Chief Instructor - Kayla Feder Sensei, 7th dan
Kayla Feder Sensei, 7th dan, Aikikai, is the dojo cho at Aikido of Berkeley. In 1973 at the age of 9 Kayla Sensei fell in love with Aikido and has been dedicated to growing in the art and training continuously for 50 years. For the first 20 years of her practice, she was greatly inspired by training under Morihiro Saito Shihan, who was one of the founder's closest students. In 1980 Kayla Sensei traveled to Iwama, Japan to train with Saito Shihan as an uchi deshi (live-in apprentice). During subsequent trips to study Aikido in Japan, Sensei trained under a number of other Shihan who were close students to the founder, among many: Kisshomaru Ueshiba (O-Sensei's son), Seiichi Sugano, Motomichi Anno, and Kazuo Chiba. Since childhood she has also practiced with and been strongly influenced by Frank Doran Shihan, Robert Nadeau Shihan, and Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan.
Kayla Sensei has taught seminars throughout the US, Europe, and Israel. In addition to her Aikido accomplishments she received a Masters degree in Holistic Health Education from JFK University in 1998. She received the rank of 7th dan in 2021.
Kayla Sensei recognizes that we all have different bodies, histories, ages and learning styles. She is dedicated to making Aikido accessible for anyone who wants to train at Aikido of Berkeley. Her teaching style supports the individual growth of each student. She has created a warm and welcoming community at Aikido of Berkeley. Sensei also includes yoga and meditation practices as part of the training at Aikido of Berkeley. She views Aikido as a holistic art and has said: "There is no end to the growth and learning we aspire to through our Aikido practice both on and off the mat". She continues to dedicate herself to the daily process of changing and growing within herself and her practice and teaching of Aikido.
Kayla Feder Sensei's press kit.
Bill Essig, 6th dan
Bill Essig with Kayla Feder Sensei
Bill Essig has been training in martial pursuits for over 50 years. He began Aikido training in 1983 with Pat Hendricks Shihan 7th Dan and continued training at Aikido of San Leadro for 32 years. In 1992 as Ni-Dan he traveled to Iwama, Japan, to study with Morihiro Saito Shihan as uchi-deshi in the Founders Dojo.
After returning home, Morihiro Saito Shihan personally granted him the 3rd level Aiki-Ken and Aiki-Jo Transmission Scroll as well as direct promotion 3rd Dan, authorizing Essig to teach additional sections of the Aiki-Jo and Aiki-Ken. He was promoted to 5th Dan Aikikai (Kagami Baraki Jan 1, 2008). Essig has experience in teaching international seminars as well as day-to-day Keiko. He received a ”Shidoin” (Instructor) calligraphy from Hendricks Shihan in 2009.
In 2016 Essig started Aikido of Montclair Village. His experience on the mat is bolstered by his prior 19+ years of National and International competitive experience in European Fencing. He also has 3 years competitive experience cross-training in Kendo and has extensively cross-trained in other sports.
Currently Essig is the Dojo Cho at Aikido of Montclair Village and Weapons Instructor at Aikido of Berkeley (Friday evenings).
Robert Pierce, 4th Dan
Rob with Kayla Sensei
Robert actively trains in Aikido and Kendo, holding 4 and 3 dan in respectively. He started Aikido in 1986 and has been a student of Kayla Feder Sensei since 2005. Robert’s perspective has been influenced by many wonderful teachers and long term study of combative arts including Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo, Muso Jikiden Eishen Ryu Iaido, and Karate styles from Japan, China, and Okinawa.
As a Physicist, Robert employs a first principles approach to training and teaching drawn, for example, from the Aikido principles of Ki Musubi, Shisei and Kizushi, the Kendo principles of Ki Ken Tai Ichi and Mittsu No Sen, and the Physics principle of Least Action (from which we obtain our understanding of force and momentum).
Sincere training in Martial Arts allows us to seek truth by showing the difference between what we want to believe and what works in reality. A great joy of exploring O Sensei’s Aikido is discovering how it optimally harmonizes natural movements with the requirements of combat and responsible ethics.
Lisi Baldwin, 3rd dan
Lisi (third from left) and ukes for her Sandan exam, with Kayla Sensei
When Lisi moved to the East Bay in 1997 she readily took up Yoga, Tai chi and Qigong but found that something was lacking. She wanted an integrative mind/body/spirit practice in which she could work in relationship with others. A friend encouraged her to check out Aikido classes at the El Cerrito Community Center so she started training with David Grudoski Sensei, 5th dan in 2000. Through Grudoski Sensei, Lisi met Walter Muryasz Sensei, Kai Cho of Torrey Pines Aikikai in San Diego. Muryasz Sensei was a student of Koichi Tohei Sensei in the early ‘70’s and was heavily influenced by his relaxed, fluid, natural way of movement. He integrated Tohei's emphasis on ki development with Taoist and Zen principles, body mechanics, and applications of the natural laws of physics in creating his own unique, principle-based style of Aikido. Muryasz Sensei has been a major influence in shaping Lisi's practice today.
In 2012, Lisi began training with Kayla Feder Sensei at Aikido of Berkeley and was awarded the rank of Sandan in 2018. From Kayla Sensei, Lisi has gained precision in Aikikai techniques and Iwama-style weapons forms, embodied an enlivened and joyful practice, and broadened her understanding of O'Sensei and his vision.
Lisi teaches on Saturday mornings and emphasizes the importance of ukemi and delivering sincere, focused attacks, creative adaptability in how nage responds, and martial awareness. She leads fun, explorative, energetic classes accessible to students of all levels.
Rolando Morales, 3rd dan
Rolando Morales with students from Berkeley High
Rolando Morales is a NuyoRican (New York Puerto Rican) who was raised in the Bronx in the 1970s. He began his interest in Aikido in 1990 after reading a little yellow book by O Sensei called "The Art of Peace". This led him on a journey to a dojo called the New York Aikikai and started to learn this wonderful art directly from Yamada Shihan and Sugano Shihan throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s. He also had the privilege to learn from the inspired teachers that taught regularly; Konigsberg Shihan, Waite Shihan, Peyser Shidoin, and many others. He also had the honor to train at the Aikido of Park Slope dojo with Lehrman Shihan who generously collaborated with Feder Sensei to guide his Shodan as he made his transition to the Bay in 2009. He will always cherish Feder Sensei for her gracious generosity of spirit in welcoming him to her dojo.
He currently holds the rank of Nidan and is deeply honored to be given the opportunity to teach Sunday mornings. Rolando also teaches Aikido at Berkeley High School as a way of planting more seeds of harmony in the community. His approach to Aikido is rooted in tradition and enjoys branching out to explore the relationship of Aiki weapons and techniques, balanced with its relationship to Aiki philosophy and spirituality. He always ends his bendicions with "Paz y Amor."
Mahika Rangnekar, 2nd dan
Mahika with her uke Mike Roberts
Mahika has been practicing Aikido for over 20 years. She began her Aikido journey at the age of 8 under Shiohira Shihan in Mountain View, CA and joined Kayla Feder Sensei in 2015. Mahika also trained under Malory Graham Sensei in Seattle, WA and has had opportunities to train in dojos around the world.
She appreciates that Aikido is both a physical and spiritual practice and her approach to teaching emphasizes Aikido as a lifelong study that has implications both on and off the mat.
At Aikido of Berkeley, Mahika teaches the Wednesday beginners class adn has the most fun helping others fall in love with falling. When not on the mat, Mahika enjoys reading, talking about data and research, practicing Kathak, and playing Dungeons & Dragons.