Kiff Clark started Aikido practice in 1986. For over two decades now he annually attends 15 or more Aikido and Iaido seminars throughout the United States and Canada. Ukemi (the art of falling), suwari waza (techniques done from a kneeling position) and weapons continue to be a great source of joy and fascination for him and he will always be grateful to all his teachers, past, present and future. He is a rokudan (6th degree black belt) and shidoin instructor in Aikido and in Iaido he holds the rank of yondan (4th degree black belt). In addition to being the chief instructor of Portland Aikido Kiff is the chief instructor of the Iaido program and the children’s program.
Ron Houle 4th Dan is a retired psychotherapist. He has been teaching Aikido for the past 20 years and practicing for the past 28 years. "A long time ago I read a book on Aikido. I knew then that if I could find a dojo, I would practice for the rest of my life. I am drawn to Aikido for its spiritual aspects, beautiful physical techniques and its relevance in my daily life."
I started practicing Aikido in Philadelphia in the early 80's and have been practicing continuously since 1991. While I have studied other martial arts, I consider practicing Aikido to be one of the most rewarding undertakings of my life. I have practiced under many instructors and in many dojos around the world and am happy to have been a member of Portland Aikido since 2000. Nick is a sandan in Aikido.
I began practicing Aikido in 1989 and have continued as time and health would allow for the next 28 years. The attraction of Aikido was the contrast that it held in comparison to the other martial arts that I had practiced since early high school. As a teenager I took up the study of Shodokan karate and studied its variant forms through my military and college years. The contrast of Aikido was in the use of power and hopefully wisdom to protect an attacker and deflect harm rather than as an instrument of brute force to defeat opposing force. After leaving college I worked in the field of education and mental wellness where inflicting harm was not an option both morally and practically. I was truly happy when I found the Portland Aikido dojo for it represented the freedom to practice a martial art without inflicting pain or expressing anger. Aikido teaches many things besides martial techniques. The process of Aikido teaches patience, attunement to others, balance within one's self and in relation to one's partner. It teaches the value of practicing with others not for selfish reasons but for the mutual growth and benefit of uke and nage alike. The art of Aikido has been written about, demonstrated, and put into a myriad books and visual media. However, the heart of Aikido lies in the practice of Aikido. The wealth of Aikido is contained not in the books or media but in the minds and hearts of practitioners who share their time, energy, and physical presence to give the gift of Aikido to others. This is what Aikido teaches, that he who gives of himself for the benefit of others engenders the noblest of human emotions, love. There is no higher motive or justification that an aikidoka can aspire to. Outside of Aikido I am a forensic psychologist working for the State of Maine Department of Health and Human Services. I am also a husband and father who has benefited most from the patience and self-control that Aikido has taught me. Arthur is a nidan in Aikido.
James studied Shorin-Ryu karate for six years before beginning his practice of Aikido. "As part of my training I read considerably about the martial arts, where I came across references to Aikido, and the philosophy and formal etiquette of the art, which especially attracted me." He began practicing at Portland Aikido in 1997. "I feel that aikido is limitless, and offers lessons commensurate with one's engagement with it. For me, it is a life study that can never fully be grasped: every threshold crossed reveals another vista." James had the good fortune to train for several years at New England Aikikai under the instruction of Mitsunari Kanai Sensei. He currently holds the rank of nidan in Aikido.
Jason Read started as a student in Portland Aikido in the summer of 2005 and successfully tested for Shodan in the Fall of 2017. I had studied Karate and Tae Kwon Do in my late teens, but was eventually put off by the competitiveness and misplaced admiration for violence and conflict. Aikido always intrigued me for both the grace of its movement and its underlying principal of harmony. It also seemed like a martial art that one could more or less grow old with, as technique and timing are more important than strength and speed. Aikido has continued to challenge and reward me after years of practice. What started as a solution to the boredom of the gym has become a lifelong passion. The philosopher Spinoza once wrote that no one yet knows what the body is capable of, arguing that philosophers had unfairly concluded that the mind drives the body without a thorough understanding of the body and its capabilities. He also argued that one who has a body capable of a great many things has a mind which very much conscious of itself and all of nature. (I should perhaps mention that I teach philosophy at the University of Southern Maine). This is how I understand my practice in aikido: the more I develop techniques, learning to move in harmony, the more I understand not only my own capabilities, but also the world around me. Jason teaches in the adult Aikido program.
Mauricio Handler travels the world as an underwater natural history cameraman, yet he is always eager to return to his family and to the
dojo in Maine, where he has been training in both Aikido and Iaido since 2010. Mauricio helps teach in the Iaido program and holds a rank of Nidan in Iaido. "Iaido helps focus my endless energy in a more disciplined, precise and effective way. More than just a martial arts, Iaido for me, is a way of life."
Bill is a lifelong resident of Portland, Maine. After receiving undergraduate degrees in Psychobiology and Secondary Education and a Master of Science degree in Literacy Education from the University of New England, Bill began teaching high school Biology. He has been actively training in both Aikido and Iaido since 2011. Bill had been thinking about Aikido since his early teen years and after he completed his college education finally had the time to commit. He has never been so satisfied with a community or a practice. Bill is drawn to the spiritual harmony and warrior spirit that O-Sensei gave the world through Aikido. Bill also practices Japanese Calligraphy and has trained in Japan in order to better understand O-Sensei's way. Bill helps to teach in the kids program, the adult Aikido program and the Iaido program.
A high school social studies teacher, Sean came to Portland Aikido in 2012. "Practicing Aikido has been such a positive life-changing experience. The dojo has become a second home, and the members here have become a second family." He helps teach in the kids program, and occasionally fills in to teach adult classes.
I began training at Portland Aikido in the fall of 2015, and quickly developed a new passion. Throughout my life, I have always enjoyed challenging my mind and body in different ways. I've swam across the Casco Bay in 50° water temperature, climbed to the top of a 13K foot peak and competed in a triathlon, but no other pursuit has given back to me what Aikido does, to my mind and body, but more important, my spirit. It speaks to me in an entirely different way. I've enjoyed all the things I've done, but Aikido feels like home. I love to assist with the Children's Program at Portland Aikido and consider the opportunity to work with young Aikidoka a tremendous gift, looking forward to each class. Pattie teaches in the kids program.