Our instructors have all trained in Aikido for many years and hold ranks ranging from nanadan (7th degree black belt) to nidan (2nd degree black belt). Many of them have trained in Japan with Morihiro Saito Shihan.

Details about individual instructors can be found below.

Stephen Kilmer - Dojo Cho - 5th Dan (Godan), Shidoin

Stephen KilmerI began studying Aikido at the Aikido Institute in 1981. I wanted to study a martial art, but wasn't leaning toward any particular one, so I read a lot about different martial arts. In his book, "Zen and the Martial Arts", Joe Hyams described some of the philosophy and techniques of Aikido and I was immediately attracted to both. I found the Aikido Institute in the phone book and observed a Saturday class. I signed up right away.

I have studied with Bruce Klickstein, Kim Peuser, and Hoa Newens. I have found that Aikido changes the more I study. I'm sure this is a reflection of how I have changed and of the increasingly more detailed things my teachers have shown me about Aikido the longer I've trained.

I began teaching Aikido in 1987 at Aikido of Benicia when Kayla Feder Sensei needed someone to cover some classes while she was in school.

When I teach Aikido, the focus of a class can be technical or conceptual, but in either case it depends on what the people in the class, including me, are interested in. If there is a technique or an aspect of Aikido, such as how to blend with a certain attack, that seems to be of interest, I'll focus on that. There have been times when I've had something particular in mind for a class, but because of the makeup of the class (maybe there are several new students who need to work on the basics) I've thrown out everything I planned to do and switched to something else. I found it important to observe the way the students respond to what you're teaching and adapt to it. In a way, this is exactly like doing Aikido. You can't do a technique based on a fixed notion you have of the situation, you have to do what is appropriate to the situation.

I love showing Aikido to someone who's seeing it for the first time. Doing demos or working with a student who is doing something for the first time or exploring some aspect of a technique are the times I enjoy the most.

I work as an IT Manager. After I started teaching I found that I became more comfortable making presentations at work. Aikido has also had an effect on other parts of my life. The awareness that one learns in Aikido extends to all aspects of one's life without our even thinking about it.

I continue to study Aikido because there's always something new to learn. Even doing the most basic blending practice is a new experience when I'm training with a new student or when sensei is evaluating my progress.

Sensei and all of the students and teachers are great people and fun to train with.

Kim Peuser, Supervising Instructor - 7th Dan (Nanadan)

I began training in Aikido at the Aikido Institute Oakland in 1974. There was an 8am Sunday class and I began with that, figuring only the most dedicated people would be at class at that hour on a Sunday. I started training 5x per week. After about a year I decided I wanted to train more so I changed jobs and started coming to every class (10x a week) and preparing to go to Japan to study. In 1977 I went to Iwama to train with Morihiro Saito Sensei as uchi-deshi (live-in student). I received my first-degree black belt at that time. I returned to the US and continued training intensively, then returned to Iwama in 1980 for several months as soto-deshi.

I have trained extensively in California under Bruce Klickstein, Bill Witt and Frank Doran, and in Japan under Morihiro Saito Shihan, 9th Dan, of the Iwama Dojo. I was the first uchi-deshi at the Oakland dojo and was Chief Instructor from 1988-1995 and again from 2002-2008. I am on the Board of Directors for both Aiki Integrated Arts and the Takemusu Aikido Association.

Deborah Maizels - 6th Dan (Rokudan), Shidoin

Deborah MaizelsI first started Aikido in 1973. My drama teacher suggested Aikido as a way to learn how to tumble. I had studied karate for about a year but wasn’t comfortable with sparring and wanted to find something that was powerful, but not aggressive. I was attracted to the Aikido perspective on power, strength, and competition. And I also wanted to learn how to roll gracefully.

I began my study of Aikido at the Aikido Institute with Allen Grow Sensei, the founder of the school. From 1980 to 1981, I studied with Morihiro Saito Shihan in Iwama, Japan. I returned to Iwama again for a brief, intensive period of study in 1987.

I love training at our dojo because of the people who train here. Some of my strongest friendships have been forged at the dojo. O’Sensei once said that Aikido training should be ‘fun and serious’. Our dojo is committed to serious study as well as to some serious fun.

Kathy Montgomery - 4th Dan (Yondan), Shidoin

Kathy MontgomeryAlthough I had thought for years that I would like to study a martial art, I did not begin until I was 41 years old. A friend of mine spotted the Aikido Institute and we both started training in July 1987. I have been training here every since.

When I started training I never thought about becoming a black belt. I trained because it was fun and I found the movement enjoyable. I continue to train for the same reasons. Over time, training has lead to more advanced rank. I am now a yondan.

Aikido is challenging. There is always something more to learn, techniques to refine to make the movements more subtle, but more powerful, to neutralize one’s partner without force or strength and with minimum discomfort to one’s partner.

