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 is been recently written, and is available here: Living By Design, A Biography of Mitsugi Saotome Shihan.
Takeshi Yamashima Sensei (8th Dan)
Takeshi Yamashima Sensei is an 8th dan international Aikido master.
Takeshi Yamashima was born on September 12th, 1941 in Kyoto, Japan and attended his first Aikido class at Hosei University Aikido Doukoukai in autumn of 1961, where he trained under under Arikawa Sensei and Yamada Sensei.
After graduating from Hosei university, he began working for the Japanese local government, at the ministry of the environment. There was an aikido dojo there, where he trained under Mitsugi Saotome shihan and first started to teach classes.
In 1975, when Saotome Sensei left to begin his life in the United States, Seigo Yamaguchi Sensei began to teach at Chiyoda Aikido Dojo. For the next 20 years, Yamashima trained under Yamaguchi Sensei and has succeeded Yamaguchi Sensei as the chief instructor at Chiyoda.
Yamashima Sensei also trained regularly at Hombu dojo, being fortunate enough to witness O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba teach, and later training with his son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, and grandson, Moriteru Ueshiba, the current Doshu.
Yamashima sensei began teaching internationally in 2002. He now teaches seminars frequently in Asia, Europe, North America and South America.
He is currently the head instructor of Chiyoda and Nerima Aikido dojos, Tokyo.
“I hope and dream that everybody who practices Aikido will always be happy. I hope that the people doing Aikido continue to find out new ways of practicing and making new good ideas in Aikido so that they can keep it interesting and fascinating. In this way, Aikido will never stop and the people doing Aikido will have a lifetime of joy in practicing and this, in turn, can help people to make their daily lives more easy-going and less stressful.”
Raso Hultgren Sensei (7th Dan)
Raso Hultgren Sensei began Aikido training in 1971 in Santa Cruz, California, with Robert Frager Sensei, whose light touch and inspiring stories of his time with O Sensei intrigued her to step onto the path.
At that time Frank Doran Sensei also traveled to Santa Cruz once a week to teach, and his warmth and clear images were illuminating and encouraging. In subsequent years, the shihan of Shingu, Japan, opened doors of totality in training and the passionate quest to come to the heart of the art.
In the mid 1970s, Raso attended two seminars led by Mitsugi Saotome Shihan in California. She was strongly drawn to the unity of beauty and power, images of nature, extraordinary skill and elucidation of principle he expressed and demonstrated. Late in 1977, she moved to Washington, D.C. and became Saotome Sensei’s student. His teachings and his touch have continued to inspire and guide her Aikido development over the ensuing decades. Subsequently, she returned to California, teaching and training there. In 1986 she began a four year intensive training period in Boulder, Colorado, with Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan, whose generous teaching helped to ground and clarify her practice. Since 1990, Raso Sensei has been chief instructor of Aikido of Missoula in Missoula, Montana. She holds the rank of seventh dan.
Raso has also been influenced by a deep love of wild nature, a performing arts background, and a long term involvement with meditation, which interface with the rigor and clear presence required and honed on the mat. Raso Sensei is fascinated by the embodiment of nature’s complexity and simplicity in the living forms of Aikido, and has been exploring the potency of attention.
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.
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. In 2014 Crawford Sensei was awarded the Ueshiba Juku designation by Saotome Shihan. This honor identifies those who are in a direct line of succession from O’Sensei through Saotome Shihan.
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 currently serving as the President of the Aikido Shobukan Board of Directors. He also works for the EPA’s Office of Emergency Management and is an avid mountaineer, trekker and cyclist.
Mike Page Sensei (5th Dan)
Mike Page, Godan (5th degree black belt) is Chief Instructor at North Florida Aikikai 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 anchors the Chicago Aikikai as its chief instructor and its dojo-cho. A long-time aficionado of aikido, she is known in particular for her strong weapons work. “Weapons work has been a particular fascination of mine since I studied fencing in college. In aikido, weapons work teaches distance and timing in an explicit way that often gets fuzzed over in open hand training. By going back and forth between open hand and weapons we are able to study clean lines and clear movement that add to both the beauty and effectiveness of basic technique.”
Turner Sensei began her study of aikido in 1986 under Kevin Choate Sensei, and has spent the past three decades studying, training and teaching. In addition to Choate Sensei, Shihan Hiroshi Ikeda and Shihan Mitsugi Saotome 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.” In addition to aikido she has studied ballroom dance, competing in and winning several pro-am competitions. Turner Sensei also holds a shodan in Iaido. She is a past instructor for Winter Term at Oberlin College, and has supervised a number of dojo in the Midwest. Turner Sensei received her rokudan in aikido from Shihan Mitsugi Saotome in 2017.
Photos and videos courtesy of the instructors