Chief Instructor - Kayla Feder Shihan, 7th dan

Kayla Feder Sensei - 6th Dan

Kayla Feder Shihan, 7th dan, Aikikai, is the dojo cho at Aikido of Berkeley. In 1973 at the age of 9 Kayla Shihan 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 Shihan traveled to Iwama, Japan to train with Saito Shihan as an uchi deshi (live-in apprentice). During subsequent trips to study Aikido in Japan, she trained with 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 Shihan 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 2020.

Kayla Shihan 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. She 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 Shihan's press kit.

Bill Essig, 6th dan

Rolando Morles with Berkeley High students

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 Nidan 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

Lisi Baldwin with training partners

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, 4th dan

Lisi Baldwin with training partners

Lisi (third from left) and ukes for her Sandan exam, with Kayla Sensei

Lisi started on her Aikido journey in 2000. Her early years emphasized the study of aiki principles taught by Walter Muryasz Sensei of Torrey Pines Aikikai who studied under Koichi Tohei Sensei. In 2012, she became a member of Aikido of Berkeley and learned a more form-based approach from Kayla Feder Sensei, 7th dan. Integrating the best of both worlds, she was honored to receive the ranks of Sandan (2018) and Yondan (2023) from Feder Sensei. In addition to Muryasz and Feder Senseis, Lisi is grateful for other inspiring teachers who have influenced her practice—in particular, Linda Holiday, Jan Nevelius, and Bill Essig Senseis. Lisi enjoys exploring the art of ukemi, how weapons practice relates to open-handed techniques, and creative adaptability to spontaneous attack situations (O’Sensei’s concept of Takemusu Aiki). Having been a nationally-ranked swimmer, she identifies with the water element and fluidity of movement in Aikido. Outside the dojo, Lisi enjoys traveling, outdoor activities, writing, film/video, music, art, yoga, and tai chi.

Rolando Morales, 3rd dan

Rolando Morles with Berkeley High students

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, 3rd dan

Rolando Morles with Berkeley High students

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 and 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.