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About Shobu Aikido

Home > People > Katherine Derbyshire > Aikido > About Shobu Aikido
This article was originally written for the BuJin Design online newsletter.

Shobu Aikido of Boston began in 1980, in a single 18 x 30 foot room on Station St. in Brookline, Massachusetts. That first year, chief instructor Bill Gleason Sensei (6th dan) said, the dojo grew from just three students to ten. Over the next fifteen years, the dojo expanded into a second room, creating a 36 x 40 foot space, then walled off the end of an adjacent hallway to create a women's changing room. The number of students grew steadily as well, reaching more than 50 by 1995.

Then, in 1995, the dojo was forced to move to its present location a few blocks away, on Harvard Court in Brookline. The present space is much larger, with a 65 x 36 foot mat, plus spacious changing rooms, office space, and storage space. Unfortunately, the move closed the dojo for three months. By the time it reopened, half the students had left and the dojo had absorbed $35,000 in renovation costs.

Mat at Shobu Aikido

Membership gradually recovered, and now (October, 2000) stands at more than 75 students. Gleason Sensei's first student, Ralph Malerba (5th dan) is now chief instructor at Shobu Aikido of Woodstock, Vermont. Satoru Sato (4th dan) heads Shobu Aikido of the Berkshires (Great Barrington, MA), and Rob Liberti (2nd dan) heads Shobu Aikido of Connecticut (Storrs, CT). Thousands of students have passed through the dojo over the years, Gleason Sensei said. More than 30 have reached shodan rank or higher.

Despite those successes, the business of running a dojo can get in the way of teaching. Gleason Sensei recently appointed a dojo business manager, allowing him to focus more on teaching. "I wish I'd done it years ago," he said.

When he first started teaching, Gleason Sensei explained, he had a body memory of his training in Japan (with Yamaguchi Sensei). The training there was constant, with little time to digest or analyze. As a teacher, he had to "stop and figure out what I had learned."

Over the years, as he has clarified and internalized his own understanding, he has discovered that some things form the core of aikido. His teaching has become more compact, more focused on this central thread. As that thread evolves and develops, he, and students following the thread, can explore more and more deeply. In contrast, he believes that less focused teaching may not allow students to discover the depth within aikido for themselves.

Gleason Sensei outside Shobu Aikido

As Shobu Aikido of Boston comes to the end of an era-the dojo will be forced to move again soon-I asked Gleason Sensei about his hopes for his students and his legacy in aikido.

"I want to see the thread, the universal principle, get passed down body to body, through teaching of aikido, so that what was passed to me will not be lost," he said. "And I want my students to reach a level where they begin to understand aikido as it relates to their daily life, not just aikido in the dojo."

Shobu Aikido of Boston welcomes visitors. For class schedules and other information, visit the dojo web page.

Shobu Aikido of Boston, 30 Harvard Court, Brookline, MA 02146, Tel: (617) 734-3208

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Photos Copyright © 2000 by Hiroshi Ikeda. Used by permission.

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