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Darrell Bluhm

Shihan, 7th dan
Founder and Chief Instructor, Siskiyou Aikikai.

Darrell Bluhm Sensei began his Aikido training in 1970 as a student at UC Santa Cruz. In 1973 he spent two months living at the Iwama dojo in Ibaraki prefecture, Japan, training with M. Saito Shihan, as well as time training at Hombu dojo in Tokyo. In 1981 he became a student of T.K. Chiba Shihan and a founding member and assistant instructor of San Diego Aikikai. In 1983 he founded Siskiyou Aikikai in Ashland, Oregon where he has taught Aikido and Tai Chi Chuan for the past 33 years and the Feldenkrais Method for 20 years. In 1996 he was promoted to 6th Dan, in 2002 awarded Shihan title by Chiba Sensei, and in 2006 received Shihan recognition from Doshu M. Ueshiba at Hombu Dojo. He serves as a member of the Senior Council of Birankai North America.

Gloria Eiko Nomura

Shihan, 7th dan
Founder and Technical Director, Aikido Institute of San Francisco

Aikido and Iaido are Ways to refine and improve one’s character through discipline, respect toward others, tempering negative reactions and responses, and commitment to training.  Enjoy practice.

Nomura Sensei began aikido training in 1975. In 1979, she co-founded West Los Angeles Aikido Institute. In 1981, she began training with T. Kazuo Chiba Shihan in aikido, weapons, and iaido. In 1982, she began iaido training with Takeshi Mitsuzuka, Grand Master of San Shin Kai, Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido. She founded Aikido Institute of San Francisco in June, 1999. T.K. Chiba Shihan promoted Nomura Sensei sixth Dan in January, 2000, and to Birankai Shihan in January, 2002. She was certified as Shihan by Aikikai Hombu, Tokyo, Japan in November, 2006. Nomura Sensei was certified as 7th Dan by Aikikai Hombu dojo in January of 2017. She is a member of the Senior Council of Birankai North America.

Lorraine DiAnne

Shihan, 7th dan
Founder and Chief Instructor (retired), Westside Aikido

DiAnne Sensei first studied with Tai Unno Sensei at the University of Massachusetts in 1970. She later trained under Aikido masters Mitsunari Kanai and Yoshimitsu Yamada. She traveled to Japan in 1976 for training at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, where she received private training from T. K. Chiba Shihan.  While studying in Tokyo she was also an Iaido student under the late Mitsuzuka Takeshi Sensei, hachidan. She returned to the US in 1979 and opened Amherst Aikikai with Paul Sylvain. She was invited to become the Chief Instructor of Aikido of Berkeley in 1985 to replace the late Steve Sasaki. She returned to the eastern US in 1987 and opened her own dojo, Aikido of Springfield, in Springfield, MA, in October of 1988. She was awarded the title of Shihan by Chiba Sensei in 2002, and attained the rank of sixth dan in Iaido. Dianne Shihan has retired from active teaching.

Kristina Varjan

Shihan, 7th dan
Founder and Technical Director, Aikido of Kohala

With breath and movement we facilitate growth and awareness thru dynamic interconnectedness.

Kristina Varjan began studying Aikido at New York Aikikai, under Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan, in 1975, while working as a professional dancer. In 1986 she and her husband, Rikko, moved to New Mexico and began training under T.K. Chiba Shihan. They moved to San Diego and joined the kenshusei program in 1989. After graduating, they returned to New Mexico for some years before moving to Hawaii and founding Kohala Aikikai in 1995. Varjan Sensei teaches seminars in the U.S. and Europe and is member of BNA’s Senior Council. She has also been a Feldenkrais Practitioner since 2003. 

Elizabeth Lynn

Shihan, 7th Dan
Founder, Eastshore Aikikai 

Wash your stinky, dirty gi.
Hang it in the sun to dry.

It will whiten.

How cool is that!

Lynn Sensei began training in Aikido in 1971. She trained in Chicago under the late A. Tohei Shihan, and continued her training in San Francisco and in Berkeley, CA. From 1990 — 1994 she was kenshusei in the teacher’s training program conducted by I. Shibata Shihan at Berkeley Aikikai. She founded Eastshore Aikikai in September 1991.  She was General Secretary of the United States Aikido Federation, Western Region, from 1984 — 2001, and General Secretary of Birankai North America from 2001 — 2006. In April, 2007 she was awarded the title of Shihan in BNA by T. K. Chiba Shihan.  She is the former Chair of the Senior Council of Birankai North America. 

