This dojo, the Sarasota Budokan, is the successor dojo to the first aikido dojo ever established in the United States by Mitsugi Saotome Shihan. He arrived from Japan in 1975 and established the Sarasota Aikikai soon after. This dojo was his training headquarters for several years until he moved to establish the new training organization, Aikido School of Ueshiba (ASU) in Washington D.C. Even now, many of his long time personal students claim Sarasota Aikikai as their first dojo, and many of them still train today! Among those students, are Peewee Jones Sensei, Steve McPeck Sensei, John Messores Sensei, and Patty Saotome Sensei, have all been dedicated students of Saotome Shihan for decades and pillars of the long history of this dojo. Combined they have over 100 years of experience in a Aikido. They are a wealth of knowledge and can attest to the history and lineage of this dojo. Saotome Shihan currently resides in Sarasota with his wife Patty, and visits the dojo several times a year.
In 1976, Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan came over from Japan at the request of his teacher, Saotome Shihan. Ikeda Shihan assumed the role as the chief instructor of the dojo after Saotome Shihan's departure until he moved to Boulder, CO in 1980 and established Boulder Aikikai. Ikeda Shihan is now and internationally renowned teacher in his own right, but still travels to Florida for seminars every year.
Mitsugi Saotome Shihan
"For fifteen years until the Founder’s passing in 1969, Saotome Sensei lived as his personal disciple, studying under his guidance the practice and philosophy of Aikido. In 1975 Saotome Sensei left a highly respected position as a senior instructor at the World Aikido Headquarters in Tokyo to come to the United States. When asked why he made this decision he replied, “I meditated on O Sensei’s (Great Teacher) spirit for three days and three nights and I felt it was his wish that I should go. This country is a great experiment, a melting pot of people from many different cultural backgrounds living together, the world condensed into one nation. The goal of Aikido and O Sensei’s dream is that all the peoples of the world live together as one family, in harmony with each other and with their environment. The United States has the opportunity to set a great example.” Saotome Sensei directs his Aikido Schools of Ueshiba headquarters dojo, Aikido Shobukan Dojo in Washington DC and his AikiShrine Dojo in Florida. He and his students have established many dojos in the United States and he conducts training camps and seminars throughout the country and abroad. The Aikido dojos he founded in Japan are still thriving and he occasionally travels there to teach and give demonstrations. He has given demonstrations of his art throughout the world. His two books Aikido and the Harmony of Nature and The Principles of Aikido, published by Shambhala Publications, have been translated into many different languages. Aikido: living by design recently published by Arete Press and edited by Susan Perry graphically explores Saotome Sensei’s unique ability to realize Aikido philosophy in his many artistic pursuits and in his daily life." (ASU Handbook)
Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan
"Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei began Aikido training under Saotome Sensei in the Aikido club at Kokugakuin University. He then joined Saotome Sensei’s Reimeijuku Dojo in Tokyo in 1970 and in 1976 followed Saotome Sensei to the United States to continue his training. He taught in Sarasota, Florida from 1978 until he moved to Boulder, Colorado establishing the Boulder Aikikai in 1980. Ikeda Sensei travels extensively in the United States and abroad teaching his insightful and sophisticated approach to Aikido. His mission in teaching is to inspire students to continually discover something new about their Aikido and about themselves." (ASU Handbook)
Although Ikeda Shihan does not currently teach in Sarasota anymore, he contributed to its rich and lengthy history during the time he was training and teaching at the dojo.
Frank Bell Sensei
In 1995, late Frank Bell Sensei moved down to Palmetto, FL from Washington, DC to assist Saotome Shihan in the building of the Aiki Shrine Dojo in Myakka City, FL. He was designated as the Dojo Cho by Saotome Shihan. He is best known by current students for his appearance as an uke in Saotome Sensei's "The Staff of Aikido" and "The Sword of Aikido" videos demonstrating the weapons kata (commonly used in yudansha (black belt) testing. He is also known for this popular video as an uke for Saotome Sensei during a demonstration in Washington DC.