywood interpretation of martial arts is far from the realities of daily training and discipline, Paul said.
That training and discipline was a big factor in Tucker's impressive physical change. But his wife said Tucker's transformation is more than physical.
"He's just a lot happier as a person," Amanda Tucker said. "Aikido is something that he loves with all his heart. He's found his calling in life, and it helps him with everything. Losing the weight is just half of it."
Adam Tucker said he now is happier and that practicing Aikido has helped him control his temper and has strengthened his relationship with his family.
"Growing up as a child, I was an angry kid," Adam Tucker said. "I wasn't always in fights, but I always had a chip on my shoulder."
He hopes the changes he has undergone will provide a good example for his 18-month-old son, Alec, who regularly attends the class with his mother. Amanda hopes her husband sticks with it.
"Now we have more disagreements instead of fights," she said. "It's made life easier to live with him. His whole attitude and mood is different."
Paul began teaching the class in February 2005. Between 80 and 90 people showed up for the first class, leaving Paul with barely enough room to demonstrate Aikido techniques.
The class size has since dwindled to a core group of advanced students and a couple of children, including 9-year-old Belle Mazzola. Chris Eastman, 20, Brian Birch, 17, John Yager, 18, and Cynthia Fry, 19, are some of Paul's more advanced students.
Because he is a father, Adam Tucker has limited his Aikido training to three times a week, but it remains a priority in his life.
"I want to be here as long as the class is here," he said. "That's my own commitment."