The Academy

The Aikido Academy is dedicated to providing instruction through classes and seminars in the art and philosophies of aikido to the citizens of the Los Angeles area. All are welcome.

The founder and head instructor of the Aikido Academy is Francis Y. Takahashi Shihan, 7th Dan, an original pioneer of aikido in Southern California, a historical figure in the development of aikido in America, and one of the world's premier teachers of aikido.

In addition to Takahashi Shihan's leadership, the Aikido Academy boasts the most experienced and diverse aikido teaching staff in the Los Angeles area, with well over 100 years of combined experience.

The Aikido Academy's staff strives to make a positive difference in the lives of students and assist them in achieving their highest potential, not only in martial arts, but also in their daily lives.

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Francis Y. Takahashi Shihan

Francis was born on August 26, 1943 in Honolulu, Hawaii, moving to Los Angeles in 1961, where he currently resides. Currently active as a real estate broker, he continues to teach and inspire at the Aikido Academy in Alhambra, California. Francis is currently ranked 7th dan as recognized by Aikikai Hombu Dojo. He is also the Aikikai representative for Aikikai Associates West Coast, affiliated with Hombu Dojo.

Francis's grandfather, Noriyasu Kagesa, as president of the Hawaii Nishi Kai, was instrumental in inviting Koichi Tohei Sensei to introduce aikido to Hawaii. Francis started his aikido career in 1953 or so, under the instructorship of Ietoshi Takahashi, who also instructed him in kendo, Japanese fencing. Additionally, in the late 1960's, Francis learned Shotokan karate from Hidetaka Nishiyama Sensei.

In 1961, Francis moved to Los Angeles, California, where his stepfather, Isao Takahashi, a senior student of Koichi Tohei Sensei, became head instructor of the infant Los Angeles Aikikai. Francis himself spent two years in the U.S. Army, stationed in Chicago, Illinois from November 1963 to September 1965. While there, he succeeded Chet Sasaki as the head instructor of the Illinois Aikido Club. Upon returning to California in 1965, Francis assumed leadership of the Rafu Dojo in East Los Angeles while his father took over the Illinois Aikido Club and further developed aikido in the Chicago area. These were among the first aikido schools to develop in the United States outside of Hawaii, and would pave the way for future aikido instructors.

In the early 1970's Francis formed Alhambra Aikikai, and the name was eventually changed to the Aikido Academy. During this time Francis's Los Angeles home became a favorite sojourn stop for many important luminaries in the aikido world who were visiting America, including Nidai Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Sandai Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba, Mitsunari Kanai, Yoshimitsu Yamada... the list goes on and on.

The greatest influences of Francis's aikido career are hard to define. Amongst the names he recollects are: Nidai Doshu, for his example of class as a human being, along with his appropriate statesmanship; Osawa Sensei for his leadership by example; Mitsunari Kanai Sensei for his special friendship and unbelievable ability to demonstrate aikido as a truly effective martial art; and Yasuo Kobayashi Sensei, who has set the standard of making Aikido instruction an economically viable profession, while preserving the essence of O-Sensei's vision and integrity of aikido as a true cultural as well as genuine martial art form. In addition, there were and remain innumerable fine aikidoka who impressed and continue to inspire and teach Francis. In all honesty, however, no greater inspiration and input matches the students themselves, who consistently and lovingly challenge Francis's current understanding and flexibility in his own ongoing growth and development. They are, always have been, and always will be his greatest teachers, mentors, and inspiration.

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Class Instructors

  • Richard Klein - Instructor
    Godan (5th Dan) - Shidoin

    Rick Klein has been practicing Aikido for over 25 years. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, he began his Aikido training in 1966 at the University of Hawaii while attending summer school. He returned to L.A. to finish his undergraduate degree at Cal State Northridge and continued practicing aikido at L.A. Aikikai. Rick joined Aikido Academy in 1985 and became part of the teaching staff several years later, and still trains at the Aikido Academy every week. Rick is currently a godan and is founder and chief instructor of Sycamores Aikido, a specialized aikido program for "at risk" children since 2000.

  • Robin Mitsui - Instructor
    Godan (5th Dan) - Shidoin

    Robin Mitsui is the Aikido Academy's most senior student, having started his aikido training over 30 years ago. Robin was one of the Academy's most dedicated instructors, and he still trains at the Aikido Academy every week. Robin is currently a godan and teaches at Pasadena Aikikai in addition to training at the Academy.

  • Ron Dahl - Instructor
    Yondan (4th Dan) - Shidoin

    Ron Dahl recently received yondan from Takahashi Sensei and currently heads the Juniors Program at the dojo in addition to teaching an Adult Fundamentals class. After teaching aikido for seven years to troubled teenagers at the Sycamores Group Home in Altadena, he finally felt qualified to deal with five-year-olds. Ron began his study at the Aikido Academy with his own daughter when she was eight. Somewhere along the way she went on to other things (paleontology) but he's still here, plugging away. He has supplemented his study of aikido with a couple years of Shotokan karate, in an effort to understand how other disciplines emphasize different aspects of Martial Arts.

  • Kevin Chiu - Instructor
    Nidan (3rd Dan) - Shidoin

    Kevin Chiu began training in aikido for a year before immigrating to the United States in 1986, and continued his aikido studies under Reverend Kensho Furuya Sensei of the Aikido Center of Los Angeles. Shortly afterward, Kevin met Francis Takahashi Sensei and has been a member of the Aikido Academy ever since. The class he teaches at the Academy focuses on the fundamentals, and he wishes every aikidoka a fulfilling and joyful experience along the path and welcomes everyone, veteran or novice, that comes to the Academy to "Train hard, have fun, and sweat a lot".

  • Pedro Flores - Instructor
    Nidan - 2nd Dan

    While a student at Cal State LA, Pedro Flores tried several of the martial arts classes offered at the school but decided to continue with aikido, then taught by Richard Klein Sensei. When the aikido program at Cal State LA was discontinued, Klein Sensei extended an invitation to all his students to come train at the Aikido Academy, which Pedro accepted. At the Academy, he feels fortunate to not only be able to train hard in the fundamentals of aikido, but also to elevate his training by being given the opportunity to teach the juniors' classes. Now a nidan, he feels he has grown with the kids, and appreciates the Academy's mindset of constant development, improvement, and enjoyment.

  • Violet Casillas - Instructor
    Nidan - 2nd Dan

    Violet Casillas has been studying aikido since 2006. In addition to training, she instructs the kids classes. She truly enjoys how her growth in aikido practice reflects her growth as a person.

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The Venue

The Aikido Academy SVG is located in the San Gabriel Masonic Center at 278 S. Mission Drive in San Gabriel, CA, an unusual place for an aikido dojo but a venue that has its own unique advantages. Click here for directions.

The Academy is spacious, brightly lit, and air conditioned, and equipped with 92 high quality foam tatami mats, giving the Academy the flexibility to host both small classes and large seminars. The Academy is also conveniently located within walking distance of many fine restaurants and shops located on Main Street, Alhambra.

The Academy has a large waiting area for visitors and parents of students, and provides hot and cold beverages, snacks, wireless internet, and clean restrooms for Academy members and families at no extra charge.

The Aikido Academy would like to thank the Alhambra Masonic Center for providing such a wonderful facility in which to train. We look forward to seeing you on the mat!

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