The Instructors

Andrew M Sato: Aikido World Alliance Chief Instructor,
Nanadan (7th dan) Shihan (Master Teacher), Aikikai

Andrew Sato Sensei began his Aikido training in December, 1977, after a trip to Japan added fuel to a fire that was already burning in him to connect with his ancestral roots. After a free trial lesson with Fumio Toyoda Shihan, Sato Sensei was hooked.

At the time Sato Sensei began training, Toyoda Sensei’s dojo was a member of Ki Society. Recounting old stories from his early days, Sato Sensei reminisces fondly of training with the uchideshi (live-in students at the dojo) that came from Japan to study under Toyoda Sensei. At the time of Fumio Toyoda’s passing in 2001, Sato Sensei was asked to take over the role of Chief Instructor for Aikido Association of America (AAA). He quit his full-time job with a Japanese company and devoted his life completely to spreading Aikido.

At the end of 2004, Sato Sensei parted ways with AAA. At that time he planned to simply live the life of a student and continue to train, but at the insistence and pleading of many students and dojos, Sato Sensei agreed to take the lead on creating an organization of his own. The Aikido World Alliance was born in 2005!

Sato Sensei’s continued efforts have resulted in the AWA being directly affiliated with Aikido World Headquarters Aikikai Hombu Dojo in 2014, and in 2016 Sato Sensei was promoted to Nanadan (7th degree black belt) and became the only Aikido instructor in the Chicago area to be awarded the status of Shihan, or Master Teacher, from Hombu Dojo.

Sato Sensei makes regular trips to Japan to train at Aikido World Headquarters Hombu Dojo. Sato Sensei spends most weekends on the road conducting seminars throughout the United States and Europe sharing his love and passion for Aikido with the members of the Aikido World Alliance.

Teaching Schedule: Monday 6:00 pm, Tuesday 6:00 pm Intro to Aikido, Friday 6:00 pm, Saturday 10:30 am Kids’ class, Sunday 3:00 pm

 

Laura DeGraff: Kiku Matsu Dojo-Cho (manager); Godan (5th Dan), Aikikai

Laura DeGraff Sensei started training in 1998 at Tenshinkan Dojo, the headquarter dojo for Fumio Toyoda’s Aikido Association of America (AAA).  In 2004, she left AAA to follow Andrew Sato Sensei and was one of the founding members of the Aikido World Alliance (AWA).  Since that time, she has continued to train regularly as well as teach classes at Kiku Matsu Dojo and conduct seminars at various AWA dojo.

In addition to being the Dojo-cho (manager) of Kiku Matsu, DeGraff Sensei is also a member of the AWA Technical Committee and the Director of Operations for the AWA.

Laura’s focus for her class instruction is making Aikido accessible, safe and fun.  Aikido is a living art and Laura continues to develop her art as both a lifelong student and a dedicated instructor.

Teaching Schedule: Wednesday 6:00 pm, Saturday 11:30 am Kids class, Saturday 12:45 pm Intro to Aikido

 

Joel Augustin: Godan (5th dan), Aikikai

Dr. Joel Augustin started training in Aikido in 1992 with Fumio Toyoda Shihan at Tenshinkan Dojo. In 2005, he followed, Andrew Sato Sensei, and became one of the founding members of Aikido World Alliance.

Although Aikido is a peaceful art, he likes to explore its martial aspects as well.
Joel is also a serious practitioner of Taichi and Bagua.

Teaching Schedule: Tuesday 7:10 pm Aikido Weapons

 

Jonathan Knipping: Yondan (4th dan), Aikikai

Jonathan began training in 1999 at Aikido Association of America headquarters Tenshinkan dojo, under Fumio Toyoda Shihan, where Sato Sensei was a senior member of the teaching staff.  In 2005, Jonathan became a founding member of Aikido World Alliance.

Jonathan is strives to transmit Aikido that is artful, but also technical and practical.

