Mitsugi Saotome Presiding Shihan
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 demonstrated before the United Nations General Assembly.
Master Saotome has published a number of highly respected books on Aikido including A Light on Transmission, Aikido and the Harmony of Nature, The Principles of Aikido, and Aikido: Living by Design. He has also authored several training videotapes.
A detailed biography of Saotome Sensei has been recently written, and is available here: Living By Design, A Biography of Mitsugi Saotome Shihan.
Tres Hofmeister Sensei (7th Dan)
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.
Miranda Saarentaus Shihan (7th Dan)
Miranda Saarentaus is a 7th dan shihan aikido instructor from Helsinki, Finland. She started practicing aikido in 1972 as a student of Ichimura Sensei, a teacher sent from Hombu Dojo in Japan in the 1970s to teach aikido in Sweden and Finland. In 1990 Miranda found her present teacher, Endo Sensei and in 2015, she was announced as his Deshi. At present, Miranda is the dojocho at Akari (Japanese for ‘light’, ‘illumination’) dojo, which has close to a hundred members. Miranda Sensei regularly teaches seminars in Finland and abroad. Her aikido style emphasizes the flow of movement: not going against the force, always trying to find a way to guide your partner without coercion and drawing strength from contact and communication. Not surprisingly, jiywasa (free-flowing technique), is one of her trademark exercises in class.
Robin Cooper Sensei (7th Dan)
Robin Sensei began studying Aikido in 1974 and holds the rank of nanadan (7th degree black belt), which was awarded in January, 2022 from Saotome Sensei. Robin Sensei founded Aikido of Madison along with John Stone Sensei in 1994 and continues as the chief instructor there. The study of Aikido has informed Robin Sensei’s work and personal life, revealing many useful paths to resolving the conflicts of daily life, relationships and work. Robin Sensei has spent four plus decades learning about inclusion and perseverance through serving individuals with disabilities. Robin Sensei was awarded the Ueshiba Juku designation by Saotome Shihan as being in succession from O’Sensei through Saotome Shihan.
Lee Crawford Sensei (6th Dan)
Lee Crawford Sensei, 6th Dan, is Chief Instructor at Aikido Northshore. Crawford Sensei began her aikido training in 1980 under the direction of Akira Tohei Shihan at the University of Wisconsin Aikido Club. After relocating to Seattle in 1988, she became the Assistant Chief Instructor for George Ledyard Sensei at Aikido Eastside in Bellevue, WA. In 1995 Crawford Sensei opened 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.
Eugene Lee Sensei (6th Dan)
Eugene Lee Sensei began his Aikido study in 1988 and holds a rokudan (6th degree black belt). He has trained directly under Saotome Sensei for many years and has been awarded the designation of Ueshiba Juku. Eugene Sensei is one of the senior instructors at Aikido Shobukan Dojo. He is also an avid mountaineer, trekker and cyclist.
Mike Page Sensei (6th Dan)
Mike Page, Rokudan (6th degree black belt) is an Independent Instructor in Tallahassee, Florida. Page Sensei began his Aikido training when he was 30 years old. He was initially drawn to Aikido because of its aesthetic movement. “I remember watching an Aikido practice session and I was struck by the physical beauty and simplicity of its movement.” It was Mike’s desire to discover his passion for mind-body activities that led him to begin studying Aikido. “After beginning my Aikido practice it was apparent that Aikido was much more than just another martial art because it offered a spiritual dimension not present in any of my previous athletic pursuits.” Page Sensei strives to incorporate what he has learned through his training experiences and his practice to make Aikido an “experience” for his students. He is also keenly aware of the interpersonal transformative power of Aikido, making this an important part of his teaching.
Gary Small Sensei (6th Dan)
Gary Small was promoted to Rokudan (6th dan) as part of the Kagami Biraki celebration in 2017. He began his martial arts and Aikido training in 1974. In 1988, he joined Shobu Aikido of Boston under the direction of William Gleason sensei. He travels to many Aikido seminars and camps to continue his training as a teacher and student of Aikido. Prior to his move to Maine, he ran a sporting goods sales and marketing company covering the six New England states. This work helped facilitate the family move to Maine and establishment of Aikido of Maine in 2000.
“Having a dojo is an incredible privilege, it is a constant learning experience and a true pleasure to spend my time thinking about our practice and how we can make our dojo a better place. I am very captivated by the power of aikido in people’s lives and from a training perspective I am most interested in the connection aspect of practice and how we can put O’sensei’s teachings of creating harmony and improving the world into physical form.”
”I am always excited with the many ways aikido can help people who are in need of transition and am humbled by the power of the practice to help people improve their lives”.
Marsha Turner Sensei (6th Dan)
Marsha Turner Sensei has anchored the Chicago Aikikai as its chief instructor and dojo-cho since 2012. A long-time aficionado of aikido, she is known in particular for her strong weapons work. Turner Sensei began her study of aikido in 1986 under Kevin Choate Sensei, and Shihan Mitsugi Saotome and Shihan Hiroshi Ikeda have been very influential in her aikido development. Her extensive background in ballet, gymnastics, and traditional fencing (foil) allows her to bring elements to her current training that make her aikido unique among her peers. “Aikido caught my attention and pulled me away from fencing. I loved the rigor of fencing, but the physicality and the opportunity to throw around people bigger than me sealed the deal for aikido.” Turner Sensei received her rokudan in aikido from Shihan Mitsugi Saotome in 2017.
Photos and videos courtesy of the instructors