[This post was written by the chief instructor of Vermont Aikido, Aaron Ward.)
I was asked to write the first post for the dojo’s new blog, and I thought that there is no place better to start then a brief history of Vermont Aikido. Like most dojos, in the early years Vermont Aikido was more of an idea than an actual dojo. Upon his return from Japan in 1971, Terry Dobson Sensei began teaching Aikido classes. The location and membership varied greatly in the early years. Dobson Sensei would often hold class in a field near UVM, with a picture of O-Sensei propped up against a muddy boot for a Shomen.
At this time Dobson Sensei was traveling between Vermont and New York City. In New York Dobson Sensei lived with Ken Nisson Sensei, and at first neither knew that the other practiced Aikido. When they discovered that each practiced Aikido, they started teaching together, founding both Vermont Aikido and the Bond St. Dojo in the space of about two years. Vermont Aikido found a home at the Burlington YMCA.
But by the beginning of the 80’s Terry Dobson Sensei had moved to California, and Nisson Sensei had moved back to New York City and the Bond St. Dojo. Hue Young became the chief instructor of Vermont Aikido, and it is important to mention a number of people who were instrumental to the continued success of the dojo at this time: Leslie Russek, who facilitated testing in the dojo through ASU; and Ed Pincus, who offered the use of his home for seminars, allowing the dojo to invite instructors from out of town.
When the dojo had to move from the YMCA Hue Young led the effort to find a new space. In time, Vermont Aikido moved to its present location on North Winooski Ave. During the mid 80’s Dobson Sensei returned from California, resuming his teaching at Vermont Aikido. By 1992 Hue Young decided to leave Vermont Aikido. As the dojo was preparing for his departure, Terry Dobson passed away while on a trip to California. This left the dojo without a clear direction, and was the beginning of my leadership history with the dojo. I began leading not because I desired to lead, but the reality was that there was no one left. If I was to continue my Aikido training I had to lead the dojo. In 1995 the dojo approached Ken Nisson to return as chief instructor, which he accepted. Nisson Sensei held this position until 2001, when he moved to Modesto, California, becoming the chief instructor of the Modesto dojo. Upon Ken Nisson’s departure I became the chief instructor of Vermont Aikido.
A dojo’s real history is not names or dates, but the people who train on the mat day-in-day-out. A dojo only exists becuse of the sacrifices made by its members. I find reassurance in the fact that, after more than 40 years, there is still a Vermont Aikido and, more importantly, people who still believe in it.