Official news and announcements about the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba.

saotome-sensei-cover

Living by Design: A Biography of Mitsugi Saotome Shihan, Senior Student of O’Sensei and Founder of the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba

Mitsugi Saotome Shihan is one of the oldest living students of the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba Sensei, commonly known as O-Sensei.

Saotome Sensei studied Aikido under O-Sensei as a personal uchi-deshi (as opposed to the more general Hombu uchi-deshi), or personal live-in student, for ten years, from 1959 to 1969, when O-Sensei passed away. After O-Sensei’s death, Saotome Sensei continued on as a senior instructor at Hombu Dojo until 1975, when he moved to the U.S. to help spread the growth of Aikido throughout the world.

That same year Saotome Sensei founded the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba (ASU). He went on to be the founding dojo cho, or chief instructor, at several U.S. dojos, including Sarasota Aikikai, the Chicago Budokan Dojo, and the Aikido Shobukan Dojo in Washington D.C.

In addition to leading annual national and international seminars, Saotome Sensei has taught U.S. Military Special Forces and U.S. Security Forces in Washington, D.C. He has written four books related to Aikido and has demonstrated Aikido at the United Nations.

The organization Saotome Sensei founded in 1975 has grown significantly to date. There are currently over 100 dojos in ASU—view a full list of ASU dojos here.

Saotome Sensei
A note on methodology. The information for this article was gathered from extensive research and from multiple interviews and first-hand accounts provided by Saotome Sensei and Sensei’s son Taiji Saotomehis, as well as his students, including John Messores Sensei, Mary and Bill McIntire Senseis, Gary and Ania Small Senseis, Wendy Whited Sensei, Josh Drachman Sensei, Bill Gleason Sensei, and many others.

Table of Contents

This article is quite long. Here is a table of contents in case you would like to go to a specific section:


Early Life (1937-1953)

Mitsugi Saotome Sensei was born in Tokyo on March 7, 1937. He was the youngest of three children, with one older brother and one older sister. His father was a master woodworker who built cabinets and furniture, with several apprentices studying under him.

During World War Two, when he was seven years old, Saotome Sensei’s family home was destroyed by a fire caused by a bomb dropped from an Allied Forces plane. As a result the family moved to live in the countryside with his mother’s family, who lived on farmland used for the cultivation of rice.

When the family returned to Tokyo some time later, there was a hole in the ground where his house used to be. Only two walls were left standing.

About five years later, when Saotome Sensei was in middle school, his father passed away suddenly. His mother opened a restaurant to support the family but she was also ill, so Saotome Sensei and his siblings began to work at an early age to help.

At the age of 16, Saotome Sensei began practicing martial arts under his high school Judo instructor, Sumpo Kuwamori. He was big for his age and was a high school Judo champion in Tokyo, where his family lived at the time.

His sister married at a young age, and his brother would go on to start a successful restaurant in Tokyo.

Return to the top of this article.

Saotome Sensei’s First Encounter with Aikido (1954)

In 1954, when Saotome Sensei was 17, Kuwamori took him to the Kuwamori Dojo so he could watch his first Aikido class, which was taught by Seigo Yamaguchi Sensei.

Aikido was still a new and relatively unknown art at the time and the Kuwamori Dojo was the first official Aikikai branch of Hombu Dojo, the world headquarters of Aikido. (The use of Aikikai in a dojo’s name originally meant that a dojo was directly affiliated with Hombu Dojo, but it has lost this meaning over time.)

One of the first thoughts Saotome Sensei had when he saw Aikido that day in 1954 was, “‘Ah, this is real martial arts.”

From his perspective, while Judo was more of a sport, involving grabs but no real strikes—as you would see in an actual fight—Aikido incorporated real strikes and attacks into its techniques.

After the [Aikido] class, Seigo Yamaguchi Sensei told me to grab his fingers. The moment I grabbed them I was thrown. I didn’t know how it happened and thought I had fallen by myself by tripping on a corner of the tatami mats. So I asked him to do it again. I think I was thrown four or five times.

