“Aikido Without Borders” by Miles Kessler

Historical first – Aikido demonstration and children’s class in Bethlehem.

On Sunday, Oct. 19th, 2008, “Aikido Without Borders” conducted a historical first aikido demonstration and children’s class in Bethlehem.

A.W.B. is a fledgling N.G.O. primarily working in Israel/Palestine that is dedicated to bringing the practice of aikido to areas of conflict where borders, both real and imagined, perpetuate a culture of separation and conflict. Since 2005 we have been active in Israel, East Jerusalem and the West Bank. For the Bethlehem demonstration we had A.W.B. students participating from Ramallah, Jerusalem, East Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Japan and the United States.

The demonstration and class were held at Bethlehem’s SOS Children’s village. SOS is an international NGO that has children’s villages in 132 countries and territories around the world. They have been active in the field of children’s rights, needs and concerns since 1949. SOS’s activities focus on children without parental care and children of families in difficult circumstances.

After the demonstration the members of “Aikido Without Borders” gave an aikido introduction class for the children of the village. There were about 50 kids who participated in the class and it was lots of fun. Once we got into the “ukemi” (rolling practice) the kids were able to get their first experience of aikido’s “art of falling.”

I was happy to lead the class together with a special guest from Japan, Makiko Sakurai who is a visiting student at Tel Aviv university. Makiko san is a 4th degree black belt out of Hombu dojo in Japan who also has a professional background in social work with disadvantaged children.

Makiko led the kids in basic aikido movements and also taught them how to count and say thank you in Japanese. Arigato gozaimashita Makiko san!

I want to give a big thanks to all the students form Ramallah and East Jerusalem as well as Deborah Hyams for helping set up this event for the kids.

Aikido Without Borders will be starting a regular Aikido Kids project at the SOS school in Bethlehem. O’sensei has been quoted as saying that “aikido is for the whole world.” By crossing borders, going beyond the walls, and meeting on the mat through this art, it is easy to understand how we truly are all part of one world.

To see pictures of this event you can check out my blog here:



  1. Hello,

    I’ve known Miles Kessler since the mid 1980’s. We became fast friends during my short stint in Aikido training and have remained friends ever since even though we live on opposite sides of the world. In addition to being a fantastic aikido technician, Miles always demonstrated a dedication to high ideals and excellence far beyond the norm, so I’m not surprised to see Miles involved in “Aikido Without Borders” It’s a natural progression for Miles to involve himself in an endeavor so benevolent and promising. Good for you Miles!

    By the way…..Your Saito signed bokken and makimono are still in safe keeping here in the mountains of Colorado….awaiting your visit to retrieve them.

    All my best,

    Toby Threadgill / TSYR

  2. Thanks you Miles,

    This is a great story…, a great way to plant the seed (of harmony, peace, cooperation – whatever) when the kids are young. As a father I appreciate your effort.


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