Aikido is a Japanese martial art founded in the early 20th century by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), also known as O-Sensei (Great Teacher). O-Sensei was a master of several Samurai arts including Kenjutsu (sword), Sojutsu (spear) and Jujutsu. He was a deeply spiritual person and realized that peaceful resolutions were necessary for ending violence in the world. O-Sensei ultimately created a martial art in which aggression is met with compassion. Aikido is sometimes referred to as the "way of harmony."
Aikido is primarily an unarmed art; however, there is substantial training with the sword and staff. Movement is characterized as dynamic, circular and efficient. Attacks are resolved through maintaining proper timing, distance, and feeling; conflict is avoided. With daily practice the body will become stronger and endurance greater. Along with the practical application of Aikido as a form of self-defense, the training can serve to improve one's quality of life by following the basic principles of Aikido: relax completely, stay calm, keep your center, and stay positive. As students continue to practice Aikido, they experience a transformation in mind, body, and spirit.
New York Eastside Aikikai (NYEA), established in 2009, is affliliated with United States Aikido Federation (USAF), under the direction of Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan, 8th Dan.
NYEA offers Aikido classes for adults and children. Adults will find the Aikido experience rewarding, as they achieve the ideal balance of physical and mental training. The training at NYEA is vigorous and intense.
Classes for children start at age six and continue up to age fourteen. The kids class is energetic and playful, and attention to safety is paramount. As experience and understanding deepen, kids develop confidence and leadership skills, and they help others to grow. Aikido is a martial art, but it does not encourage fighting; the focus is on developing self-protection skills and finding peaceful resolutions.
Promotion tests are conducted three times a year for both adults and children. Aikido is non-competitive, and testing is optional; however, if you wish to be promoted, it is important to attend class regularly. In order to make progress, students are encouraged to train at least three times a week. Adult kyu ranking (white belts) is awarded by USAF, and upon reaching black belt level, the rank is awarded by the Aikikai Foundation, Tokyo, Japan.
Prospective students should observe a class before deciding to join as a member. Upon becoming a member, beginners may undertake their study at any time during the month. Classes are unlimited for members.
NYEA is staffed with qualified instructors. The chief instructor is Ken Yamazaki, 5th Dan Aikikai, Shidoin; he began Aikido and Zen Buddhism studies in 1989 with Reverend Joseph Jarman. Yamazaki Sensei was also a longtime student of Fumio Toyoda Shihan, and uchideshi (live-in student) of Yasuo Kobayashi Shihan; he has also trained with Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba at Aikikai Hombu Dojo; at present, Yamazaki Sensei is a direct student of Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan, a pioneer in introducing Aikido to North America. Yamazaki Sensei is also a world-renowned jazz musician, who has performed with a long list of who's who in jazz.
Kim Johnston, 3rd Dan Aikikai, Fukushidoin, is the head instructor for the children's program at NYEA. Kim's classes are fun and energetic, and focus on the personal development of each student. Kim is also a Shiatsu practitioner (certified by the Ohashi Institute since 1997), and holds an MFA in modern dance. Nacho Mena, 2nd Dan Aikikai, is an instructor at NYEA; he began Aikido in 1996 with Coryl Crane Shihan, a student of Kazuo Chiba Shihan, 8th Dan. Nacho is a molecular virologist, and also holds a 4th Dan in Judo. Elizabeth Stevens, 1st Dan Aikikai, is also an instructor at NYEA; she began Aikido in 2011 with Yamazaki Sensei. Elizabeth is also an accomplished educator at a prestigious private school in NYC.