– Saotome Sensei

After observing the class, Saotome Sensei talked with Yamaguchi Sensei and Kuwamori Sensei (not his judo teacher but the dojo’s founder, a different Kuwamori Sensei ) about Aikido and Eastern philosophy.

Both the conversation and the movements he’d watched during the Aikido class made a strong impression on him. Shortly after that first visit to the Kuwamori Dojo, he began taking Aikido classes there while continuing to practice Judo.

Return to the top of this article.

Saotome Sensei’s Early Years at Hombu Dojo (1954—1958)

In 1954, while Saotome Sensei was attending classes at the Kuwamori Dojo, O-Sensei’s son, Aikido Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba, would often visit and teach classes.

Many called him Waka Sensei (“young teacher”), which was a reference to the fact that he was the next in the Ueshiba lineage who would assume leadership of Hombu Dojo and the growth of Aikido in the world.

[Waka Sensei] looked like a university professor and spoke very politely. He impressed me as quite a gentleman. I was surprised to see his thick, strong hands. He was different from Judo teachers.

– Saotome Sensei

Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba taught primarily at Hombu Dojo, as did Yamaguchi Sensei, and it was natural that Saotome Sensei would eventually visit there to take an Aikido class.

In 1955, one year after beginning his Aikido practice at the Kuwamori Dojo, Saotome Sensei began practicing Aikido regularly at Hombu Dojo.

Sharing his first impressions of the Hombu Dojo, he recalls that although the dojo was always quite clean, the tatami (traditional mats used for practicing martial arts) was worn out from constant practice.

The first time he met O-Sensei, Saotome Sensei didn’t know who he was. He recalls O-Sensei from that first meeting as a warm, dignified man in his sixties with a white beard, who was quietly talking to his students.

Saotome Sensei recalls that O-Sensei interrupted what he was doing so that he could welcome Saotome Sensei to the dojo, which made a strong impression on him. The other students in the dojo stopped what they were doing and watched as O-Sensei greeted Saotome Sensei, carefully observing their teacher in a way that made it clear how much they respected him.

Saotome Sensei recalls that first meeting as full of electricity—he had never felt anything nearly as powerful when meeting other martial arts instructors in the past.

I was very surprised and felt a tingling feeling in my spine. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to be able to meet him. He impressed me very strongly and this made me feel that I could give up everything to learn under him.

– Saotome Sensei

At the time there weren’t many Aikido classes offered at Hombu Dojo because membership was still fairly low. If 10 students showed up to a given class, Doshu would comment that it was a large number.

Waka Sensei taught only morning classes because he had to work during the day, and Yamaguchi Sensei, the teacher Saotome Sensei had seen when he watched his first Aikido class, taught the most. O-Sensei taught only on Sunday mornings and occasionally during other times, as he wished.

That first year of his Aikido practice, Saotome Sensei was working at Honda Motors during the day and taking classes at night, so the only Aikido classes he could attend were the ones taught by O-Sensei on Sundays.

Even these classes were usually fairly small, with only 15 to 20 people in attendance. But over time membership at Hombu Dojo grew, and the number of classes offered grew along with it.

During this time Saotome Sensei married his first wife, Hiromi, with whom he had two children—a son named Taiji, and a daughter named Wakana.

Return to the top of this article.

Saotome Sensei as an Uchi-Deshi at Hombu Dojo (1959-1975)

Saotome Sensei received his promotion to shodan in Aikido on January 31, 1957, three years after he saw his first Aikido class at the Kuwamori Dojo.

Two years later, in April of 1959, he became one of O-Sensei’s personal uchi-deshi, or personal live-in students. (The English word used by Hombu Dojo for this role is “apprentice”.)

In all of his time teaching Aikido, O-Sensei only accepted a small number of personal uchi-deshi, students who served him personally. There were many more Hombu uchi-deshi, and many, many more soto deshi (“external students”), students who lived outside the dojo, with outside jobs and families, who came into the dojo to practice Aikido.

At the time, Saotome Sensei’s friends said he was crazy to leave his safe, steady job at Honda Motors for a path that might never provide financial stability.

But he was sure it was the right choice, and his mother and siblings were supportive of the decision.

