Chairman of the Board
Stephen Toyoda, the current President and son of Aikido Association of America founder Fumio Toyoda Shihan, has been studying Aikido since the age of three. After graduating with a degree in Biology from the University of Illinois Champagne-Urbana, Mr. Toyoda has been uchideshi under Y. Kobayashi Shihan in Tokorozawa, Japan. Mr. Toyoda is the dojo cho of Tenshinkan Dojo in Chicago, Illinois and has taught extensively throughout the United States and world.
Rick Butler Sensei, Ni-Dan (2nd degree black belt) began his training in aikido in 1979 under the instruction of Fumio Toyoda Shihan, founder of the Aikido Association of America and Aikido Association International. In 1981, Sensei Garrett Hawkins, a student of Toyoda Shihan, became Butler Sensei’s primary instructor. Hawkins Sensei and Toyoda Shihan trained Butler Sensei to black belt proficiency.
For almost forty years Rick Butler Sensei has taught and worked with youth, adults, church groups, and community organizations. Compelled by his desire to help people enhance their quality of life, in 1997 Butler Sensei created the Pathway to Harmony Aikido Program (PHAP); a life skills and aikido self defense program designed to teach students how to unify mind, body, and spirit (will) to accomplish their academic, professional, and personal goals; help students gain greater control and balance/harmony in their lives through the use of martial arts and meditation; help students minimize stress in their lives; and, help students develop skills that can help them improve their quality of life.
In 2006, Butler Sensei founded Pathway to Harmony, Inc. to address issues of stress, apathy, frustration, anger, and violence that have a profound negative impact on our communities; and to motivate youth and adults to enhance their quality of life. He administrates and teaches the programs to agencies, organizations, schools, church groups, and the public.
A husband, father, surrogate father, and big brother to many, Butler Sensei is known for his patience and passion for teaching. His peers and students recognize him as a highly effective and dynamic motivational speaker, life coach, and aikido instructor. He has been a member of the Aikido Association of America since it’s founding in 1984 and is a member of Aikido Association International. In 2011 WGN-TV selected Butler Sensei to be one of “Chicago’s Very Own” for his work with youth and adults.
Rick Testa Sensei is the Chief Instructor (Dojo Cho) of Shoshinkan Dojo holding the rank of Sandan (third degree black belt). He began his study of Aikido at Rhode Island Aikido (Shoshinkan Dojo) in 1998 under the tutelage of Frank Gallo Sensei (Godan Aikido Association of America National test committee member and Eastern Region Director & former Dojo cho of Shoshinkan). Testa Sensei is the only student fortunate enough to be accepted as a deshi or apprentice of Gallo Sensei.
In 2008 Testa Sensei founded Providence Youthworks a non profit corporation to provide Aikido training to at risk youth in the City of Providence. Working closely with the Providence Afterschool Alliance he began sponsoring youth into an apprenticeship program to create a Youth Instructor program. In 2010 Testa Sensei became the Chief instructor or Dojo Cho of Shoshinkan and moved the dojo to its current location in Providence. This facilitated a merging of Providence Youthworks and Rhode Island Aikido to create City Aiki.
In 2012 he began teaching at Aiki Farms in Ledyard CT. Aiki Farms is an Organic Farm founded by Robert Burns Sensei (Godan 5th degree). The Farm provides educational workshops on farming and offers Zen meditation classes as well as Aikido and Iaido. This union of a city dojo and a rural one is of great interest to Testa Sensei, who’s long term vision is to create an uchideshi program at the farm where Zen Farming and Aikido can be experienced by students living on the farm for a prolonged period of study.
Testa Sensei has been teaching professionally since 2008 and maintains a personal regiment of training in Zen, Aikido and Iaido as well as Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu.
Laurie Erickson Sensei is a fourth degree yudansha and teaches at the AAA headquarters dojo (Tenshinkan) in Chicago. She has studied Aikido from a variety of senseis in a variety of locations. Her training began in 1977 in East Lansing, MI. There she trained with Jerome Helton Sensei of the Aikido Yoshinkai Association of North America under Takashi Kushida Sensei. In 1986, she moved to Madison WI and practiced with the University of Wisconsin’s Aikido club, in the style of Saotome sensei (Aikido Schools of Ueshiba). In 1994, Erickson Sensei moved to Chapel NC and trained with Ned Danieley Sensei of the Aikido Association of America under Fumio Toyoda Shihan. In 1998, Erickson Sensei moved to Chicago, IL and was able to continue with Shihan Toyoda.
Erickson Sensei has a PHD. in Molecular biology and manages 40 scientists for a major pharmaceutical company. She is an active member of the Aikido Association of America, and Aikido Association International.
Mark J. Norton
Mark J. Norton began his study of Aikido under Lou Perriello sensei in 1980. Since that time, he has been influenced by many teachers including the late F. Toyoda shihan. In addition to Aikido, Mr. studies Japanese sword and naginata techniques. He was a founder of Mill City Aikido in Wesford, MA and continues to serves as a board member there. Mark has his own software consulting business (Nolaria Consulting) and develops software for higher education and the home automation markets. He lives with his wife, Brigid, on a farm near Ithaca, NY.