Capitol Hill Aikikai

Our Culture and Philosophy / Our History

Our Culture and Philosophy

Cottier and Mike sensei

Capitol Hill Aikikai is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the teaching and development of Aikido. We are an informal and welcoming club, with a core group of long-standing members and a growing number of newer students. Classes are open to anyone over the age of 16; the dojo does not currently offer classes for children.

The dojo’s instructors, Meipo Martin and Michael Martin, are committed to creating and maintaining a dojo that offers an equal opportunity learning environment regardless of ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation. Harassment or intimidation of students is not tolerated. Most major decisions in the dojo are made by consensus among the members.

Both instructors tailor classes to the students in attendance to ensure everyone has the opportunity for growth and development. Their classes try to maintain the martial aspect of Aikido, while providing a safe environment. In addition, the instructors focus on refining the technical aspects of Aikido, advancing the self-awareness of the students, and fostering better connection to others. Classes are intended to be “serious fun,” combining times of great intensity with moments of great joy.

No prior experience is required or necessary to get started. You can simply show up. Dress in comfortable loose-fitting workout clothes, such as t-shirt and sweatpants, or wear a martial arts uniform, if you already have one. The dojo has separate changing areas for men and women.

Paul Rivas of the Hill Rag visited our dojo and wrote an article on his impressions: Aikido Brings Harmony to Life.

Our History

In the spring of 2008, Meipo and Michael Martin started Capitol Hill Aikikai at the Parish of St. Monica and St. James to bring Aikido to downtown Washington, D.C. In November 2015, Capitol Hill Aikikai relocated to the Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church, where practice takes place today.

Capitol Hill Aikikai is affiliated with the United States Aikido Federation.

About Aikido

The Basics / O-Sensei

The Basics

Aikido is a comparative new martial art, developed by Ueshiba Morihei, also known as O Sensei (see biography below). The name "Aikido" is made up of three Japanese characters -- ai, ki, and do. "Ai" can be translated into several different words in English, including unite, combine and connect. "Ki" can be translated as spirit, energy, intention, mind and soul. "Do" is often translated as way, path, road, or journey. One of the most common English translations of Aikido is "the way of harmony."

In terms of its martial application, one of the fundamental concepts in Aikido is to blend with the attack and redirect the energy to either throw or pin the attacker. Ideally, neither the attacker nor the person being attacked is hurt. Aikido is a self-defensive, non-competitive martial art.

In terms of its health benefits, Aikido has something to offer people of all ages. The workout can be as aerobic as a person desires by adjusting the speed, strength and pace of the attack. Aikido also helps improve a person's balance, flexibility and coordination. Plus, Aikido is fun, which is also good for one's health!

In terms of its life application, Aikido can help people deal with conflict at home, at work or in other aspects of everyday life. Aikido can also help a person learn sensitivity to other people, as well help develop self-confidence.



The founder of Aikido, Ueshiba Morihei, was born on December 14, 1883, to a farming family in Wakayama Prefecture. Ueshiba was rather weak and sickly as a child, but became interested in martial arts after his father was beaten by a gang of thugs hired by a rival politician. Ueshiba greatly enjoyed his study of Jujutsu at the Kito-ryu dojo and Swordsmanship at the Shinkage-ryu training center.

During the Russo-Japanese War, Ueshiba was an infantryman in the Japanese army. After the war, Ueshiba returned home to the family farm in Shirataki. He was now eager to continue martial arts training, so his father built a dojo on the farm and invited the well-known Jujutsu instructor, Takaki Kiyoichi, to tutor him.

In the Spring of 1912, at the age of 29, he and his family moved to Hokkaido. It was during this time in Hokkaido that he met Takeda Sokaku, grandmaster of Daito-ryu Aiki jutsu. After meeting Takeda Sensei, Ueshiba moved back to Wakayama Prefecture, built a dojo and invited Takeda to live there to teach Daito-ryu Aiki-jutsu.

Hearing news of his father's serious illness, Ueshiba sold off most of his property and left the dojo to Takeda. On his way home, he stopped in Ayabe, headquarters for the new Omoto-kyo religion. Here, he met the master of the new religion, Deguchi Onisaburo. Enthralled with Ayabe and Deguchi, he stayed three additional days and upon returning home, found his father had died.

Following his father’s death, Ueshiba sold off all his ancestral land and moved to Ayabe to study Omoto-kyo. For the next eight years, Ueshiba studied with Deguchi, taught martial arts, and headed up the local fire brigade.

A pacifist, Deguchi was an advocate of non-violent resistance and universal disarmament. He was noted to have said, "Armament and war are the means by which the landlords and capitalists make their profit, while the poor suffer." It did not take long for Deguchi to decide that Ueshiba's purpose on earth was "to teach the real meaning of budo: an end to all fighting and contention."

The study of Omoto-kyo profoundly affected Ueshiba's life. He once stated that while Takeda Sensei opened his eyes to the essence of budo, his true enlightenment came from his Omoto-kyo experiences.

In 1927, Deguchi encouraged Ueshiba to separate from Omoto-kyo. Ueshiba moved to Tokyo and opened a dojo in at the current site of Hombu Dojo. In 1931, construction of original dojo was finished, and in 1932, the "Budo Enhancement Society" was founded with Ueshiba as Chief Instructor. Over the next decade, Ueshiba was extremely busy teaching at the dojo, including conducting special classes for the major military and police academies.

In 1942, supposedly because of a divine message, Ueshiba moved to the village of Iwama in Ibaraki Prefecture, leaving the Tokyo dojo in the hands of his son, Ueshiba Kissomaru. In Iwama, Ueshiba built an outdoor dojo and the now famous Aiki Shrine, which is considered by many to be the birth place of modern-day Aikido. Prior to Iwama, Ueshiba referred to his martial art style as Aikijutsu and later on as Aiki-Budo.

After the end of World War Two, Aikido grew rapidly at the Tokyo dojo. Ueshiba became famous in Japan and around the world as "O Sensei," or "Grand Teacher," of Aikido.

In early Spring 1969, O Sensei fell ill and told his son that "God is calling me . . ." Early on the morning of April 26, 1969, the 86-year-old O Sensei took his son's hand, smiled, said, "Take care of things," and died. A memorial service is held every year on April 29 at the Aiki Shrine in Iwama.