Now that Saotome Sensei was uchi-deshi he was given the privilege of being O-Sensei’s uke (or demonstration partner) for the first time. This was a big development in his Aikido practice, since in all of his previous years of training he’d never been allowed to attack O-Sensei during demonstrations.

As an uchi-deshi, Saotome Sensei lived in the dojo and occasionally traveled with O-Sensei, serving as his otomo, or companion, carrying his bag for him when he would go to various places to teach.

He remembers O-Sensei as kind but also severe. He was a man who treated everyone with a great deal of respect. During Saotome Sensei’s time living in Hombu Dojo, O-Sensei’s wife was also very kind to everyone, and treated Saotome Sensei like a grandson, making him feel like he was part of the Ueshiba family.

One evening, Saotome Sensei was teaching a class and O-Sensei came in to watch. This took place a few years after he became uchi-deshi, when Saotome Sensei had risen to the level of senior instructor in the dojo.

O-Sensei watched as the class practiced Kokyū Tandenhō, a seated technique often done at the end of class that focuses on breathing and connection. Some of Saotome Sensei’s students were fighting with each other while practicing.

When O-Sensei saw this, he stopped class and lectured Saotome Sensei and his students, telling them, “Aikido is not about competition. Competition ruins everything.”

This incident made a big impression on Saotome Sensei, and he has told the story several times throughout his life.

On January 14, 1968, Saotome Sensei was promoted to Shihan (“Master Instructor”), a high honor in the Aikido world that had only been given to a very small group of master Aikido teachers at the time.

The next year, on April 26, 1969, O-Sensei passed away at the age of 87.

Saotome Sensei continued on at Hombu Dojo until 1975. By the time he left Hombu Dojo to be a full-time Aikido instructor and dojo cho, he had been living there for a total of 15 years, eight of them spent living and studying directly under O-Sensei.

During his time living at Hombu Dojo, Saotome Sensei was given many honors and positions within the growing Aikido world. He started several dojos around Tokyo, created an informal association in support of Hombu Dojo, and appeared publicly at various martial arts events in Japan and abroad to spread understanding and awareness about Aikido.

He was also the Chief Weapons Instructor at Hombu Dojo, and held this position until his departure for the U.S. in 1975.

Saotome Sensei was the only teacher allowed to teach weapons at Hombu Dojo and that was behind closed doors and open only to those with Sandan ranking and above . . . his technique was extremely orderly, and coming from a depth of understanding, and his dedication to O-Sensei’s dream was unshakeable.

– William Gleason Sensei

Return to the top of this article.

Saotome Sensei Decides to Move to the U.S. (1975)

In 1975, Bill McIntyre Sensei, an Aikido teacher based in Sarasota, Florida, visited Hombu Dojo with hopes of finding an Aikido teacher who might be interested in moving to the U.S. to teach him and the students at his dojo.

After spending some time practicing Aikido at Hombu Dojo, Bill McIntyre Sensei asked Saotome Sensei if he might be able to send one of his students to the U.S.

He was shocked when Saotome Sensei responded, “I go.”

Thinking there was an issue with translation, McIntyre Sensei tried to clarify that he wanted someone who would move to the U.S. Again, Saotome Sensei said, “I go.”

This was an incredible development for McIntyre Sensei and his students. Instead of a senior student of Saotome Sensei’s, they were going to get the master himself. As soon as he could, he called his students in the U.S. to share the news of their incredible good fortune.

When telling this story, Saotome Sensei has made clear that he reflected for several days before making a final decision.

While reflecting, he felt that he was guided by divine spiritual intervention, which led him to decide that moving to the U.S. to teach Aikido is what O-Sensei would have wanted him to do. As a disciple of O-Sensei, he had been tasked with helping to spread Aikido throughout the world, and he saw this move as one more step in carrying out that mission.

At that time, as Saotome Sensei saw it, the U.S. was at a point of development in which new ideas were being embraced by its people. Such an environment would be ripe for the adoption of Aikido and spreading the message of peace and harmony implicit in its practice and study.