Coryl Crane

Shihan, 7th Dan
Founder and Technical Director, North County Aikikai

Aikido is a way of life for me.  It defines who I am:  how I approach life, how I communicate with the world, how I move my body.  It both energizes and empowers me.

Crane Sensei began her Aikido training in 1978 while at the University of California, San Diego, where she was studying for a visual arts degree. In 1981, Aikido became a stronger focus in her life when she commenced studying with T.K. Chiba Shihan, who had just moved to San Diego from Japan. From 1981, Aikido training became an integral part of her life. In April of 1991, she founded the North County Aikikai, renting a room in a nearby church. The school has since grown into its present, large and airy facility in Solana Beach, CA. Crane Sensei was awarded the title of Shihan in the New Year of 2008. Her study of the martial arts also includes Iaido, the art of Japanese swordsmanship and Zazen sitting meditation. She is co-author, with artist Joyce Cutler-Shaw, of Aikido Conversations in Drawings and Words, published in 1999.

George Lyons

Shihan, 7th Dan
Founder and Chief Instructor, Bucks County Aikido

George Lyons Sensei began his study of Aikido in 1985 with T.K. Chiba Shihan. In 1986 he joined the teacher’s training program and became an apprentice of Chiba Sensei.

After six years with Chiba Sensei, he finished his apprenticeship in Tokyo, Japan, as a live-in student in Hombu Dojo, under the guidance of the late K. Ueshiba, son of O-Sensei.

Lyons Sensei served on the Birankai Board of Directors from 2003 to 2009. From 2009-2013, he was the chair of the Birankai teacher’s council as well as the chair of the examination committee. He now serves on the Birankai Senior Council. Lyons Sensei has been teaching in Bucks County, PA, since 1992.

Harold (Archie) Champion

Shihan, 6th Dan
Chief Instructor, Central Coast Aikikai

You must discipline yourself. Disciplining yourself is really quite freeing once you understand your body… I use the three L’s, Look, listen, learn. Look until you see beyond surface things. Listen until you hear nature’s koan, silence. Learn your aiki body. With more sacrifice you gain absolute respect for yourself, your partner, each encounter, every moment.

Harold (Archie) Champion Sensei started Aikido with Wes Leavens in Ocean Beach, CA, in 1978 as a birthday present to himself and shortly thereafter became one of Chiba Sensei’s original students at San Diego Aikikai, as well as one of his first Kenshusei.  

 In 1991 he left San Diego and accepted a position as chief instructor of Central Coast Aikido in San Luis Obispo, Ca. where he has continued teaching as well as working and parenting three children with his wife of 27 years. Harold has earned a Doctor of Divinity in holistic health and also studies African spirituality.

In 2005, Champion Sensei was promoted to Rokudan and in 2010 awarded Shihan by Chiba Sensei. He currently serves on the Birankai North America Senior Council.

Aki Fleshler

Shihan, 7th Dan
Founder, Multnomah Aikikai

Fleshler Sensei began his Aikido training under Mitsunari Kanai Sensei of New England Aikikai in 1972. From 1977-1983 he trained under Sensei M Nakazono. After 1983, he came under the direction of TK Chiba Sensei, and, before moving to Oregon, was a founder of Santa Fe Aikikai and Albuquerque Aikikai. He has served nationally on the Advisory Board (USAF-WR), Examining Committee (Birankai), Scholarship Committee (Birankai), and Ethics Committee (Birankai). He is a member of the Senior Council/Shihankai (Birankai).

Dennis Belt

Shihan, 6th Dan
Founder and Chief Instructor, Ventura Aikikai

Every technique, every class, we seek to give 100%; to be fully present and committed to the task at hand.  We train to greet the world with our full spirit.

Belt Sensei is the chief Instructor at Ventura Aikikai. He began his aikido training in 1978 by attending a class at Ventura College taught by Nobu Iseri Shihan.  Soon after starting, he was fortunate enough to attend an aikido seminar that really opened his eyes and he has been training ever since.  He has studied intensively with T.K. Chiba Shihan. Belt Sensei was awarded Shihan (master teacher certification) by T.K. Chiba Shihan in 2010. He is a member of the Senior Council of Birankai North America (BNA) and was a longtime member of the BNA examination committee. He has studied Iaido (Japanese swordsmanship) since 1994.

