Featured Instructors:

Mitsugi Saotome Shihan

At 81 years of age, Saotome Shihan is the living epitome of effortless power and grace in Aikido. One of the last remaining live-in disciples of Ueshiba O Sensei, Founder of Aikido, he was originally a senior instructor at Hombu Dojo and has taught in the United States and elsewhere for nearly 60 years. His mastery of Aikido and his ability to communicate both its technique and its spirit make it a rare privilege for any student of Aikido to experience his teaching.

George Ledyard Sensei

George Ledyard Sensei, Seventh Dan Aikikai and founding chief instructor at Aikido Eastside, began his Aikido studies in 1976 in Washington, D.C., under the direct instruction of Mitsugi Saotome Shihan. He counts Hiroshi Ikeda, William Gleason, Howard Popkin, Mary Heiny, Tom Read, Seichiro Endo, and Dan Harden as strong influences on his Aikido.

Ledyard Sensei is the Founder of Defensive Tactics Options™, a system of police and security training which specializes in less-than-lethal force alternatives and Options for Protective Control™, an ultra low-level force system for physical intervention with juveniles and emotionally disturbed subjects. Ledyard Sensei also holds a Shodan in Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu.

Ledyard Sensei believes that Aikido should be both a spiritual practice and a martial art. He is known for his work with the staff and sword and also for an innovative approach to applied empty-hand technique which brings in elements from his training in Japanese Koryu, Iaido, Filipino martial arts and Systema. Ledyard Sensei was invited to participate in the first three historic Aiki Expos and is a regular contributor to both AikidoJournal.com and Aikiweb.com. He is the author of over 10 instructional DVDs on empty hand and weapons in Aikido and is the owner of www.AikidoDvds.Com.

Ledyard Sensei was Vice-President of the Executive Board of the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba from 2015 to 2017.

John Messores Sensei

John Messores Sensei, Seventh Dan Aikikai, is one of the most senior instructors in the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba organization, and among the highest ranked Americans affiliated with Aikido Hombu (the world Aikikai headquarters).  He was President of the Executive Board of the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba from 2015 to 2017. Messores Sensei began his training in Aikido in Sarasota, Florida in 1973. He was a member of the original Aikido dojo that invited Shihan Mitsugi Saotome to come to America in 1975, which became Saotome Shihan’s first dojo in the United States. In those initial years after Saotome Shihan came to America, Messores Sensei and a few other early students trained with him several hours a day under very intensive conditions for several years as Saotome Shihan’s true deshi (apprentices/disciples). 

Messores Sensei was featured in the 1986 book Aikido and the Harmony of Nature (Shambhala Press) by Mitsugi Saotome Shihan, the 2002 production The Budo Experience (Budo Productions LLC), and the 2002 Aiki Expo  video (Aikido Journal).

Messores Sensei was the founding Chief Instructor for the Jion Juku Aikido Academy of Warrior Spirit in Largo, Florida. 

Wendy Whited Sensei

Wendy Whited Sensei, Seventh Dan Aikikai, was founding Chief Instructor at Inaka Dojo, IL, for many years before turning it over to Kay Sandacz Sensei. She began her study of Aikido at Northern Illinois University in January, 1973 after studying Judo for a year. Whited Sensei first trained with Saotome Sensei at the Winter Seminar in January of 1976. Subsequently she trained with Shigeru Suzuki Sensei, Saotome Shihan’s representative at Chicago, until the Suzuki Sensei's return to Japan. 

In July 1978 she visited Japan for the first time, training with Hikitsuchi Sensei in Shingu for three weeks. In 1987 she spent two years in Funabashi, Chiba Ken and taught in forty-four different junior high and five different elementary schools. 

On her return from Japan, she took up Shorei Ryu Karate while continuing her Aikido practice. She also holds a shodan in Iaido. In 1990 she began teaching at the University of Chicago Aikido Club and in 1992, she started Inaka Dojo in Beecher, Illinois.

Since retiring as an eighth grade teacher and school principal, Whited Sensei has been able to return to Japan for several weeks almost every year. She has taught at the Kumamoto Bridge Seminar and has visited Hombu Dojo, where she trained while living in Japan.

Currently, Whited Sensei teaches at Inaka Dojo in Beecher and the Kofu Juku Dojo in New Lenox, Illinois. She indulges her love of travel by attending and teaching at seminarsand camps  all over the United States. 

Whited Sensei is Secretary of the Executive Board of the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba.

Dan Messisco Sensei

Dan Messisco Sensei, Sixth Dan Aikikai

Chetan Prakash Sensei

Chetan Prakash Sensei, Sixth Dan Aikikai and founding Chief Instructor at Redlands Aikikai, is hosting the event. He has been practicing Aikido since 1983. Aside from Saotome Shihan, his main Aikido influences are Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan, Frank Doran Shihan, Kevin Choate Shihan, and Michael Ryabko and  Vladimir Vasiliev of Systema. 

Prakash Sensei received a Ph.D from Cornell University in Mathematical Physics in 1982 and is currently an independent researcher on mathematical theories of Consciousness, on which he delivers invited talks and experiential sessions at international conferences. He is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the California State University, San Bernardino, where he has been founding Aikido instructor, Director of the Center for the Study of Consciousness, and faculty at the CSU Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence. He was also a certified instructor in the Russian martial art “Ryabko Systema,” from 2010 through 2013 and incorporates this knowledge into his practice and teaching of Aikido and Self-Protection.

