Aikido was introduced to Hawaii, the first place outside of Japan, by Koichi Tohei Sensei, who was sent by Hombu Dojo in 1953 at the request of the Nishikai health organization. By the following year there were about 50 aikido students in Hawaii. Yukiso Yamamoto Sensei was the chief instructor, assisted by Isao Takahashi Sensei and Sugimoto Sensei.
Sadao Yoshioka Sensei began aikido in 1955 at the present YBA of Honolulu. By 1958, just five years after aikido was introduced in Hawaii, there were about 100 beginners and advanced students on Oahu.
In 1959 Yamamoto Sensei opened the first branch of Hawaii Aiki Kwai at the old Nuuanu YMCA building at the corner of Vineyard Boulevard and Pali Highway, where the parking lot for Longs Drugs and Safeway supermarket now sits. Yoshioka Sensei was appointed assistant instructor at the YMCA.
In 1960 Yamamoto Sensei was transferred to the newly built Waialae Avenue dojo as chief instructor there. Yoshioka Sensei continued conducting classes for about seven students in the boxing ring at the old YMCA.
Morihei Ueshiba, the Founder of aikido, visited Hawaii in 1961. O-Sensei dedicated the new Waialae Avenue dojo and conducted many classes there during his visit. O-Sensei gave a public demonstration of aikido at McKinley High School and was the honored guest at a celebration at the Punaluu beach home of Dr. Yorio Wakatake. Yoshioka Sensei was fortunate to have the opportunity to serve as chauffeur for O-Sensei and associate closely with him during his stay in Hawaii.
Two years later in 1963 Waka Sensei (the son of the Founder of aikido), today Doshu, visited Hawaii for the first time. Yoshioka Sensei volunteered to accompany Waka Sensei and Akira Tohei Sensei to the island of Kauai for one week to serve as interpreter for them. Because of their experience together on Kauai, Waka Sensei treated Yoshioka Sensei very kindly upon returning to Honolulu.
On the recommendation of Koichi Tohei Sensei, Yoshioka Sensei went to Japan for intensive aikido training for six weeks in 1967, sponsored by Hawaii Aiki Kwai.
One day O-Sensei asked Yoshioka Sensei to be his otomo and accompany him to his home in the country at Iwama. When they arrived at Iwama, Yoshioka Sensei was invited into O-Sensei's home to have tea and sake together with the Founder. O-Sensei also put on a demonstration for Yoshioka Sensei at the Aiki Shrine.
In 1969 Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei, the Founder of aikido, passed away on April 26. His son Kisshomaru Ueshiba, formerly Waka Sensei, became the Second Doshu. Doshu's son, Moriteru Ueshiba, became Waka Sensei and Executive Director.
Yukiso Yamamoto Sensei retired in 1970 as chief instructor of Waialae Dojo, and Yoshioka Sensei was appointed to the position. During Yoshioka Sensei's tenure as chief instructor many visitors to Hawaii from Japan were entertained at Waialae Dojo including Doshu, Saito Sensei, Nishio Sensei, Seijiro Masuda Sensei and others. In 1977 Moriteru Ueshiba Waka Sensei visited Hawaii for the first time. In July 1978 Hawaii hosted the Second International Aikido Federation Congress at Waialae Dojo.
In March 1978 Yoshioka Sensei received a resolution from the City and County of Honolulu in recognition of his contribution of time for fifteen years in instructing Honolulu Police Department recruits in aikido techniques. The resolution notes that his instruction "has enhanced the capability of police officers in protecting the public".
In 1979 Yoshioka Sensei returned to Nuuanu YMCA, followed by about ninety percent of his students. At the YMCA the late Harold Hamasaki, the late Edward Hood and David Patton had continued to conduct adult aikido classes. Mr. Gayne Sogi was assigned to the junior class.
Dr. Yorio Wakatake had been a long-time supporter of Nuuanu Aikido Club, and president of the United States Aikido Federation since 1976. In 1979 Dr. Wakatake received a medal from the Emperor of Japan in recognition of his outstanding administrative service to the Japanese art of aikido in a foreign country.