Dave Stier

Shihan, 7th Dan
Founder and Chief Instructor, Green River Aikido

Aikido is not always a harmonious journey, but one that is also full of conflict and the reality of one’s own limitations.  Through the process of physical training we gain personal and spiritual growth and learn more about ourselves and others.

Stier Sensei began training in 1973 with the UMass Aikido Club under the direction of Dr. Taitetsu Unno Sensei, a professor of Buddhist Studies and former student of Akira Tohei Sensei.  During his time with UMass Aikido he met his eventual teachers, Paul Sylvain and Lorraine DiAnne Shihan.  Stier Sensei helped them build their first dojo, Amherst Aikikai upon their return in 1979 from their special training with T.K. Chiba Shihan in Japan.  He met Chiba Sensei in 1980 and developed a special relationship that played an important role in his Aikido development. After Sylvain Sensei’s death, he became co-head instructor of Valley Aikido until opening Green River Aikido in 2005.  Chiba Sensei formally accepted him as his student and Green River Aikido as active members of Birankai North America in 2011. In 2015, Stier Sensei was honored to be awarded Shihan (master teacher certification) by Chiba Shihan. He serves on the Senior Council of Birankai North America.

Frank A. Apodaca

Shihan, 6th Dan
Founder and Chief Instructor, Deep River Aikikai

Frank Apodaca Sensei began his Aikido training in November 1985 at San Diego Aikikai under the direction of T. K. Chiba, 8th Dan, Shihan. In 1987, he was accepted into Chiba Sensei’s teacher training program as a live in student. Upon completing his apprenticeship in December 1993, he moved to Portland, Oregon to teach Aikido full-time as the Chief Instructor at Multnomah Aikikai. In October 2000, he moved to the mid-Michigan area where he founded and taught at Mid-Michigan Aikikai. In August of 2010, he moved to North Carolina and founded Deep River Aikikai in Pittsboro, where he enjoys living and working near his children, Marcus and Isabella. He was awarded Shihan (master teacher certification) in January, 2017. Apodaca Sensei has previously served as the chair of the Examination Committee and Chair of the Senior Council of Birankai North America.

Maureen Browne Shihan

Maureen Browne

Shihan, 6th Dan
Founder and Chief Instructor, Fox Valley Aikikai

Maureen Browne Sensei began the study of Danzanryu Jujitsu in 1970 at the age of 16. In 1971, as a student at Northern Illinois University, Browne Sensei began training in Aikido as a charter member of the NIU Aikido club. In 1975 she continued her Aikido training as a founding member of the Midwest Aikido Center, which was established in Chicago under the direction of Akira Tohei Shihan. In 1978 Browne Sensei moved to Tokyo to train intensively at the Aikido Hombu dojo. Upon arrival at Hombu, she had the privilege of meeting and training with T.K. Chiba Shihan. It was at Hombu in 1978 that Browne Sensei received her Shodan in Aikido from Aikido Doshu, Kisshomaru Ueshiba. After returning to the US in 1980, she continued her study of Aikido with Tohei Sensei. In 1992, Browne Sensei and her husband John Gussman opened the Martial Arts Training Service and began teaching classes in Judo, Jujitsu and Aikido, which led to the creation of the Fox Valley Aikikai. In 1994 the Fox Valley Aikikai affiliated with T. K. Chiba Shihan.

Browne Sensei holds the rank of 8th Dan, Professor in Danzanryu Jujitsu from Shoshin Ryu Yudansha-kai and 6th Dan, Shihan in Aikido from Birankai North America.

Browne Sensei currently serves as Chair of the BNA Ethics Committee and is a member of the Senior Council of Birankai North America.


Philip Traunstein

Shihan, 6th Dan
Founder and Chief Instructor, Long Mountain Aikido

Philip Traunstein Sensei began his training in Aikido in 1979, studying under Lorraine DiAnne Sensei, 6th Dan and the late Paul Sylvain Sensei, 6th Dan, at Amherst Aikikai. In 1986 Traunstein Sensei continued his training at Berkeley Aikikai under DiAnne Sensei and was a founding member of Aikido of Springfield (1988 – 1997).  

Traunstein Sensei founded Red Sun Aikido in 1997 and renamed the dojo Long Mountain Aikido, in 2011. Traunstein Sensei holds the rank of 6th dan and the teaching certification of Shihan.

