Head Instructor

Saotome_Sensei

SHIHAN MITSUGI SAOTOME
(FOUNDER)

Mitsugi Saotome Shihan is the Founder and supervisory instructor for more than 100 affiliated Dojos of the international Aikido Schools of Ueshiba association.

Master Saotome has devoted his entire adult life to the study and teaching of Aikido. He began as a special apprentice with the Founder of Aikido, Ueshiba Morihei (O Sensei) in 1955 and continued for 15 years until the Founder’s death in April of 1969.

From 1960 until 1975 Master Saotome taught at the World Aikido Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. During this period he was accorded many positions, honors and achievements. He appeared publicly at many events in Japan and abroad for the purpose of spreading the understanding and knowledge of Aikido.

In 1975 Master Saotome decided to leave his highly respected position as a senior instructor at World Aikido Headquarters in Tokyo to come to the United States. In addition to regularly scheduled national and international seminars, Master Saotome has taught many special seminars including a U.S. Military Special Forces seminar, special training of the U.S. Security Forces in Washington, D.C. and has spoken before the United Nations General Assembly on the role of Aikido in world peace efforts.

Master Saotome has published a number of highly respected books on Aikido including A Light on TransmissionAikido and the Harmony of Nature, The Principles of Aikido, and Aikido: Living by Design. He has also authored several training videos.

Featured Instructors

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BILL GLEASON SENSEI

William Gleason Sensei studied Aikido from 1970 to 1980 at the main world headquarters (Hombu Dojo) in Japan and also with Yamaguchi Seigo Shihan. During that same period, Gleason Sensei studied swordsmanship (kenjutsu) as well as Japanese language, classical music, and Eastern religion. Since 1985 Gleason Sensei has continued to practice and teach under the auspices of Mitsugi Saotome Shihan and the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba.

Gleason Sensei founded Shobu Aikido, Inc. in 1980 in Boston, Massachusetts, and there are presently five Shobu affiliate Dojos from the Midwest to the East Coast. His latest book is Aikido and Words of Power: The Sacred Sounds of the Kototama. He is also the author of The Spiritual Foundations of Aikido, which has been translated into four languages.

His first DVD, Aikido and Japanese Sword, shows how the movements in traditional swordwork and those in Aikido barehanded techniques are essentially one and the same. His second, William Gleason at Aikido Eastside, explores the secrets of aiki hidden within Aikido technques.

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DAN MESSISCO SENSEI

Dan Messisco Sensei began his martial arts training in 1964, and has travelled all over the world in pursuit of this training. He received Rokudan (6th dan) in aikido from Saotome Sensei in 2008, but also holds ranking in Tang Soo Do and Yoshinkan Aikido. In addition to learning from Saotome Sensei (he left Hombu to follow Saotome Sensei to Sarasota Florida and trained there from 1976 – 1979), he trained at the Aikido Hombu Dojo in Tokyo from 1974 – 1976, 1979 – 1981, 1987 – 1998, and 2001 – 2004 where he studied under numerous shihan including Suganuma Sensei, Takeda Sensei, and Endo Sensei. He also trained Tang Soo Do with Hwang Kwan Jang Nim in Seoul, Korea when he was there in the 1960’s, and also while he was also training in Tokyo, from 1971 – 1976. Messisco Sensei currently teaches and trains in California, but is often a guest instructor at seminars both within the United States and in many countries around the world.

Senior Instructors

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TRES HOFMEISTER SENSEI

Tres Hofmeister Sensei is ranked nanadan (7th degree) in Aikido. He is a student of Mitsugi Saotome Shihan and Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan. He began his training in 1978 and entered Boulder Aikikai under Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan in 1980.

Hofmeister Sensei is a senior instructor for Aikido Schools of Ueshiba (ASU), teaching regularly at Boulder Aikikai and at seminars throughout North America and abroad. Hofmeister Sensei is also a certified practitioner of the Feldenkrais Method®. He has a particular interest in the process of learning in Aikido and its relationship to self-understanding.

