Cat Strada Sensei, 3 Dan
I started Aikido at Jiai in 2007 under Jeff Sodeman Sensei. The dojo let us explore Aikido without boundaries, visit other dojos, and cross train other arts. Classes were fun, tough but safe, and the dojo was welcoming. O'Sensei's philosophy of harmonious resolutions to conflict was an idea I never heard, and needed. So, I spent the following years immersed in aikido, dedicated to my dojo, training systema, and seminar traveling.
My classes teach clean, traditional waza and fundamentals first, while learning what a new student's interests & needs are. There are so many reasons to do Aikido... 'Self-defense' is one small aspect, and an immaterial one at highest levels of Aiki which can take years to attain. So, if a student is also interested in physical defense quickly, its important they aren't misled into false confidence. For those students I push hard with elements uncommon in many dojos, like safely receiving strikes, kicks, ground & wall work, or falling outside. I feel those students interested, deserve an ability to protect them self and others using basic natural techniques, while they work on traditional aikido refinement and principles. Our unique 'No-Gi" (no-uniform) aikido classes and Applied Aikido classes aid us in this.
We also train psyche and dynamic Ukemi, learning how to connect to people and move through fear/tension as ukes being thrown freely with no expectations. This makes it possible to understand ourselves and others better, open our hearts & minds, and work freely as nages (throwing).
Many have inspired and do inspire my Aikido especially Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan and Jeff Sodeman Sensei, Frank Doran Shihan, Christian Tissier Shihan, Mary Heiny Sensei, Morihiko Murashige Shihan, Lia Suzuki Sensei, tactical combative & Systema Instructor Ken Good, and Lisa Tomoleoni Sensei.
Lisa Tomoleoni Sensei holds the rank of Roku Dan (6th dan), received directly from Moriteru Ueshiba, Aikido Doshu. She spent over 13 years in Japan training at the Aikido World Headquarters and teaching Aikido professionally at a dojo in Tokyo.
Tomoleoni Sensei is Director of the Aikido Shimbokukai, an organization Officially Recognized by the Aikikai Foundation and Aikido World Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. Additionally, she is the Chief Instructor of the Abiding Spirit Aikikai in Crystal Lake, Illinois.
She holds yudansha rank in Judo and Iaido and is a member of the Kenshukan Dojo in Tokyo. Tomoleoni Sensei is a coauthor of the book "Along the Way", a collection of writings about training. Tomoleoni is also fluent in Japanese and offers the only all-Japanese language aikido classes in the City.
Lisa Tomoleoni Sensei, 6 Dan
Jiai Aikido, Technical Director
Aikido Shimbokukai, Director
Tom Liu Sensei began his Aikido training in the early 1990s under Frank Doran Shihan at the Aikido West dojo and the Stanford Aikido Club. He received the rank of Yondan (4th Dan) from Doran Shihan under California Aikido Association in 2016. Liu Sensei also practices Tai Chi, the Alexander Technique, and meditation and has been a regular Instructor at Jiai Aikido for several years.
His primary interests are the exploration of the principles of mind-body integration and the development of integrated and relaxed power.
Tom Liu Sensei, 4 Dan
Jiai Aikido was founded in 2003, and is affiliated with Aikido Shimbokukai which is an Officially Recognized Organization by the Aikido World Headquarters (Hombu Dojo) and the Aikikai Foundation in Tokyo, Japan.
After encouragement from Ikeda Shihan, Jiai Aikido was founded by one of his long time students, Jeff Sodeman Sensei, in 2003. Sodeman Sensei, in 2009, passed the dojo to Cat Strada Sensei (Nidan), who is now Dojo Cho. Strada Sensei was joined on the teaching staff by Main Instructors Nikki Lewis Sensei (Yondan) and Van Hillier Sensei (Yondan). In 2017, Lisa Tomoleoni Sensei (Rokudan), Director of Aikido Shimbokukai, joined the Jiai Aikido instructor team.
Senior students and guest instructors contribute regularly, offering exposure to different perspectives. All students, once 2nd Kyu, are occasionally invited to teach a basics class to help their better understanding of Aikido. This also gives a wonderful opportunity for sempai (senior students) to support and encourage the kohai (lower ranked). Students are encouraged to experiment and evolve their training, and to find 'their own Aikido' within the principles of O-Sensei.
Our instructors share the same vision and goal for the dojo- To cultivate each student's unique and highest potential of physical and internal self, within the principles taught by O-Sensei. We do not teach our students a certain 'style' they must conform to, or prohibit their ability to be exposed to things. We teach the value of freedom in self-exploration, the difference between technique and principles, and how technique & movements can vary some, while principles are universal.
We achieve this advanced level of personalized aikido integration, by training in dynamic and cooperative partner fashion until one is ready for more resistance or stressors. The Introductory Program includes private lessons, Member Training Binders, and vocabulary & video study guides to help get started.
Jiai Aikido shares its dojo as a cooperative place for all aikidoists to share, and is the home of the first and annual International Aikido Bridge Friendship Seminar, and hosts many other top events or Regional Seminars for various Affiliations, yearly.
“Jiai” is Japanese for “kindness/affection” like that of a teacher to student, or parent to child, and is the name was given to our school by Ikeda Shihan.