DAVID JOHNSON SENSEI
Godan (5th degree black belt)
I started training aikido in 1980 in Hawaii under Sadao Yoshioka Shihan and Ralph Glanstein Sensei. I feel very blessed to have had these two great but very different Sensei to learn from. I believe the meshing of their two styles was a wonderful balance for my own development.
In 1988 I was promoted to the rank of Shodan (1st degree black belt) and visited Japan for the first time with Yoshioka Sensei and 10 other aikidoists from Hawaii to attend the International Aikido Congress and the unveiling of the statue of O-Sensei, aikido’s founder, in his hometown of Tanabe. This experience was a catalyst for many more visits to Japan and training at the Hombu Dojo in Tokyo. I was fortunate to train there with Doshu and most of the Hombu Shihan and also to develop many wonderful relationships that have continued over the years when visiting Japan and also when Sensei from Japan visited us in Hawaii.
In 2002, I moved back to my home state of Indiana and found a wonderful group of people to train with at the Indianapolis Aikikai.
To me, and I know the same is true for many people, aikido is more than just a martial art. It is a part of my personal philosophy of life and as such something I try to practice in my daily. However, we should not forget aikido is also an effective and even deadly martial art. It should be practiced very seriously, carefully, and thoughtfully. At the same time training should be enjoyable and fun. If practiced with the correct balance of seriousness, safety, and fun, we can enjoy aikido training for a lifetime and at almost any age.
JOE LAVELLE SENSEI
Yondan (4th degree black belt)
I began my study of aikido in 1989 at Indiana University. After graduating from the university, I moved to Washington, D.C. where I continued my training at the Aikido Shobukan Dojo. I had the privilege to learn from a great many wonderful teachers there – these were the people I’d seen in books and videos. It was an exciting time for me – aikido was extremely popular due to the films of Steven Seagal – and I devoted a good deal of time to my training.
Later, I returned to the Midwest, continued training, and started teaching. It has been my good fortune to have studied with some excellent teachers…and good people. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to two people in particular: “Hank” Higashida Sensei and the late Kevin Choate Sensei. Both have left an indelible mark on my attitude toward training and my understanding of aikido.
Specifically, I am speaking about learning aikido “techniques” versus aikido. While there are martial techniques that are generally considered “aikido,” I think the most important part of aikido training lies in paying attention to balance, breathing, and relaxationwhile someone is trying to hit you or grab you. Aikido is not about how I demonstrate a technique, or how someone else demonstrates a technique. Rather, it is about learning how move your body to impact the movement of someone else whether that someone else is your training partner or someone intent on doing you harm. In either case, it is important to understand yourself and how you move. This is the most important lesson that I’ve learned from my teachers and hope to pass along to students at the dojo.
CHRIS KUPIAINEN SENSEI
Sandan (3rd degree black belt)
QUINN OSBURN SENSEI
Sandan (3rd degree black belt)