I meditated on O-Sensei’s spirit for three days and three nights and I felt it was his wish that I should go. [America] is a great experiment, a melting pot of people from many different cultural backgrounds living together, the world condensed into one nation. The goal of Aikido and O-Sensei’s dream is that all the peoples of the world live together as one family, in harmony with each other and with their environment. The United States has the opportunity to set a great example.

– Saotome Sensei

Before Saotome Sensei left Japan there was a large celebration at Hombu Dojo to honor him, with all of the dojo’s senior instructors present to toast him and wish him good luck in the U.S.

Hand-brushed card from Abe Sensei—Hombu, 1975
A hand-brushed card presented to Saotome Sensei when he moved to the U.S. (from the collection of John Messores)

Return to the top of this article.

First Winter Camp Lays the Foundation for the Creation ASU (1975)

Saotome Sensei arrived in the U.S. in May of 1975.

Two months after Saotome Sensei arrived, in July of 1975, Bill McIntyre Sensei’s Sarasota dojo hosted a seminar to welcome him but it was not very well attended.

In his first year in the U.S., Saotome Sensei decided to leave Bill McIntyre Sensei’s dojo in Sarasota and establish his own dojo, which he called Sarasota Aikikai. In that first year he also changed his relationship with Hombu Dojo, and decided to operate independently from the worldwide Aikido headquarters.

As the new year approached, the members of the Sarasota dojo decided to host a winter camp so that people from other parts of the U.S. could experience Saotome Sensei’s teaching.

The camp began on December 26, 1975 and lasted for seven days. About 85 people traveled from all over the U.S. to attend. In addition to Saotome Sensei, the 1975 winter camp featured teaching from Terry Dobson Sensei, Ed Baker Sensei, and Frank Hreha Sensei, who had already become established Aikido teachers in the west.

asu winter camp_1975_resized for web
Taken at Winter Camp, 1975

John Messores Sensei, a senior student at the Sarasota dojo who remains one of Saotome Sensei’s most senior students to this day, remembers working tirelessly with other dojo members to host the camp.

At the last minute, the dojo was forced to change venues for the camp, and the new venue—a small Catholic school called the Cardinal Mooney High School in Sarasota—would not allow attendees to sleep there.

To fill the housing gap, Messores Sensei had over 50 people stay with him, both outside, in his yard, and inside, in the three bedroom house he rented next door to the high school. All of these people also fed out of the single kitchen in Messores Sensei’s house, which presented a constant ongoing effort for the people helping to prepare food.

But despite the logistical hurdles, the tight quarters and rigorous Aikido practice helped form strong connections among those who attended, and the camp was a success.

Looking back, Messores Sensei sees the bonds formed at that first winter camp as laying the foundation for the relationships that would later be formalized in the creation of the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba (ASU).

asu sarasota_1975
Saotome Sensei (left) and John Messores (right) practice with jo (staff) on the beach in 1975

Return to the top of this article.

Saotome Sensei’s Years in D.C. and Chicago (1979-1995)

In 1979, Saotome Sensei moved from Sarasota, FL to Washington, D.C. where he established the Aikido Shobukan Dojo.

Regarding his decision to move to D.C., Saotome Sensei has said that he wanted to be in a large metropolis, where he could spread the message of Aikido to a larger group of people. He chose D.C. specifically because he thought it was important for the people involved in large governmental decisions—decisions that can have a worldwide impact—to be exposed to the ways of harmony and peaceful resolution of conflict that can be learned in Aikido.

In 1982, while living in D.C., Saotome Sensei married one of his senior students, Pat (also known as Patty) Roberts.

Patty Saotome Sensei
Patty Saotome Sensei with Saotome Sensei

In 1985, after six years in D.C., Saotome Sensei moved from D.C. to Chicago, where he established the Chicago Budokan Dojo.

S Sensei Chicago_2

S Sensei Chicago_1
Saotome Sensei attending the shrine dedication at the Chicago Budokan Dojo with his son Taiji

In 1988, after three years as dojo cho at Chicago Budokan Dojo, Saotome Sensei moved back to D.C. to resume his role as dojo cho at the Aikido Shobukan Dojo.

