About Portland Aikido
Portland Aikido is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that welcomes members of every race, gender, identity and ability.
In our martial art, Aikido, you can get in great shape and have fun doing it. You will learn practical self defense skills in a safe and cooperative environment. Everyone learns at his or her own pace. There are no competitions or tournaments in Aikido. Come join us and become part of our exciting community of people.
"I can't say enough about the instruction and atmosphere at Portland Aikido. They have a kind, compassionate and knowledgeable staff that adapts their instruction to people's ability level. I attend with my 17 yr old daughter on a regular basis and this has really had a positive impact on both our lives. We get to learn a practical and useful martial art together while getting in shape. I have been going here for a year in a half and see myself attending for a long time." - Review
Portland Aikido is a school (dojo in Japanese) dedicated to the practice and teaching of the traditional Japanese martial arts of Aikido and Iaido. The school is a member of the United States Aikido Federation (USAF), headquartered in New York City and under the leadership of Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei, 8th dan, shihan. Through this membership Portland Aikido is affiliated with Aikido Hombu Dojo (Aikido World Headquarters) in Tokyo, Japan and with the International Aikido Federation (IAF) with headquarters also in Tokyo.
Portland Aikido was founded in 1985 by Carol Schifman. Previously, Schifman Sensei had trained at Valley Aikikai in Northampton, MA (now called Valley Aikido) with Paul Sylvain, shihan and also with Lorriane DiAnne, shihan. Schifman Sensei asked Mitsunari Kanai Sensei, 8th dan, shihan and chief instructor of New England Aikikai (NEA) in Cambridge, MA if a teacher from NEA might be able to come up on weekends to teach at our new school. Kanai Sensei graciously sent up Daryl Woolems. Woolems Sensei was an excellent teacher and under his guidance our school grew, our training was vigorous and our Aikido skills improved. Also it was a great honor for our school to host an annual Aikido seminar with Kanai Sensei. Among his many skills Kanai Sensei was an excellent fisherman and underwater spear fisherman. He was able to catch lobsters underwater barehanded. Needless to say he loved seafood and it was always with pride that we presented him with the best of Maine seafood at the seminar party and as a gift of appreciation for his teaching we always gave him half a dozen 1 ½ lbs. hard-shell Maine lobsters packed to travel.
After several years and the birth of their son, Zachary, Woolems Sensei and his wife, Leza, moved to New Mexico in the late 1980’s. In Woolems Sensei’s place a group of talented teachers from NEA came up in rotation to teach our Saturday classes. Most of these teachers subsequently went on to found their own Aikido schools.
As we benefited from the excellent instruction from the NEA teachers, Schifman Sensei took over the responsibilities of chief instructor for our school until she moved with her new husband to Michigan in the late 1990’s. In her place our own Tab Currie, 2nd dan, became our chief instructor but after less than a year he decided to retire from Aikido for family and health reasons. We were very sorry to see Currie Sensei leave because in his Aikido practice and his spirit he was a role model for all of us. Now he visits the school regularly during seminars, tests and special events. It is always a highlight of our year to see him again. In 2000 Wayne Douglas, 4th dan, shidoin, became our chief instructor. Under Douglas Sensei’s excellent teaching and balanced spirit our school started an Iaido program with the guidance and support of Claude Berthiaume, 7th dan, shihan in Aikido and 6th dan in Iaido, chief instructor of Aikido de la Montagne in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and technical director of Kiyoikaze Iaido Federation. We also mourned the untimely passing of Kanai Sensei in 2004 and celebrated our 20th anniversary in 2005 with a gala seminar, followed by a party memorable for all the specialty dishes, wonderful seafood and incredible confections. But the best part of the anniversary seminar was the reunion of so many of our teachers, members and friends from years past. Woolems Sensei, his wife, Leza, and son, Zachary came from New Mexico. Schifman Sensei flew in from Michigan. Currie Sensei, Steve Price, Tom Ciarenello, Ian MacKenzie, Mark Sangillo, Les Heaton, Tom Bowman, Efran Ramos, Tim Darling, Brian Rand, Ray Deon and Diane Dubois from Willow Martial Arts in Lewiston, ME and Judy Ringer from Portsmouth Aikido in Portsmouth, NH are some but not all of the Aikidoka (Aikido practitioners) from our past and current practice who came. Our 20th anniversary seminar reminded us that one of the many treasures of Aikido is shared practice through time.
As an after note to the anniversary seminar, Woolems Sensei, an enthusiastic sport fisherman, was able to catch two premium-sized striped bass in Saco Bay the day after the seminar and enjoyed them for dinner with his family.
In 2011, due to personal and health concerns, Douglas Sensei decided to step back from Aikido practice. In Douglas Sensei’s absence, Kiff Clark, 6th dan, shidoin has assumed chief instructor responsibilities for our school. With the help of our excellent teaching staff, which has a combined experience practicing and teaching Aikido of over 150 years and with the thoughtful insight of our Board of Directors Committee Clark Sensei looks forward to a bright future for Portland Aikido.
Our school offers Aikido classes seven days a week and Iaido classes two days a week. Our Aikido practice includes open handed techniques and weapons training with the wooden knife (tanto), wooden sword (bokken) and the wooden staff (jo). We have annual seminars with nationally and internationally known USAF Aikido and KIF Iaido teachers. In addition to seminars with Claude Berthiaume Sensei, we have two in-house seminars every year taught by our own teachers and Aaron Cass, 4th dan, fukushidoin, chief instructor of Portsmouth Aikido in Portsmouth, NH. Our students and teachers attend Aikido and Iaido seminars throughout the USA and Canada to improve their own training skills.
Through time the strength of our school has always been that all our students and teachers have dedicated themselves to the greater good of our community at Portland Aikido. In so doing we have created and continue to nurture something that is larger than the sum of all of us as individuals. At its essence Aikido is about relationships in practice on the mat and in life off the mat. These relationships are the source of our learning. They sustain us and help us to become better Aikido students and teachers and better citizens of the world.
Our students and teachers are an exciting and diverse group including carpenters, middle school and high school teachers, psychotherapists, an artist, electrical engineers, a jeweler, high school students, a Maine state senior doubles tennis champion, an architect, an oceanographic photographer, a pharmacist, musicians, a paint specialist, a college administrator, chemistry and philosophy professors, a law enforcement professional, computer programmers, physicians, college and graduate students, a physical fitness expert, a landlord, a baker, a judge, a cook, a car salesman, a forensic psychologist and more. Come join our community, meet amazing people and train in a martial art that will improve your life and help you make a difference in the world for the better.