" We Turn the Spotlight on the Life of...
Aikido Master Terry Dobson Sensei "



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Terry Dobson (1937-1992) was an American Aikido pioneer, aikido teacher and writer. He is one of the few Western aikido practitioners who studied directly under the founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba.

Terry was born in Cambridge, USA to a wealthy family that moved to New York City in 1940. He was raised by his alcoholic mother and stepfather, and did not meet his real father until his late teens.

He went to two well-known private schools, where he excelled at football. After receiving a scholarship to play, he quickly dropped out and trained for a summer with the New York football giants under Vince Lombardi.

He was a U.S. Marine doing helicopter maintenance during the Lebanon crisis of 1958, and attended New York University. In 1959 he travelled to Japan to assist in rural development and teach English.

During a visit to Tokyo, he witnessed a demonstration of the little known martial art of Aikido on an American military base in Yokohama. He instantly fell in love with the art and six months later was asked by O'Sensei to become an uchi-deshi (live-in student).

Terry Dobson entered the Aikikai Hombu Dojo and trained as uchi-deshi until his marriage in 1964. He was one of only two non-Japanese to enjoy this privilege during that early era, the other being Andre Nocquet. He continued to train at the Hombu Dojo until 1969.

Morihei Ueshiba developed the martial art of Aikido from his combat studies of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu with Sokaku Takeda, and his spiritual studies with the Omoto Kyo and Onisaburi Deguchi. Aikido, the art of peace, focuses on harmony and non-resistance, leading to Aikido Success

Terry Dobson - Taking Ukemi for Morihei Ueshiba


Terry Dobson was riding on a train in Japan, when a drunken man boarded. The man was violent, aggressive, and a real physical threat to the other passengers, whom he pushed around and bullied.

Dobson had been intensively training in aikido daily for three years, and was eager to put that practice into 'real' action. Although he knew his teacher had said that aikido is the art of reconciliation, and that even wanting to fight means that you've already lost touch with the Universe.

Just as he tried to get the drunk to attack him, a little old man interrupted by calling out joyfully to the drunken man. In a cheerful manner, the little old man started talking to the drunk, asking friendly questions.

Soon, the drunk's nasty exterior had melted away. He was weeping, explaining his wife had died, that he'd lost his job and his home, and that his life was a total wreck and that he was terribly ashamed. The would-be attacker had been brought to peace, without a single martial arts move.

Dobson realized that what he had witnessed was real aikido in action. What he had wanted to do... vigilante-style, self-righteous justice was not aikido. What the old man had done, though, was aikido as it was meant to be... humble, gentle love, bringing peace and healing.

In 1970 Terry Dobson returned to the U.S. where he gave seminars around the country and co-founded (with Ken Nisson) Bond Street Dojo in New York City and Vermont Aikido in Burlington, Vermont. In 1979 he moved to San Francisco and became involved with Robert Bly's men's movement, while still teaching aikido as a visiting sensei.

In 1984 he became ill and moved to Vermont to recover. His teaching trailed off and eventually stopped as he became weaker and weaker. After a change in medication his health improved and he started teaching again.

Though not fully healthy, he flew to California to give a Men's Conference and teach aikido in 1992. After teaching a class in San Francisco, he fell into a coma. On August 2, 1992, he died in an ambulance in Inverness, California of a heart attack.

Terry Dobson said...

I consider myself a technician. I'm not a guru. I'm not a leader. I have no followers. I want none. I'm a technician. I'm like a mechanic.

I'm working on the transmission of ki, of intention. I'm heir to a legacy that comes down from many generations of Japanese warriors regarding point, or presence, about being centered under fire. I'm not the repository for the entire sum of knowledge on the subject, but I have been close to some good teachers and I do know something about it."



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