Traunstein Sensei also holds a 2nd Dan in Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido, having studied under Lorraine DiAnne, 6th Dan (Iaido), and the late Marion Taylor, 5th Dan (Iaido).


Jobe Groot

Shihan, 6th Dan
Founder and Chief Instructor, Mountain Coast Aikikai

Jobe Groot Sensei began training in Aikido in 1977 at Victoria Aikikai.  He trained for over 15 years as a close personal student of  Y. Kawahara Shihan and F.I. Ishiyama Shihan, and participated in many seminars conducted by some of the most prominent Aikido instructors of the time.   In the late 1980s, after several impactful encounters with T.K. Chiba Shihan, Groot Sensei began training with Chiba Shihan, travelling often to train at San Diego Aikikai, and seminars and intensives conducted by Chiba Sensei.

Groot Sensei is the founder and Chief Instructor of Mountain Coast Aikikai. He holds the rank of Rokudan (6th dan) and the teaching certification of Shihan (master instructor).  He has served as a member of the Birankai North America Examination Committee and currently serves as a member of the Senior Council of Birankai North America

In addition to Aikido, Groot Sensei has studied human physiology, fitness and conditioning, as well as extensive training in other martial arts and related mind-body integration disciplines, notably: Yoga, Qi-gong, Ju-Jitsu, Karate and Japanese swordsmanship.  

Groot Sensei has travelled extensively to instruct at seminars and training intensives in Canada, United States, Europe and South-East Asia.


Ryūgan Robert Savoca

Shihan, 6th Dan
Founder and Chief Instructor, Brooklyn Aikikai 
Ryūgan Robert D. Savoca began studying judo and aikido in San Diego County in 1983, at age 12. He continued to study aikido at UCLA and then at the West Los Angeles Aikido Institute.

Moving to New York in 1997, he continued his training at Aikido of Manhattan for a year and a half with Juba Nour Shihan. Afterwards, he apprenticed to T.K. Chiba Shihan, as an uchideshi (live in student) in San Diego, from 1999 to 2000. Moving back to New York, he resumed training at Aikido of Manhattan and then started Brooklyn Aikikai at the end of 2001.  He traveled often with Chiba Sensei and was fortunate to be his otomo on many occasions from 2000-2012.

Savoca Sensei is the Chief Instructor of Brooklyn Aikikai and holds the rank of Rokudan (6th dan) and teaching certification of Shihan. He serves as the current Chair of the Senior Council of Birankai North America.

Rodger Park

Rodger Park

Shihan, 6th Dan
Chief Instructor, Huron Valley Aikikai

Rodger Park began his study of Aikido in 1989 at the University of Rochester Aikido Club, Rochester, New York. He moved to Ann Arbor for graduate studies at the University of Michigan in 1991, where he began daily training. He has served as Chair of the Birankai NA Teachers’ Council and on its national Examination Committee, and presently is a member of its Senior Council.

Throughout his study, Park Sensei has broadened his training through regular participation in seminars and training camps conducted by many of the Shihan (master teachers) in the United States, as well as seminars conducted by visiting instructors from the Aikikai Hombu (World Headquarters) Dojo in Tokyo, Japan. He has traveled to Japan for short periods to train at Hombu Dojo and at the Ichikukai Dojo near Tokyo. Over the years, he has complemented his martial arts training with extensive training in other arts and movement systems, including yoga, Pilates, mixed martial arts, and CrossFit™.  He also holds a coaching certification in the Original Strength – Resets™ movement system.


T. K. Chiba Shihan, founder (in memoriam)

8th dan

Founder of Birankai

(February 5, 1940 – June 5, 2015) T. K. Chiba was born in 1940 in Tokyo, Japan. At 14 years of age, he began serious Judo training at the International Judo Academy. Two years later, he began the study of Shotokan Karate, but still felt that he had not found what he sought in the martial arts. In 1958, he discovered Aikido and began seven years of intensive live-in study as an uchideshi (private student) of Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of the art. By 1960, Chiba Sensei had earned the rank of sandan (third-degree black belt) and was dispatched to the city of Nagoya to establish a branch school and to serve as its full-time instructor. In 1962, he was awarded fourth dan rank and began instructing at Aikikai Hombu Dojo. Within three years, during which time he taught at many local universities, he completed his training as uchideshi, and was promoted to fifth dan.