That same year, ASU was formally recognized by Hombu Dojo after 13 years of operating independently. To this day, ASU is the only Aikido organization that has retained its independence while still being recognized as a contributing member of the Aikikai Foundation and the International Aikido Federation, representing organizations created by Hombu Dojo to facilitate the spread of Aikido throughout the world.

Return to the top of this article.

The Aiki Shrine (1995-Present Day)

In 1995, Saotome Sensei decided to move back to the west coast of Florida.

In 1997, Saotome Sensei established the Aiki Shrine Dojo in Myakka City, a unique, open-air dojo located in rural Florida.

asu aiki shrine ceremony
Taken at the dedication ceremony for the Aiki Shrine

The design for the Aiki Shrine was inspired by the Iwama Shrine in Iwama, Japan, where O-Sensei lived for the last twenty-seven years of his life. In building the Shrine, Saotome Sensei wanted to recreate and preserve the deep sense of spirituality and connectedness to nature he felt while studying at the Iwama Shrine when he was young.

As at the Iwama dojo, three of the four walls of the Aiki Shrine are removed before practice, allowing direct contact with nature during classes. The fourth wall serves the spiritual function of providing a home for the kamiza, or shrine, which is a central fixture in all Aikido dojos.

asu aiki shrine
The Aiki Shrine

In 2016, Saotome Sensei transferred ownership of the Aiki Shrine to ASU to preserve it as a lasting physical legacy, and to unify future generations of ASU students and instructors through a living heritage and connection with lineage to the spirit of O-Sensei.

Saotome Sensei continues to teach Aikido regularly. In addition to teaching special instructional sessions at the Aiki Shrine, Saotome Sensei has traveled every year to teach at seminars in locations throughout the U.S., including at the Aikido Shobukan Dojo in D.C., and in various locations in Florida, California, and elsewhere.

His focus now is on helping to inspire and develop future generations of Aikido students and raising the level of ASU teachers.

This is the important thing: my vision and my job now is for making future Aikido leaders. Young people are the future of Aikido. Through Aikido we can discover a peaceful society.

– Saotome Sensei

Return to the top of this article.

Stories from Saotome Sensei’s Students

Saotome Sensei has had hundreds of students throughout his time living in the U.S., many of whom have gone on to become master Aikido teachers themselves.

Here are some of their stories and memories.

On the Importance of Being Gentle

Saotome Sensei taught a particularly grueling class one day in Sarasota in the mid-70s. It was incredibly physical, and everyone took lots of ukemi—and keep in mind, this was in Florida in the summer, so we were all sweating a lot.

During the class, Saotome Sensei was throwing everyone, and really working hard himself.

After class he had us all sit down, and he reached inside his gi and pulled out an egg. He’d had it in his gi through the whole class!

It was just incredible. Here we are all working so hard, being so physical, and he had gone through the whole class with an egg in his gi.

Then he lectured us.

“You’re all soaking wet,” he said. “You’re all so tired. But you don’t need to work that hard if you’re doing it correctly. You need to be more gentle.”

Then he cracked the egg into the bowl to show that it was still raw. It had a huge impact on us and our practice.

—Mary and Tom McIntire Senseis

On Gender Roles

When Sensei first came to America he carried the perception that women shouldn’t do Aikido because they had baby-making equipment, which shouldn’t be disturbed by being smashed into the mat.

But he didn’t count on Susan McIntyre and Patty Roberts. After a few days of Sensei teaching, they told Sensei they wanted to take ukemi. Patty and Susan would not take no for an answer, so Sensei started using women in the dojo for uke in class, but not at seminars.

But in 1977, Saotome Sensei taught a seminar in Wisconsin. After class the first night he gathered the students together for a discussion, and one of the young women quickly asked Sensei about the role of women in the dojo.

Sensei replied that women could serve tea and keep up the home so their husbands could train, since they needed to protect their baby-making equipment. The woman pointed out that maybe having baby-making equipment on the outside, like men did, might be more of a detriment than having it inside.

Sensei appeared to contemplate this and the next day the ladies were called up for ukemi. After that, women were always used as uke everywhere Sensei taught.

