By Pat KRAMER On Saturday, a special workshop was held in Sunland to demonstrate the art of Seidokan aikido, a Japanese self-defense practice founded by the late aikido master Rod Kobayashi. On hand to demonstrate special techniques were Kobayashi’s daughter, Michiyo Kobayashi, along with Sensai Michael Dwyer and Sensai Gabriel Lagaretta. This special event, offered through Los Angeles Recreation and Parks, was held courtesy of Aikido of the Foothills, which teaches classes for adults, teens and children every Tuesday and Thursday evening from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Sunland Senior Services Center at 8640 Fenwick St.in Sunland.
Sensai Douglas Leonard, who is the shian-dai of Aikido of the Foothills, taught classes in Seidokan aikido for 25 years until he suffered a stroke two years ago. He still oversees the classes, which he brought to Sunland Park.
“Aikido enhances one’s life and gives people the ability to not only to defend themselves, but to have a positive outlook on life that they can take into whatever pursuit they wish to follow,” he said.
Kobayashi, who is considered somewhat of a celebrity in Seidokan aikido, is a shian-dai instructor and the chief children’s instructor for the Aikido Institute of America, located in Eagle Rock. Her participation in the three-hour workshop on Saturday offered a rare glimpse into her father’s discipline to initiates, young and old.
The late Rod Kobayashi was a sixth degree black belt in aikido and a master teacher. Born in Hawaii in 1932, he was schooled in the history and philosophy of budo (Japanese martial arts). Kobayashi’s formal training began in 1957 at the Hawaii Aikikai with masters Yukiso Yamamoto, Kazuto Sugimoto, and Isao Takahashi, the first students of tohei shihan, the foremost authority on aikido and ki in the United States. Each of these masters was unique in his own way and had a great influence in Kobayashi’s understanding of aikido and ki. After a lengthy career of achievements, he moved up to the rank to sixth degree black belt before branching out to establish Seidokan aikido in 1981, which emphasizes the balanced practice of principle and techniques.
Locally, Leonard founded Aikido of the Foothills five years ago after teaching the Los Angeles Kids Program in self-defense. Through Rec & Parks, his school offers ongoing classes every Tuesday and Thursday evening for both beginners and those more advanced. “It’s an opportunity for families to participate together in a welcome exercise that is healthy for everyone,” he said. Registration for 10 classes is $25 via www.laparks.org or interested participants can drop by Sunland Park and visit a class to learn more. To enroll in the ongoing aikido classes at Sunland Park Senior Center, register onsite at Sunland Park with Rec & Parks personnel, go online or show up to view the class which is held every Tuesday and Thursday from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the Senior Center building.