For several years beginning in 1979, Nuuanu Aikido Club held annual aikido training sessions lasting three days at Camp Paumalu in the mountains above Waimea on the north shore of the island of Oahu.
In 1980 Nuuanu Aikido Club members sponsored a fund-raiser to buy mats to use in the YMCA gymnasium for seminars. In just six weeks 10,000 barbecued chicken halves were sold, cooked and distributed. Funds raised enabled the club to buy 30 mats covering over 2000 square feet of practice area.
Nuuanu Aikido Club members have studied various aspects of Japanese culture, in addition to aikido philosophy and techniques. In 1980 Nuuanu Aikido Club held the first pounding of mochi at the home of Mr. Jack LaRue. In following years, mochi pounding was held in the parking lot behind Nuuanu YMCA. These mochi were used in the first training of the new year at Kagami Biraki.
In 1982 Nuuanu Aikido Club opened a branch dojo at St. Louis School in Kaimuki. Dr. Robert Little was the head instructor of that dojo. Mr. Art May conducted classes there on Saturdays for junior members. After six years, due to school administrative reasons, classes were discontinued.
Kisaburo Osawa Sensei from Japan headquarters conducted a seminar in Hawaii sponsored by Nuuanu Aikido Club in 1983. Aikido students from throughout Hawaii attended.
Since returning to Nuuanu YMCA in 1979 Yoshioka Sensei conducted tours to Japan in 1980, 1985 and 1988 to expose students to Japanese history and culture. During these tours Nuuanu Aikido Club members have been privileged to visit the home of Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba and receive instruction at the Headquarters Dojo in Tokyo.
Washington, D.C. Aikikai chief instructor Dr. Clyde Takeguchi invited Yoshioka Sensei to conduct a seminar in Washington in 1986. Hawaii Senator Spark M. Matsunaga presented Yoshioka Sensei with a United States flag which had flown over the nation's capitol.
The YBA of Honolulu invited Yoshioka Sensei to open a dojo there in 1984. Since then YBA dojo membership has grown to over 50 students.
Every year Nuuanu Aikido Club adult and junior members participate in public demonstrations. Locations have included Ala Moana Center Centerstage and the annual Boy Scouts of Hawaii Makahiki. These demonstrations help students develop confidence and expose the philosophy and techniques of aikido to the general public.
Since 1963 some of the Nuuanu Aikido Club members have been going to the waterfall for misogi training.
In 1987 the Hawaii Aikido Federation was formed to continue to spread aikido in Hawaii, with Nuuanu Aikido Club dojos as the first members. The first HAF seminar was held at the YBA of Honolulu in February.
In 1988 Yoshioka Sensei and members of Nuuanu Aikido Club visited Japan in August on the occasion of the Fifth International Aikido Federation Congress and General Assembly at Tanabe. The city of Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture, erected a statue of Morihei Ueshiba, the Founder of aikido, in Ogigahama Park in the city where the Founder was born. Hawaii members attended the unveiling ceremony. Yoshioka Sensei received a bronze replica of this statue in recognition of his efforts to spread aikido and its philosophy in Hawaii.
Nuuanu Aikido Club now offers twenty and one-half hours of classes each week: thirteen hours at the YMCA and seven and one-half hours at the YBA. The club has grown to over 120 members.
From the beginning of Nuuanu Aikido Club at the old YMCA 30 years ago, up to its growing membership in the Hawaii Aikido Federation today, the purpose of training has remained the same. O-Sensei taught that one candle can light thousands. Through aikido we receive the light of harmony with nature and pass it on to others. The world grows brighter and brighter until we can all see the truth some day.
* Note: Robert Little added this amendment in October, 2009:
I joined the club in January of 1984. The club was founded by Yoshioka Sensei a year or two before that, in 1982, I believe, and so I was not involved in the founding of the club. I trained at Saint Louis from 1984 until 1988 when the school administration closed the club. The following year, on September 5, 1989, Yoshioka Sensei opened the Aikido Club at University of Hawaii at Manoa. I was there that first day and I have been the instructor at UHM since Yoshioka Sensei died in January of 1990.