Yasumasa Itoh, 6th Dan, Shihan, Chief Instructor. Itoh-Sensei began his Aikido training in 1973, at the Musashi University Aikido club in Tokyo, under the instruction of Norihiko Ichihashi Shihan. He went on to become captain of the club. Following his graduation in 1978, Itoh Sensei came to Boston, where he began studying under Mitsunari Kanai Shihan. A dear friend and confidante of the late Kanai Shihan (who passed in March, 2004), Itoh Sensei joined with other senior instructors to spread Kanai Shihan’s style and interpretation of Aikido.
Joji Sawa, 6th Dan, Senior Instructor. Joji started Aikido under instruction of Kanai Sensei in 1981 and continued practice with him until Kanai Sensei passed away in 2004. He is one of the core members who established Tekkojuku in 2005. He worked as a technical translator for over three decades and is retired.
The more I try to describe what Aikido is, the more it slips away from what I think it is. Aikido can be understood most fruitfully through the physical exchange between Nage and Uke. Of course, all Aikido practitioners are entitled to philosophize about Aikido. However, your development is attained through practice. I think this is the essence of Aikido. I encourage everyone to practice before philosophizing. This is the most beneficial approach.
Andre Brown, 5th Dan, Instructor. Andre started his Aikido training in 1991 and also holds the rank of shodan in Kenpo Karate. For the past 11 years, he has worked as a senior computer operator for a publishing house. Andre has studied a variety of martial arts since 1988 and participated in numerous Aikido seminars. He has been an instructor of both beginners and advanced students, as well as children. He has also conducted self-defense courses and participated in a martial arts instructional video produced at Emerson College.
Aikido, for me, is a journey of self discovery. It is a journey that can be perilous to the unaware, or wondrous and full of enjoyment. Patience, practice, and time are key in your development and can help or hinder your progress through Aikido. Experiencing the trials of self discovery and awareness that Aikido offers can be a crowning achievement in life. In the end, we each learn a little something about ourselves.
Gilberto Neves, 1st Dan, Instructor. Gilberto began his Aikido training with Ichitami Shikanai at the Nissei Academy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1986. He came to Boston and became Kanai Sensei’s student in 1989–an experience he found alternately terrifying, thrilling, and enlightening, especially when he was Kanai Sensei’s uke. He has been a member of ATJB since 2006. He is a software engineer and has also trained in Judo, Jiu-jitsu, and Taekwondo. Gilberto, like Okamoto-sensei, believes that Aikido is “serious playtime,” which makes us remember that we are still children mesmerized by movement, and how hard things can be fun to learn and, eventually, master.
Aikido practice is fundamental for my well-being. It grounds me and allows me to exercise with complete focus. During practice one has no room for thoughts other than what happens in class, and this works a bit like active meditation. Aikido provides the means to redirect violence/conflict into a more constructive mindset.
Brian Blancke, 1st Dan, Instructor. Brian’s aikido education began under Kanai Sensei in 2000 and has been a member of ATJB since 2007. He previously studied Karate. Brian is a social scientist and conflict resolution specialist. In addition to aikido, he finds harmony in singing in a chorus. For Brian, aikido is the physical embodiment of his commitment to non-violence and peace.
Being able to harmonize with your opponent… creates some sense of order out of chaos. Aikido presents a way of being that I haven’t found anywhere else in my life.
Atsushi Ebata, 2nd Dan, Instructor. Atsushi began his aikido practice under Yukiko Katagiri Shibani and Larry E. Bieri Shibani at Cornell Aikido Club in 2004 and has been a member of ATJB since 2009. He has also studied Judo and Shotokan Karate. Atsushi is a scientist trained in pathology and laboratory medicine and currently works as a business systems analyst in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. Atsushi finds great value in focusing on footwork, body core control, positioning, and proper posture. Maintaining good posture translates into good technique. For Atsushi, aikido is a part of life and offers life lessons.
You cannot separate the two aspects—the body and the mind—in aikido. The principle of aikido is harmony; it’s not just the physical components…Aikido reminds me how I should be.
Ken Gareau, 1st Dan, Instructor. Ken began his aikido training at ATJB in 2012 under Itoh Sensei. He is a research scientist. For Ken, aikido is about balance and finding that balance between partners.
When teaching Ken focuses students’ attention on… Listening to your body and watching your partner’s body respond to your own movements. Understanding that all power comes from your center, and that it’s all about finding how to visualize that in a way that works for your own brain rather than purely imitating an instructor.
Gilda Bruckman, 6th Dan, Senior Instructor. Gilda is a writing tutor at Cambridge College, whereher students are undergraduate and graduate working adults. She first began practicing Aikido in 1972 under the instruction of Mitsunari Kanai Shihan and continued as his longest practicing student until his death.
I am particularly interested in Aikido’s ability to help us know our own bodies and enable us to understand that power is not only the application of more and more muscle. Gaining the knowledge required to unify the body and mind is far more challenging than that required to simply overcome an opponent. The application of physical or ‘muscle’ power alone results in an imbalance in the mind-body relationship, an imbalance that can effect the decisions that people make when in conflict. Unifying the mind and body through practice, and maintaining that connection makes the practice of Aikido endlessly engaging and gives the practitioner much to pursue regardless of their physical strength and size. The added benefit is that this form of practice has many applications for the rest of our lives, not just those moments when faced with a physical conflict.
Don LaLiberty, 4th Dan, Senior Instructor, Chief Iaido Instructor. Don is a statistical programmer working for a consulting company that does social science research. Don began practicing Aikido in 1988 with Paul Sylvain Sensei and continued with Kanai Sensei from 1989 to 2004. His study of Iaido with Kanai Sensei began in 1992.
I believe that Aikido practice is most effective when done with minimal verbal interaction between partners and maximum focus on the physical experience. I try to spend as much practice time as possible in physical encounters with the partner. I can talk and think about Aikido anytime, but the amount of time another person is available to work with is limited, so I want to make the best use of that time. And I try to encourage that attitude in the classes I teach. Iaido can be practiced separately from Aikido, or as a complement to your Aikido training. In either case, you must decide to commit your time and effort to training. You cannot enjoy the benefits of the training, whatever they may be for you, unless you steadily keep at regular training.
Dolita Dannêt Cathcart, 5th Dan, Shidoin, Senior Instructor. Dolita is an associate professor of history at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. Cathcart-sensei began her study of Aikido in 1985 with Mitsunari Kanai-shihan, an uchi-deshi or disciple of Morihei Ueshiba or O-sensei, the founder of Aikido. Cathcart-sensei is an experienced Aikido instructor who has also taught Aikido at Harvard University, Boston University, Milton Academy, Wheaton College, and New England Aikikai. Cathcart-sensei participates in the annual Arts First demonstration by the Harvard Aikikai. Cathcart-sensei brings a spirited sensibility to the study and practice of Aikido.