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GEORGE LEDYARD SENSEI

George Ledyard Sensei began his Aikido studies in 1976 under the direct instruction of Mitsugi Saotome and has continued this association ever since. Ledyard Sensei currently holds the rank of 7th Dan in Aikido and Shodan in Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu. He counts Hiroshi Ikeda, William Gleason, Howard Popkin, Mary Heiny, Tom Read, Endo Seichiro, and Dan Harden as strong influences on his Aikido.

Ledyard Sensei was recently made a member of the Ueshiba Juku by Saotome Sensei. This connotes a direct line of “transmission” from the Aikido Founder, Morihei Ueshiba, through Saotome Sensei to his personally trained students.

He 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.

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JOHN MESSORES SENSEI

John Messores is ranked as nanadan (7th degree black belt) in Aikido. He 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 holds the position of President of the Board for the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba organization.  Messores Sensei is also a member of the Ueshiba Juku, a designation recognizing direct transmission from the Founder and Mitsugi Saotome Shihan.

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 has been a personal student of Saotome Shihan for nearly forty years.

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).

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WENDY WHITED SENSEI

Wendy Whited Sensei holds the Aikido rank of nanadan (7th dan). She began her study of Aikido at Northern Illinois University in January, 1973 after studying Judo for a year. After college, she continued her training at the Illinois Aikido Club in Chicago. With other club members, Whited Sensei met Saotome Sensei at the Winter Seminar in January of 1976. Subsequently Saotome Sensei sent one of his students, Shigeru Suzuki Sensei, to teach at the Chicago dojo. Whited Sensei trained with Suzuki Sensei until his return to Japan. She was also awarded a shodan in Iaido.

In July 1978 she visited Japan for the first time, training with Hikitsuchi Sensei in Shingu for three weeks. Having fallen in love with Japan, in 1987 she responded to an ad for the Japanese Exchange of Teachers Program (JET); she spent two years in Funabashi, Chiba Ken and taught in forty-four different junior high and five different elementary schools. She got very good at riding trains and buses.

On her return from Japan, she took up Shorei Ryu Karate while continuing to attend Aikido seminars. In 1990 she began teaching at the University of Chicago Aikido Club until, in 1992, she received permission to start Inaka Dojo in the bustling metropolis of Beecher, Illinois (population 2,000).

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ROBERT DEPPE SENSEI

Sensei Deppe is one of the top instructors in the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba. He holds the rank of rokudan (6th degree black belt) and is an instructor at the Aikido Shobukan Dojo in Washington, D.C. He is a personal student of Saotome Shihan, and is a member of the Ueshiba Juku which indicates that he is a disciple of Saotome Shihan and a direct inheritor of the teachings of O Sensei. He is especially known for his powerful and precise weapons work.

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JOSH DRACHMAN SENSEI

Josh Drachman has over 30 years of Aikido experience and has been actively training under Saotome Shihan since 1995. He is a Rokudan in ASU, a member of Ueshiba Juku and Treasurer of the ASU Board of Directors. He began his Aikido training under Saotome Shihan in 1982 and trained at the Aikido Shobukan Dojo in Washington, D.C. from 1982-1984. He trained at the Aikido Hombu Dojo in Tokyo from 1985-1991, where he studied under numerous shihan including Yamaguchi Sensei, Endo Sensei and Masuda Sensei. He is a yudansha in two forms of Karate (Soshinkan and Shotokan), a yudansha in 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 “A Light on Transmission” by Saotome Sensei   as well as the English version of “Karate and Ki” by Kenji Ushiro Sensei.  He ran his own dojo, Aikido of Palm Beach County, from 2003-2010 and is currently the Assistant Dojo Cho at Aikido Eastside.

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CHETAN PRAKASH SENSEI

Chetan Prakash,  Sixth Dan Aikikai, has been practicing Aikido since 1983. His teacher is Mitsugi Saotome Shihana long-term direct disciple of O Sensei and founder and head instructor of Aikido Schools of Ueshiba (ASU).

In 2012 Saotome Shihan awarded Prakash Sensei theUeshiba Juku designation, identifying the recipient as belonging to the lineage of O Sensei.  The designation is a testament to ability, character and loyalty, and is based upon the recipient’s firm commitment to the vision of O Sensei. The status is indicated by wearing the calligraphy, written by Saotome Sensei and shown at the right, on the formal Dogi.