—Wendy Whited Sensei

Encountering Saotome Sensei

I first encountered Saotome Sensei when he taught a one-day seminar at Stanford University in the mid 1970s. The Aikido world of northern California was yet small, and Aikidoka rushed from our various home dojos to experience visiting master teachers who had been uchi deshi to O Sensei. Frank Doran Sensei’s thriving Stanford Aikido Club, pre- decessor of Aikido West, was one of only three large training spaces, and hosted many of the regional seminars.

I had heard that Saotome Sensei, who had resigned from his prominent position as se- nior instuctor at Hombu Dojo to move to Sarasota, Florida at the invitation of a small group there, was the only one of the Tokyo shihan who smiled. Later he said that at Hombu Dojo he had been very severe and never smiled. But when I first saw him in the hallway of the Stanford Gym, a handsome compact man with a crewcut in horn rimmed glasses and a suit, I seem to remember he was smiling.

When he began class, suit transformed into white gi and black hakama, he most defi- nitely smiled.

The class was a divine tapestry. He was funny and musical and artistic. He played his uke like a guitar, transformed his arm into a cobra, and evaded ten blackbelts with wooden swords lightly and cleanly before breaking into a gazelle-like run. He spoke passionately of O Sensei. And at the end of the day, he took stardust from his gi and blew it out at us — O Sensei’s ki — and I felt it….!

I had had plans to go to Japan, once I had gotten some funds together, to train with those who carried a flame of this art. But now I was veering. I wanted to study with this one, this artist of the body, this one who knew beauty, who did not struggle, who had the posture of a god, and who smiled.

A few months later we were all there again, training in the big open gymnasium at a workshop taught by some accomplished teacher who has faded in my memory. Rumor had it a high-level teachers’ meeting would follow that evening. Afterwards I changed my clothes in the locker room and headed back out the field house doors on my way to the parking lot and home. The concrete steps opened to a quad with lawns and trees.

And I saw him like an apparition. Sweeping across the sparsely treed expanse in a floor-length purple knit cape, walking like an emperor with a folded umbrella over his arm. Saotome Sensei.

“That’s my guy,” I said to myself. Here power and beauty and creativity meet.

— Raso Hultgren

On the Importance of Martial Awareness

I remember I was practicing Suwari Waza Shomenuchi Ikkyo—this was in Sarasota in the late ‘70s.

Sensei came up, shooed my partner away, and invited me to attack him.

So I begin to strike him and somehow he kicks me in the ribs. I couldn’t believe it! It was quick and hard, and very surprising.

I wouldn’t have thought it would be possible to kick someone from kneeling like that, but he did it every time I tried to strike him, at least three or four times in a row.

It took a few times getting kicked, but I really learned something from that.

There was this strong pedagogical element to what he was showing me.

He didn’t explain to me in words that I was leaving myself open when I was striking. Instead he showed me in one of the most athletic, yet graceful ways I can imagine. It made a really strong impression, and I learned to protect my ribs after that, and also to be more aware of where I was opening myself up in general.

—Tom McIntire Sensei

On Transmission from Saotome Sensei

There’s a certain feel that you get from being uke for Saotome Sensei that you don’t get with anybody else. And I see that feeling as a kind of brief glimpse for the uke: this is what you need to aspire to.

It’s almost a feeling that you’re punching into nothingness. And then you’re flying.

—John Messores Sensei

On Saotome Sensei’s Unique Character as a Teacher

When I first began studying Aikido my teacher was Japanese, and he would never smile while teaching.

But the first time I saw Saotome Sensei teach he bowed in, then he turned and said in Japanese, “Welcome! I am so glad you came,” and he flashed the most charming smile.

And then, to my complete amazement he was funny!

He did a five-minute freestyle (i.e., randori practice with multiple attackers) in this huge gymnasium. During the freestyle he ran up into the bleachers with his ukes running after him, took a red helium balloon from a young boy, and used it to fight off his attackers.

Then, to my astonishment, he ran back into the bleachers, handed the balloon back to the child, and continued the randori. After this class, I knew I had found my teacher.

—Wendy Whited Sensei


Return to the top of this article.


