Passing of Robert Aoyagi Sensei of Hawaii

Aikido of Hilo just announced the sad news of the passing of Robert Aoyagi Sensei on their Facebook page:

Robert H. Aoyagi Shihan, Chief Instructor of Aikido of Honolulu, passed away on November 16, 2010. He had just celebrated his 90th birthday and over 50 years in Aikido. Condolences go out to his family, especially to his devoted wife, Dora.

I met Aoyagi Sensei once in 1979 while accompanying Saito Sensei for a seminar. He was a fine person, excellent leader, and devoted aikidoka. R.I.P. – Stanley Pranin


  1. Robert Aoyagi Shihan was indeed a true gentleman, in the same class as the late Doshu, Kisshomaru Ueshiba. His timeless grace, calm demeanor and his fierce, but understated devotion to the Aikido of the Founder, are legacies for us to appreciate and to emulate as best we can. Yet, it was his unflagging energy to do Aikido “the right way”, often admonishing his students to remain focused on Aiki principles that I remember best, as well as the twinkling kindness that his eyes betrayed as to his true purpose, your enjoyment of his classes and your continued development.

    Farewell, Aoyagi Sensei, and may you find the Peace you have so richly earned after a lifetime of service to the Aikido you loved more than life.

    Heartfelt condolences to the Aoyagi family, and to all his friends and supporters who truly appreciated what a gift he was to us. The awesome memories of his teachings, and of his unflinching example, will always be there to help guide us.

  2. Well stated Francis Sensei. You have summed up the feelings of many people out there.

    I had the pleasure of attending one of his classes many years ago in Honolulu and still remember the serious (fierce sometimes) look in his eyes while he demonstrated.

    He will be missed.

  3. Franck Baron says:

    I had the chance to meet Robert Aoyagi Sensei a few years ago when he came in Tahiti for a seminar. I was , and still am, a really true beginner in studying Aïkido .

    The strongest thing that remains in my mind about him is the equal full of kindness(his eyes were full of it) interest he had for the beginner and the advanced aïkidoka. Each had the same importance for him.

    Thank you to him .

  4. Cyril Landise says:

    Aoyagi Sensei visited our dojo several years ago for the first North American Shihankai seminar, hosted by the Midwest Aikido Center in Chicago. He taught us a smoothly powerful basic Aikido which to me was very similar to the style of our own instructor, Akira Tohei Sensei.
    In addition he conveyed a warmth and approachability. His encouraging instruction seemed to say, “You can do this, just try again.”
    When I had the pleasure of hosting him and his otomo (who was also a Shinto priest) for a day tour of Chicago and a visit to the top of Sears Tower, they had me smiling and laughing constantly with their light hearted but sensitive observations comparing island life to the bustle of the big city.
    He made quite an impression on me and I am saddened at his passing.

  5. As French Polynesia prepares to celebrate “Matari’i i ni’a”,(the Season of Abundance) the members of the Polynesian Federation of Aikido are mourning their Hawaiian “grandfather” Robert Hiroshi Aoyagi Sensei, 7th dan, Shihan, chief instructor of “Aïkido of Honolulu”.
    He passed away at the age of 90, after more than 50 years of aikido practice in his historical Dojo of Waialae Avenue, opened in 1961 by Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei, the founder of Aikido.
    Robert Hiroshi Aoyagi Sensei contributed greatly to the development of aikido in French Polynesia. He was strict but always highly attentive, of great simplicity and exceptional generosity.
    Between 1990 and 2000, he came five times to Tahiti on a voluntary basis to allow the Polynesian aikidokas to enjoy his teaching.
    Thanks to him, the technical level of The French Polynesian aikido has improved considerably.
    He welcomed the Tahitian delegations to two exceptional events in Honolulu:

    In 1991, for the 30th anniversary of his Dojo, in the presence of the Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba and other distinguished Sensei who had flown to Hawaii for the celebration.
    In 1993, for the seminar conducted by Nobuyoshi Tamura Sensei, 8th dan, Technical Director of the French Federation of Aikido and Budo.

    It is also in this place filled with “Ki” that in February 2008, a Polynesian delegation came to train under his direction.
    He may have felt then that they would never meet again and made a beautiful gesture: At the end of his last class, he took his personal jo displayed at the kamiza, and gave it to the President of the Tahitian Federation, Patrick Cojan, thus underlining the special bond between the Tahitian and Hawaiian aikidokas.
    “Wonderful!”, exclaimed Irie Sensei, sent by the Aikikai of Tokyo, and moved by the gesture.
    As a sign of their deep affection and gratitude for his teaching, the Polynesian Federation of Aikido would like to pay their tribute to Robert Hiroshi Aoyagi Sensei for his generosity and devotion. He will always be one of the mainstays of Polynesian Aikido, and he will remain in the hearts and the memories of all the Polynesians who have crossed his path.
    Rene Chansin on behalf of all members of the Polynesian Federation of Aïkido

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