The mindfulness that is developed through Aikido practice has helped Jonathan through many tough times in his life and plays an important role in his career as a physical therapist.

Teaching Schedule: Substitute as needed

 

Orpheus Hawkins: Yondan (4th dan), Aikikai

Orpheus Hawkins began his training in 1981 at the age of six under his father, the late Garrett Hawkins, a student of Fumio Toyoda Sensei. After his father’s passing, he explored other martial arts as well as training under other Aikido instructors.

In 2010, Orpheus began training under Andrew Sato Sensei. He seeks to perfect tai sabaki (initial body motion), maintain a relationship between Aikido weapons and open hand techniques, and learn the subtleties of the Art.

Aikido is a dynamic art and Orpheus is amazed how it has evolved within him from childhood to adulthood.

Teaching Schedule: substitute and assistant as needed

 

Paul D’Amato: Sandan (3rd dan), Aikikai

Paul D’Amato started Aikido in 1989 in Chicago with Toyoda Sensei.  After many years off the mat, he began training again at Kiku Matsu in 2008.

As an instructor,  Paul attempts to find different physical and mental paths that adapt to the needs of each student. He finds Aikido training both fun and centering at the same time.

Teaching Schedule: Thursday 6:00 pm

 

Anthony Tolbert: Nidan (2nd dan), Aikikai

Anthony started Aikido in 2001 under Tetsuo Matsuda.  In September of 2011, he joined Kiku Matsu dojo on Matsuda Sensei’s recommendation.

Anthony likes the wide variety of energy that comes from working with different people on the mat.  In teaching, he tries to simplify technique and show how one technique can flow into others.

Outside of Aikido he works for an engineering company.

Teaching Schedule:  Saturday 2 pm

 

Rob Linxweiler: Nidan (2nd dan), Aikikai

Rob Linxweiler started Aikido in the late 1980s in Chicago under Fumio Toyoda Shihan.  After many years off the mat, he joined Kiku Matsu in the summer of 2013.

Rob is fascinated that Aikido rewards both intense physicality and intellectual scrutiny, and enjoys working with students to understand their perspective on their practice.

Rob has lived in Chicago for over 35 years, and is smitten with its cultural diversity.  He strives to reflect the peaceful values of Aikido in his daily life.

Teaching Schedule: Wednesday 7:00 am, Sunday 3:00 pm (sub/assistant)

 

George Minasov: Nidan (2nd dan), Aikikai

George Minasov’s two boys started Aikido under Sato Sensei in September of 2003. Since then George has been involved in many events related to Aikido. He joined Kiku Matsu dojo in 2010 when he began his mid-life crisis.

Kiku Matsu Dojo became his home and the dojo members became his Family. He likes spiritual and philosophical application of Aikido principals in everyday situations.

Teaching Schedule: substitute and assistant as needed

 

Ryan Kelly: Shodan (1st dan), Aikikai

Ryan joined Kiku Matsu dojo in 2014 with the intention of finding an activity to keep himself healthy and learn a useful skill at the same time.

Ryan enjoys the challenging nature of learning Aikido and using it as a tool for self-reflection. In teaching, Ryan likes to explore the patterns we find in our practice and efficacy in training.

Ryan applies Aikido in his daily life as a Microsoft Azure consultant to deal with difficult situations.

Teaching Schedule:  Monday 7:10 pm Intro to Aikido, Tuesday 6:00 Intro to Aikido (assistant), Saturday 10:30 am Kids’ class (assistant)

 

Jeremy McMillian: Shodan (1st dan), Aikikai

Jeremy started practicing Aikido at Kiku Matsu dojo in 2009. Aikido for Jeremy is an important physical, intellectual, and spiritual pursuit.

The most profound thing Jeremy appreciates about Aikido is conditioning a cooperative attitude or response whenever adversity appears in life, on the mat, at home, at work, and in society.

Teaching Schedule:  substitute and assistant as needed