East Bay Aikido

Learn the Art of Compassionate Self-Defense
Be the Change You Seek in the World
Allow No Harm - Do No Harm

A Brief Overview of Aikido

Aikido is a modern self-defense system committed to the loving protection of all beings. It was conceived as a way to reconcile conflict without having to resort to violence. When done with love and compassion, aikido has the power to transform conflict and create harmony.

The word “Aikido” in Japanese is made up of three characters. The first is “AI” which means “to unite, to bring together, to harmonize.” The second character is “KI” which means “the energy of the universe.” The third character is “DO” which means “the way, the path.” This signifies the study of Aikido not only involves self-defense techniques, it also includes character-building ideals which a person can incorporate into their life. Together these characters mean “The Way to Harmonize with the Energy of the Universe.”

The most unique aspect of Aikido is that it has as the basis of its philosophy the idea of being in HARMONY with your opponent rather than being in CONFLICT with them. The ideal of Aikido is not to think of defeating your enemy, but rather to be in harmony with them, spiritually and physically. This is why Aikido is sometimes called the “Non-Fighting Martial Art.”

Aikido techniques express elements of philosophy, psychology, physics, and spirituality. As one learns the body movements, they will, at the same time, train their mind, improve their health and develop self-confidence. Through the physical practice of the self-defense techniques, the Aikido student comes to appreciate and understand the mental and spiritual aspects of Aikido. During practice sessions, partners work in harmony with each other, learning when and how to yield, how to lead and guide another person's movements and how to control an opponent with non-resistive techniques.

Aikido movements emphasize flexibility and balance. Their power is derived from circular and spiral movements which allow a defender to control a much larger aggressor. An Aikidoist’s aim is to be in conscious control of their mind and body and to maintain a calm, centered presence. The continuous and flexible motion which originates at the hips is like the performance of a dance – a graceful, spherical motion. The beauty and strength of Aikido movements comes from the coordinated motion of the entire body. The joint-locking techniques, such as those applied to the wrist or elbow, flex the joints in the direction of natural bending.  They are in harmony with the natural flexing  and, although such techniques are painful and effective, when done with skill and compassion, they result in no permanent damage.

Aikido was founded by Morihei Ueshiba, or O’Sensei (Great Teacher), who spent his life training in martial arts and religion. He became very strong and was considered unbeatable, yet he was troubled by a sense that winning at someone else's expense was not really winning. He came to realize true victory is not winning over others, but winning over the discord and disharmony within one’s self. He modified the movements he had learned to express this realization. As a result, Aikido was born as a way to divert harm from one's self while not having to resort to violence yourself. As one studies Aikido, it becomes clear that it is not only an effective means of defense, but truly a way to understanding life.

TOM GAMBELL SENSEI, Chief Instructor
Gambell Sensei is a full-time Aikido instructor. He began his training in 1974 and has been teaching for over 40 years. He currently holds the rank of 7th Degree Black Belt from the Aikido World Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan.

Gambell Sensei has spent time both in Japan and America training with the direct students of the Founder of Aikido. Over his many years in aikido, he has taught and traveled extensively and while Gambell Sensei has trained with and learned from many senior practitioners of Aikido, and appreciates all of their teachings, his primary teacher is Frank Doran Shihan, 8th Dan, who is currently the Dojo Cho at Aikido West in Redwood City, CA.

Gambell Sensei has committed his life to the teachings of loving-kindness and compassion and to passing on the Founder of Aikido's vision of peaceful reconciliation. His approach to Aikido expresses a strong technical understanding as well as a grounded connection with energy and spirit. 

East Bay Aikido was founded in 1988 by Gambell Sensei to provide a safe learning environment where peaceful resolution of conflict can be explored in a joyful and exuberant manner.  As a dojo (a place of study) and a community, we have developed an ethos of open communication, supportive training and individual responsibility. We train with spirit, commitment and a sense of humor.

We are fortunate to have a full-time Chief Instructor and a flexible training schedule. In addition to our regular schedule, we also have special trainings, day-long sitting and movement meditations, and seminars taught by guest instructors. All are offered as opportunities to explore the many facets of aikido and ourselves. 

East Bay Aikido is a member of the California Aikido Association (CAA) Division 2 which was formerly under the leadership of Frank Doran Shihan 8th Dan and now currently under the leadership of Michael Friedl Shihan 7th Dan. The CAA is directly affiliated with the Aikikai World Headquarters (Zaidan Hojin Aikikai or Hombu Dojo) in Tokyo, Japan, which is headed led by O’Sensei’s grandson, Moriteru Ueshiba, who is the current Doshu (Way Leader). All our Black Belt ranks are registered with Hombu Dojo.