Prakash Sensei believes that Aikido practice, firmly grounded in budo principle, holds the possibility of realizing Self-knowledge or Shobu Aiki: Aiki wisdom.

Prakash Sensei is Vice-President of the Executive Board of the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba. 


Guest Instructors:

Mark Adachi Sensei

Mark Adachi Sensei, Sixth Dan Aikikai and founding Chief Instructor of Glendale Aikikai in California, began his Aikido training at age 16 under Rod Kobayashi Sensei in 1974, training with Kobayashi sensei until the rank of yondan. He feels extremely fortunate to have trained with many senior aikido shihan, including Saotome sensei, Ikeda sensei, Doran sensei, Toyoda sensei and Nishio sensei. He also sees the late Robert Bryner Sensei as a major influence on his study of martial arts. He received godan from Saotome Sensei in 2000 and rokudan in 2017. Prior to opening Glendale Aikikai he was a founding Chief Instructor at Musubi Dojo in Claremont CA. Adachi Sensei has also practiced Wu style Tai Chi, Hapkido and Iaido (in which he is nidan). He is a chiropractor in private practice for the last 32 years and he has taught seminars on the healing intrinsic to Aikido technique.

Lee Crawford Sensei

Lee Crawford Sensei, Sixth Dan Aikikai and founding Chief Instructor of Aikido Northshore in Kirkland WA, began her aikido training in 1980 under the direction of Akira Tohei Sensei.  Relocating to Seattle in 1988, she became the Assistant Chief Instructor for George Ledyard Sensei at Aikido Eastside in Bellevue, WA and in 1995 Crawford Sensei founded Aikido Northshore in Kirkland, WA. Crawford Sensei has trained extensively under the direct instruction of Mitsugi Saotome Shihan and Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan. She also includes Kevin Choate Sensei and Patty Saotome Sensei as having strong influences on her aikido.

Robert Deppe Sensei

Robert Deppe Sensei, Sixth Dan Aikikai, started aikido in 1984. A personal student of Mitsugi Saotome Shihan, Deppe Sensei is a senior instructor at Aikido Shobukan Dojo (having trained there since 1994) and is known for his graceful movement and clear teaching. He has studied Shindo Muso Ryu for 25 years as well as Yagyu Shinkage Ryu for 7 years, influencing his precise and powerful weapons work. He serves as President of the ASU Board of Directors.

Josh Drachman Sensei

Josh Drachman Sensei, Sixth Dan Aikikai and Assistant Dojo Cho at Aikido Eastside, began his Aikido training under Saotome Shihan at the Aikido Shobukan Dojo in Washington D.C. from 1982-1984. He attended the Aikido Hombu Dojo in Tokyo from 1985-1991, where he studied under Yamaguchi Sensei, Endo Sensei and Masuda Sensei, amongst many others. In 1995 he resumed his active study under Saotome Shihan. Drachman Sensei ran his own dojo, Aikido of Palm Beach County, from 2003-2010. He is a yudansha in both Soshinkan and Shotokan Karate as well as Daito Ryu Aikijujitsu, a member of a classical Japanese sword school, and an active practitioner of internal power training under Dan Harden and T’ai Chi energetics under Scott Meredith. He co-translated the English version of "Karate and Ki" by Kenji Ushiro Sensei as well as "A Light on Transmission" by Saotome Sensei. Drachman Sensei serves on the ASU Board of Directors as its Treasurer.    

Tom Haines Sensei

Tom Haines Sensei, Sixth Dan Aikikai and President of Arizona Aikido and Chief Instructor of their Phoenix Dojo, began his Aikido training in 1973. He received shodan from John Takagi Sensei; his nidan was awarded by Fumio Toyoda Sensei and recognized through the United States Aikido Federation by T.K. Chiba Sensei; and his sandan through rokudan ranks were awarded by Saotome Sensei. He has trained with a wide variety of senior Aikido instructors. In addition, he has had the opportunity to travel to Japan, where he trained in a number of different dojos. Haines Sensei is currently an adjunct instructor in the School of Social Work at Arizona State, after a successful 27-year career as a social worker for Maricopa County.

Detlef Decker Sensei

Detlef Dekker Sensei, Fifth Dan, Aikikai

Luis Escamilla Sensei

Luis Escamilla Sensei, Fifth Dan, Aikikai, was promoted at the January Kagami Baraki, 2018. He is a highly skilled construction supervisor, scout master and wilderness expert; he is one of those most responsible for the construction of our beautiful Redlands Aikikai Dojo.

David Goldberg Sensei 

David Goldberg Sensei, Fifth Dan, Aikikai

Kay Sandacz Sensei 

Kay Sandacz Sensei, Fifth Dan Aikikai, began her study of Aikido in 1987 and has trained at Inaka Dojo since it opened in 1992. Through consistent study and frequent attendance at seminars and camps, Sandacz Sensei looks for the simple, natural movements underlying the principles of sound technique as she believes aikido is available for everyone. She focuses on finding clear ways to communicate these movements and principles in her classes at Inaka Dojo and the seminars she teaches.

Nelson Darriba Sensei

Nelson Darriba Sensei, Fourth Dan, Aikikai


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