Timeline of Major Events in Saotome Sensei’s Life

  • March, 1937—S. Sensei born
  • 1954—Sees his first Aikido class
  • 1955—Starts attending Aikido classes at Hombu Dojo under O-Sensei
  • 1957—Awarded Shodan rank
  • 1959—Becomes personal uchi deshi to O-Sensei
  • 1960—Starts teaching at Hombu Dojo
  • 1968—Promoted to Shihan
  • 1969, April—O-Sensei dies
  • 1975—Arrives in U.S., establishes Sarasota Aikikai and Aikido Schools of Ueshiba
  • 1975-1979—Founder and Dojo Cho at Sarasota Aikikai
  • 1979-1985—Founder and Dojo Cho at Aikido Shobukan Dojo in Washington, D.C.
  • 1985-1987—Dojo Cho at Chicago Budokan Dojo
  • 1988, Jan—ASU recognized by Hombu Dojo
  • 1988-1995—Dojo Cho at Aikido Shobukan Dojo in Washington, D.C.
  • 1995-present—Dojo Cho at Myakka City Aiki Shrine

Saotome Sensei Bibliography

This is a list of books written by Saotome Sensei.

  • Aikido and the Harmony of Nature (1986)
  • The Principles of Aikido (1989)
  • Living by Design (2004)
  • A Light on Transmission (2015)

Saotome Sensei Videography

This is a list of videos featuring Saotome Sensei and his teaching. Note: This list is by no means exhaustive. If you have videos you think should be included, please send an email Guy Hagen Sensei at guy[at]asu[dot]org.

Return to the top of this article.

Photographs

Visit this page to see more pictures from Saotome Sensei’s life.

Condolences: Thurston Carleton

It is with great sadness that ASU shares news of the passing of Thurston Carleton, 6th dan, Aikido Shobukan Dojo Board member, and longtime contributor to the aikido community. Thurston’s deep understanding of aikido principles and commitment to Saotome Shihan’s vision served as an inspiration to us all and benefited many. His time at Shobukan spanned five decades. From rigorous training in his early years (e.g., we’ve heard the stories of koshi-nage practice in the parking lot) to leading seniors’ class in his later years, Thurston was always engaged in the happenings of the dojo. Thurston truly did it all for the dojo and always from a place of love and respect for the art and those around him. We will miss Thurston’s sage guidance and generous spirit.

https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/silver-spring-md/thurston-carleton-9123800

The following memories are offered by George Ledyard Sensei:

“I knew Thurston Carlton for over 40 years. I began my Aikido training in 1977 at the newly opened Aikido Shobukan Dojo with Saotome Sensei and in those early days of the dojo, Thurston was ever present. In those days the dojo was not yet close to finished. Warren Little lived in his camper behind the dojo (where the rock garden is now). Only half the space was matted. It had been an electrician’s business and half the space was filled with old cable reels, wiring, and all sorts of garbage while we had cleared the other half and built the mat. The walls were in the process of being paneled. Thurston and I among others did that.

Thurston always seemed to be at the dojo somewhere, fixing something. In those days there was no residence upstairs so the Dojo was the mat area and a cave-like basement. Sensei lived elsewhere. Thurston seemed to be over at Sensei’s when he wasn’t at the dojo. I know he had a job in those days but I am not at all sure how he managed that since between his time at Sensei’s helping him and his time at the dojo working on the space it seemed like aikido took up all his time. In those days the core group all trained six days a week. But Thurston would even come in off-hours and train with Glenn Bluestone who lived with Sarah down in the basement. Glenn was always happy to have Thurston drop in for more Aikido.

No one loved Aikido more than Thurston did. And no one did more for Sensei or the Dojo than Thurston did in those early days. Over the years that never changed. If something needed fixing, he jumped right in. If Sensei needed help with something, he jumped right in… right up until his passing.

The Aikido Shobukan Dojo owes Thuston more than can be expressed. And it will not be quite the same place without his presence. His passing is the end of an era.”

Message From Saotome Sensei

I hope that all Aikidoka everywhere in the world stay safe. Aiki is the ability to recognize circumstances around you and adapt. For example, I hear you are using new technology to keep to keep connected. Very good!

