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Aikido was founded by Morihei Ueshiba in the 1920’s as a culmination of his martial studies in Daitō-ryū aiki-jūjutsu and spiritual pursuits in the Ōmoto-kyō religion. Morihei Ueshiba is commonly referred to as O-Sensei (Great Teacher). The word Aikido contains three elements: “ai”-harmony or coordination, “ki”-the spirit or energy, and “do”- the method or way. The power of Aikido is not found in huge muscle strength but rather in the correct and natural method of coordinating the mind and body. With correct coordination, one can use the momentum brought by an assailant to apply a wrist lock, throw, or calmly diffuse an aggressor’s energy. Those who study this martial art strive for self-improvement of their own inner harmony so they can better blend with tense or aggressive situations in the dojo and in the world beyond. Both men and women can benefit from the regular practice of “Aikido: the way of harmony.”
AWR was founded in its current location in 1991 by Byron Mellinger Sensei and was originally affiliated with Aikido Kinokawa. In 1992, after a break with Aikido Kinokawa, AWR became affiliated with the American Aikido Association (AAA), which was founded and directed by Toyoda Sensei. In 1993, AWR became affiliated with the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba (ASU), founded and directed by Mitsugi Saotome Shihan. AWR continues to be affiliate with the ASU, and is connected to Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, Japan, through this affiliation.
In 1999, Byron Sensei decided to retire from teaching and practicing aikido and left AWR in the hands of its students. In the summer of 1999, the students formed the Board of Directors and began leading the dojo as a student-run organization. The Board is currently comprised of four senior members of the dojo who regularly teach classes, organize seminars, arrange for social events, and oversee the maintenance and care of the dojo. Current Board members are Eric Webber, Michael Harrell, Christine Moore, Bob Ferrara, and Chris Kostaras.
After the departure of Byron Sensei in 1999, the senior students of AWR turned to other area ASU Sensei for guidance and instruction, including David Goldberg Sensei of Seishinkan Dojo (formerly Norristown, presently Fort Washington), and Dan Messisco Sensei. Currently, AWR regularly hosts several teachers throughout the year for seminars and instruction, including Jimmy Sorrentino Sensei of Arlington, VA, and Charlie Page Sensei of the Baltimore Aikikai.
AWR continues today as a Not-For-Profit student-run organization. All of the members share in paying monthly dues, maintaining and caring for the dojo, and providing a safe and welcoming atmosphere to all who earnestly wish to come and train in aikido.
Eric Webber, Sandan
Michael Harrell, Nidan
Bob Ferrara, Shodan
Chris Kostaras, Shodan
6:30 pm – 8 pm (empty hand)
10 am – 11 am (weapons)
11 am – 12 pm (empty hand)
Classes are open to all training levels and to anyone age 18 or older.
*Please follow our Facebook page for any schedule changes such as cancellations or special seminars or workshops!
Aikido West Reading
600 Penn Avenue
West Reading, PA, 19611
The dojo is located beneath Say Cheese at the corner of 6th and Penn in West Reading. Look for our sign above the stairwell a few dozen feet back from the corner.
Q: How do I get started in aikido?
A: Come in and watch a class. If you decide you would like to try aikido, you may train for one week free. After that, you may sign the appropriate paperwork and become a member.
Q: What is involved in training at your dojo?
A: Aikido is noncompetitive, and we structure our classes beginning with warm ups followed by demonstration and practice of several techniques. You will be expected to take on the role of “nage” (thrower) and “uke” (one who is thrown). You will learn how to execute techniques as well as protect yourself and safely fall or roll out of techniques. We have members of varying ages, sizes, and abilities. It is expected that we all be sensitive to each other’s limits and strive to create an environment where we will be pushed to learn and grow in our training without causing injury.
Q: Is there a contract to sign?
A: No. Dues are paid on a monthly basis.
Q: How much will it cost?
A: Our monthly dues are $70 for a single member. Related members are given a family rate of $100 for two members. There are also annual fees. All members contribute $25 for dojo insurance and pay for membership to the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba (ASU): $75 for yudansha (dan ranked) and $45 for mudansha (kyu ranked).
*A mat fee of $10 for guests to practice is appreciated.
Q: Who benefits from the monthly dues?
A: The students do. AWR is a Not-For-Profit Organization; there are no paid employees or instructors. Everyone pays the same monthly dues regardless of rank or position in the dojo. Everyone is expected to take part in cleaning, maintaining, and caring for the dojo.
Q: Do I need to buy a gi and/or hakama immediately?
A: No. You may begin training in sweats and a t-shirt to start. If you have another gi from another dojo or art, you may also wear that. However, it is appropriate to wear a white belt if unranked in aikido.
Q: What kind of ranking system and belts are used in aikido?
A: The ranking system at AWR is fairly simple. There are “kyu” ranks and there are are “dan” ranks. 6th through 4th kyu wear a white belt, 3rd through 1st kyu may wear a brown belt, and dan ranks wear a black belt. Please know that rank does not come quickly or easily in aikido; it generally takes six to eight years of consistent, regular training for a shodan (1st dan).
Q: Are there kata in aikido?
A: While there are not traditional solo kata (as there are in karate, tae kwon do, etc), the method of practice is kata-like in that there is a prescribed attack and a prescribed technique for defense in order to practice the particular techniques during class. “Jiyuwaza,” or free form, is practiced at more advanced levels. There are some weapons kata that are taught and practiced.
Q: Are there weapons in aikido?
A: Yes. We train with the bokken, jo, and tanto. Much of aikido technique is based on Japanese sword technique (specifically the school of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu), thus the bokken is used to help demonstrate and clarify principles of movement and technique. We also practice defending against armed attackers using the bokken, jo, and tanto.
Q: Will I need to buy weapons immediately?
A: No. There are weapons at the dojo for use during class. If you want to practice weapons kata at home, you may purchase your own weapons. This is recommended after you are sure you want to continue your aikido practice.
Aikido West Reading
600 Penn Avenue
West Reading, PA, 19611