Lars-Eric Holm - 3rd Dan (Sandan)
Lars Eric HolmI have been working with and teaching children for a good portion of my life, and I’ve been fortunate: I have worked with a wide and diverse range of children. During my college years, I taught a computer and mathematics course over several summers for St. Mary’s community center. It was for inner-city and disadvantaged children, and the students ranged from special needs to gifted. I designed the curriculum myself, basing it on the ideas proposed by Prof. Seymour Papert of MIT in his book Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas. Prof. Papert is best known for implementing his philosophies via the computer language Logo, whose basic premise was “learn to speak math by living in Mathland”. It has a very “in your own body” approach to learning geometry, that I find very compatible with teaching Aikido.

Like my students, I studied martial arts as a child. I first took Judo at the age of six. I didn’t do it for much longer than a year, but it made a distinct impression, and some of my clearest and most vidid memories from that age are of that class. Later as a teenager, remembering these experiences but living in a remote and rural area, I was extremely fortunate to train with someone who was dually ranked in both Judo and Shodokan-ryu Aikido. After leaving Alaska to attend university here in California, lack of funds and transportation meant I had to take a hiatus. I did take one year off from college, during which I studied Hapkido, but later resumed studying Aikido some time after college.

Currently I’ve been training continuously since 1990. I’ve been involved in teaching Aikido to children since 1997 — at the Aikido Institute since 2002 — and have been co-instructor for the Aikido Institute Children’s class since 2004.

Because of my own on and off again martial arts career, I know that exposure to martial arts as a child can often plant seeds that might not bear fruit until later in life. I know that those who trained as children, and had good and valuable experiences, will often return to practice in adulthood. This affects much of my teaching: I don’t assume that my students will automatically transition to the adult’s class. In fact, many don’t. But I am sure that a higher number eventually return to some sort of practice later in life, and I know that those who never do still learn valuable lessons. Just learning about how to fall safely has a big impact in reducing some of life’s impacts.

I lived in Alaska from the ages of 8 to 18, and this also informs some of the values I hold in my own martial arts practice and what I teach: the importance of community - neighbors help each other during harsh times. The importance of knowing how to do things for yourself - you often are alone. The importance of being aware of your environment - knowing some signs that the weather might change or what wildlife might be about. The importance of preparing yourself and your tools - setting aside food stores, dressing properly, and being in sufficiently good shape for arduous travel. The importance of knowledge - during a whiteout it is often best not to try to find your way, but instead to stay put. I like Aikido because I find it nourishing, and I love teaching the children’s class because it always brightens and repairs my day. Even when the children are having troubles, and even when things are not going smoothly, it is something I always look forward to. No matter how rough the rest of the day has been, I always have the children’s class to look forward to.

Dave Lewin - 3rd Dan (Sandan)

Dave LewinI started training in martial arts when I was a teenager, taking Tae Kwon Do and achieving the rank of 1st degree black belt.

I left TKD upon moving away from home for college, and during my college years I took a semester of Judo and a semester of Karate before coming across an Aikido class being offered at SF State in 2002. I immediately fell in love with the philosophy and aesthetics of Aikido, and have been training in this beautiful art ever since.

After finishing the class at SF State, I started at an independent dojo in the Sunset district in San Francisco and was there for about one year until I left to study abroad for college, where I found and trained with someone running a tough Yoshinkan-style dojo out of his living room. When I got back to the States, I moved to Oakland and immediately signed up with the Aikido Institute, where I have been training under the guidance of Kim Peuser Sensei and others ever since.

Having been an uchi deshi for a year and a half, I now consider myself a 'son' of the Oakland dojo, and I'm honored to have a place on the training schedule with a class that focuses on basics and principles.

Martha Evans-Holm - 3rd Dan (Sandan)

Martha Evans-HolmI started my Aikido career in September of 1989 at East Bay Aikido. I had practiced Martial Arts before (Tae Kwon Do) in college and was looking to get back into something physical and martial when we came across a dojo that was in our neighborhood. My husband (Lars Eric Holm) had done a similar art (Hapkido) in Alaska when he was a teenager. We both decided to give it a try.

I received the rank of Nidan in April of 2003 at Aikido Institute of Oakland and continue to study because it's a great way to keep my body in shape and meet great people (training partners). I love the close, community atmosphere. Also it gives me quality time with my youngest, who also trains.

I started teaching in children’s classes in 1997 at East Bay Aikido. In 2005, I and Lars Eric Holm (Head Instructor for the children’s class) began leading the children’s program at the Aikido Institute.

I have studied with Tom Gambell Sensei and Kim Peuser Sensei.

I love the people who train at the Aikido Institute. There are a lot of high-ranking Aikidoists who have trained in Japan and around the world with a wealth of knowledge to draw from.