In 1966, Chiba Sensei was invited to the United Kingdom to teach Aikido.  He formed the Aikikai of Great Britain, which later became the British Aikido Federation. In 1970, he was awarded the rank of sixth dan and the title of Shihan. Though he left Britain in 1975, he later served as Technical Director of the British Aikikai, a group formed by his original students in the UK. Upon his return to Japan from Britain, he resumed teaching at Aikikai Hombu Dojo, and became Secretary of the International Department of Hombu Dojo. He also began intensive study of Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido under Mitsuzuka Takeshi Sensei during this period.

In 1981, Chiba Sensei accepted an invitation from the United States Aikido Federation (USAF) and moved to San Diego, California, where he established his own school, San Diego Aikikai, and in time took on leadership of the Western Region of the USAF. In January of 2000, Chiba Sensei officially formed Birankai International, an international Aikido community that now includes nine country organizations. In 2001, he founded Birankai North America as a separate organization from the USAF. He held the post of Technical Director of Birankai North America until his retirement in 2010. Chiba Sensei passed away on June 5, 2015.

Jack Arnold Shihan (in memoriam)

7th dan

Founder and former Chief Instructor, Aikido Daiwa

Arnold Sensei began his study of Aikido in the 1950s in New York City. When his career as a percussionist took him to Los Angeles, he joined Los Angeles Aiki Kai, then began teaching on his own in 1979. When T. K. Chiba Shihan arrived in California, Arnold Sensei aligned with him; their relationship of mutual respect and loyalty endured throughout years of training and organizational changes. In 2006, Arnold Sensei traveled with Chiba Sensei and a dozen other American and European senior instructors to receive the rank of Shihan (master teacher) at Hombu Dojo – an unprecedented event for those of non-Japanese descent. The honor was followed, in April 2010, by Jack’s elevation to nanadan (seventh-degree black belt), making him the most highly ranked member of Birankai after Chiba Sensei.

In 2011, the sale of the dojo building resulted in a forced move and, at the age of 82, Arnold Sensei, aided by his enthusiastic students, relocated Aikido Daiwa to its present Magnolia Boulevard location where until May of 2014 he taught six classes per week and where his spirit continues to reside. Arnold Sensei passed away on November 5, 2014, with his wife Melinda and several of his devoted students at his side.

Nobuo F. Iseri Shihan (in memoriam)

6th dan

Nobuo F. Iseri was a pioneer of Aikido on the west coast.  He began his training in 1958, and received his Shodan (1st dan) certificate when O-Sensei was signing them personally.

Iseri Sensei began teaching Aikido in Ventura County through City Parks and Recreation classes, which led to a position teaching Aikido at Ventura College in 1975. It was here that Iseri Sensei started building his student base, which enabled him to open a permanent dojo, The Moving Centre (now Ventura Aikikai) in 1985. Iseri Sensei was among the first California instructors to welcome Chiba Sensei to San Diego, and became a founding member of the USAF/WR Teaching Committee. Iseri Sensei was promoted to Rokudan (6th dan) in 1996, and in 2001, was among the first foreign instructors to be promoted to Shihan (Master Teacher).

In his professional life, Iseri Sensei was a nurse practitioner, as well as an excellent jazz musician, playing trombone and percussion.  For many years, he participated in the ‘Artist in the Classroom’ program for Ventura County schools, bringing Aikido to a new generation.

Iseri Sensei passed away on December 29, 2001, doing what he loved, teaching Aikido. He is remembered by his many students and friends for his kindness, curiosity, common sense, and commitment to Aikido as a path for personal growth.

Morihiko (Mark) Murashige Shihan (in memoriam)

6th dan

Former Assistant Chief Instructor, San Diego Aikikai

Just train. That’s it.

Murashige Sensei was born in Yamaguchi prefecture, Japan, in 1945. He began studying Aikido in 1962, with his father, Aritoshi Murashige, and went on to study under the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, as well as Seigo Yamaguchi Sensei, for six years. In 1978 he moved to San Diego, California, to work as a sushi chef at his brother’s restaurant. In 1981, when Chiba Sensei moved to San Diego, he joined San Diego Aikikai, eventually holding the post of Assistant Instructor. He attained the rank of sixth dan and was awarded the title of Shihan in 2002. Murashige Sensei passed away in October 2013


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