The Aikido Institute of America (AIA) was founded by Roderick Kobayashi Sensei in August 1970, with the approval of both Master Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Master Koichi Tohei. Its main objective was to train Aikido instructors in the United States so that they could go out and help spread Aikido where well-trained instructors are not available.
Seidokan is a system of Aikido that emphasizes the balanced study of the principles and arts in accordance with the founder’s teachings. Among Seidokan’s objectives are the study and analysis of the founder’s sayings in Japanese. In Seidokan, we are dedicated to relating these sayings to the practice of Aikido techniques and to apply the sayings to our everyday lives. At Seidokan Aikido dojos, instructors grow along with their students. As students learn the basics from their instructors, the instructors deepen their own understanding of Aikido. Thus, through earnest, realistic, and sincere training, instructors and students can realize the true meaning of Aikido. Although Seidokan is independent from Japan, it was recognized by Master Kisshomaru Ueshiba,the late Doshu and Chainnan of the Aikikai in Tokyo, Japan. Seidokan Aikido was founded and directed by the late Roderick T. Kobayashi, Shihan.
Seidokan Aikido founder Roderick Teishi Kobayashi was born in Hawaii on January 7, 1932 and raised in Japan by his grandfather who was a Buddhist priest. Since his youth, he had been deeply involved in learning the history and philosophy of budo (Japanese martial arts).
He was first introduced to Aikido by his father who had great influence in inviting Master Koichi Tohei, who was then Chief Instructor of Aikido at the Aikido World Headquarters in Japan, to Honolulu in 1953. However, his formal training in Aikido did not start until 1957, after his three years of military service. His first teachers at the Hawaii Aikikai were Yukiso Yamamoto, Kazuto Sugimoto, and Isao Takahashi. These masters were the first students of Tohei Shihan, the foremost authority on Aikido and Ki in the United States. Each of these masters was unique in his own way, and had a great influence in Kobayashi’s understanding of Aikido and Ki.
Kobayashi’s training with Master Tohei began in 1961. He trained under Tohei Sensei whenever possible in Japan, Hawaii and the continental U.S. He received his Shodan (1st degree black belt) in 1962, Nidan (2nd degree) in 1965, and Sandan (3rd degree) in 1966. After becoming a full time professional Aikido instructor in the fall of 1968, he was promoted to the rank of Yondan (4th degree). He was also appointed as one of the two non-Japanese nationals to receive the rating of Hombu Shidoin, instructor of Aikido for the Aikido World Headquarters, Tokyo, Japan. He assumed the responsibilities of the President and Chief Instructor of the Western States Aikido Federation until 1974. He was promoted to the rank of Godan (5th dan) in January, 1972. In September 1973, Kobayashi was promoted to Rokudan (6th degree), or master teacher.
As Master Tohei organized the Ki-no-Kenkyukai (Ki Society International) in 1971, Kobayashi was one of the most outspoken supporters of the Ki training program and the applications of the Ki principles in Aikido and daily life. In January 1973, he was appointed as Koshi (full lecturer) of the Ki-no-Kenkyukai and received the certificate of Okuden (certification of completion of the innermost training in Ki).
In May, 1974, when Master Tohei founded his own system of Aikido, Shinshin Toitsu Aikido, Rod Kobayashi began assuming the responsibilities of both the Chief Lectureship of Ki Development and the Chief Instructor of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido of the Ki Society Western USA.
Kobayashi began lecturing for the Physical Education department of California State University, Fullerton in 1972. His goal was to establish a program at the University which would develop and certify well trained instructors of Aikido and Ki.
Rod Kobayashi has conducted numerous workshops throughout the United States, Israel, Russia, Europe, and Mexico. However, his main contribution was the founding of the Aikido Institute of America in Los Angeles, California. It was established for the purpose of developing instructors of Aikido in the United States. He emphasized the principles of Aikido; the Principle of Oneness which the founder, Master Morihei Ueshiba has professed and the Principles to Unify Mind and Body which, Master Tohei compiled.
The teaching methods at the Institute are designed for developing instructors. The instructors who are trained at the Institute are fully qualified to instruct the principles and the techniques of Aikido. Furthermore, the Institute emphasizes the application of the Aikido principles in daily life. Kobayashi strongly believed that Aikido instruction in the United States should be trained in the United States.
In March 1981, Rod Kobayashi resigned from the Ki Society International and branched out to establish his own system of Aikido – Seidokan Aikido. Seidokan Aikido emphasizes the balanced practice of principle and techniques. The purpose of the system is to further develop Aikido so that it is better suited for the modern way of life.
The Doshu has accepted Seidokan Aikido as a legitimate system of Aikido. He and Kobayashi Sensei agreed that they shared the same goals and accepted the same fundamental principles of Aikido.
In February 1989, Rod Kobayashi and his associates organized the Seidokan Institute, Inc., a non-profit California corporation to share the principles of Seidokan Aikido to those who wish to learn them and apply them in their everyday lives without the practice of self-defense arts.
On June 17, 1995, Kobayashi Sensei passed away at his home in Downey, California. Mrs. Minoru Kobayashi, Rod Kobayashi’s widow, took over the leadership role of both Seidokan as well as the AIA dojo. Steward Chan was appointed to the role of Kancho with Joe Crotty and Larry Wadahara acting as chief instructors. In 2012, Seidokan reorganized with Dr. Mark Crapo took over the role of Kancho with Mrs. Minoru Kobayashi acting as Senior Advisor, Mentor and the “guiding energy” of Seidokan. In September 2013, a LLC was formed by the senior instructors of AIA to form the Aikido Institute of America LLC to assume all operations of AIA allowing Mrs. Minoru Kobayashi to focus her attentions on the larger Seidokan Organization. AIA LLC continues on in the spirit of Kobayashi’s vision over 40 years later after the original founding of AIA with Mario Fonda Bonardi and Andreas Hessing as Chief Instructors, Michiyo Kobayashi as Chief Children’s Instructor, and Keith Larman as Dojo Cho.