I am very proud that my students have put safety first and closed their dojo. Taking care of the community was always in the heart of O-Sensei. If we help each other, we will get through this and return to our usual practice.

Please know that Patricia, my wife, and I are safe and taken care of here in Sarasota. I hope to see all of you soon.

Mitsugi Saotome, Shihan
Aikido Schools of Ueshiba

ASU Dojo-Cho Videoconference: Responding to the Coronavirus Outbreak

ASU will be hosting a special videoconference to help member dojos respond appropriately to the current COVID-19/Coronavirus outbreak.  All ASU dojo-cho are encouraged to participate.

March 17, 2020 at 8:00 pm ET
If you are a dojocho and you did not receive an invitation,
contact Tres Hofmeister at tres@nullasu.org

2020 Kagami Biaraki Promotions

The following ASU instructor promotions were recognized by the Aikikai Hombu (World Aikido Headquarters) at their annual Kagami Biraki celebration:

GodanYondan
Dwayne Bolt Philadelphia, PA
Dana Hays Missoula, MT
Daniel McConnell Columbus, OH
Richard Moore Tallahassee, FI
Betsy O’Donnell Cleveland, OH
Brad Schultz Edmonton, Canada
John Taylor Washington, D.C.
Scott Brady Billings, MT
George Carroll New Lenox, IL
Katherine Derbyshire Seattle, WA
Reginald Robinson Washington, D.C.
Michael Stabile Washington, D.C.
Tseng Wang Madison, WI

The ASU Board would also like to congratulate the successful candidates. Thank you for all of your efforts on the various committees.

The formal Aikikai announcement is linked here.

2019 Kagami Biraki Promotions

The following ASU instructor promotions were recognized by the Aikikai Hombu (World Aikido Headquarters) at their annual Kagami Biraki celebration:

NanadanRokudanGodanYondan
Raso HultgrenAyhan Kaya
Nick Kiritz
Mary McIntire
Tom McIntire
James Sorrentino
Ed Cline
Stephen Earle
James Gardner
Jeffrey Hadley
Steven Matthews
Taku Okubo
Steven Duncan
Tobin Foster
Brad Kaser
Joe Kinman
Al Krever
Kristien Kubler
David Meisner
Michael Pollak
Ed Reiff

The formal Aikikai announcement is linked here.

2018 Kagami Biraki Promotions

The following ASU instructor promotions were recognized by the Aikikai Hombu (World Aikido Headquarters) at their annual Kagami Biraki celebration:

RokudanGodanYondan
Brian Canin
Stephen Fasen
Steven Lee Schneid
Ana Arango
Melissa Bell
Luis Escamilla
Cheryl Moore-Gough
Jerold Hargis
Sharon Seymour
Kerry Connell
Tom Graham
Jay Hartley
Ola Karasik
Cathy Middlecamp
Amir Moayedpa
Alex Rodriguez
Ebon Soul
Jesse Williamson
Tracy Wujcik

The formal Aikikai announcement is linked here.

2017 Kagami Biraki Promotions

The following 44 ASU instructor promotions were recognized by the Aikikai Hombu (World Aikido Headquarters) at their annual Kagami Biraki celebration:

NanadanRokudanGodanYondan
Charles TsengMike Adachi
Jude Blitz
Douglas Hanson
Eugene Lee
Alex Nakamura
Gary Small
Marsha Turner
Tracy Alpert
Larry Bowman
Barb Brown
Mark Campbel-Olszewski
Nina Carleton
Don Ellingsworth
Guy Hagen
Brian Healy
Eric Henkels
James Klar
Jonathan Klopp
Jonathan Lewis
Leslie Libby
Cheryl Matrasko
Laurie Nusbaum
Douglas Peelie
Ken Purdy
Kay Sandacz
Brian Scott
Thomas Stenzel
Todd Trzaskos
Jennifer Barr
James Codaman
Robert Fergusen
James Ford
Michael Hunter
Garth Jones
Min Kang
Warren Little
David Mosley
Cliff Patrie
Daniel Rubin
Beth Schenk
Kirk Scott
Kooros Shirazi
Andrzej Siwkiewicz
Billie Steiert

The formal Aikikai announcement is linked here.