"A Brief History of Aikido of Cincinnati" by Sensei Gary Bushorn
A BRIEF HISTORY OF AIKIDO OF CINCINNATI
This is certainly an exciting time for Aikido of Cincinnati. 45 years after the conception of AoC we again find ourselves facing another move. (now mostly complete) Unlike some of our previous moves, this one is being done by choice. I’m sure everyone knows about the progress on our Montgomery Road space. A special thanks goes out to those involved in the planning, purchase, funding, design, construction and painting. The move itself required that everyone pull together for the final occupation of our own dojo. As I’m sure you all know, this is the first space that we will own. We all should be very proud. In late November the members began to “tear” apart the Red Bank Road dojo in preparation for the move. On Thursday, 12/28/17 a final packing and staging was done for the move, after which a tour of the new site was held and that was followed by a get together at Molly Malone’s. Fun stuff.
The actual move was made on 12/29 and 12/30 with lots of help and good spirits in spite of very frigid temperatures. Saturday afternoon on the 30th the final sweep (literally) was made of the Red Bank Road Dojo and we locked the doors for the last time leaving nothing behind but a for lease sign. (We brought all the good memories with us.)
As we are all aware of the present and future of AoC, here’s a brief look at the past.
In 1972, Itzhak Shotten and his wife Emily Hodges moved here from the Boston area and started conducting Aikido classes at their home near Avon Fields. Itzhak came here to play Viola in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Emily founded and ran the New World Food Store on Ludlow Avenue in Clifton. This was a small health food store with a 3 or 4 table restaurant in back. (This is where I learned to like cheese, tomato and sprouts sandwiches on pita.) They had trained with Kanai Sensei and at some point started calling their “Dojo” The Cincinnati Aikikai.
In 1973, Itzhak and Emily moved the Cincinnati Aikikai to the Y.M.C.A. on Central parkway.
The next move was to the Y.M.C.A. on Walnut Street a little south of Central Parkway with Itzhak still doing the teaching. We don’t have the exact date that training was in this location and likewise for the next several locations.
Then it was back to Central Parkway into a warehouse with Jorge Chaumat doing the teaching. Jorge was a medical student here and had trained with Yamada Sensei and was recommended by him.
From there it was up the hill to somewhere on the U.C. campus.
Then on to the Y.M.C.A. on East McMillan.
Two weeks of training somewhere in Western Hills.
The final location for Jorge Sensei to teach here in Cincinnati was at Mecklenberg’s gardens. This was a popular German restaurant which is still at 302 E. University Avenue.
While looking over the promotions for 2018, I ran across the name of Dennis Meno. He was promoted to 7th dan. One of the students of the early days of AoC related a story to me about Dennis. It seems that he was still in his late teens and trained in Cleveland. Several times he would take a bus from Cleveland to Cincinnati to help the students here by teaching for a weekend then returning home on Sunday evening by bus. There was no compensation for this, only a good heart and a love of Aikido. Thanks Dennis.
At Crows II, on E. McMillan above the bar, Mark Reeder taught for a short time.
Wil Hamrick took over the teaching responsibilities at the Mt. Auburn Community Center in 1977 and continued until 1982. Mr. Hamrick, as I understand it, was a student of Saotome Sensei, and was awarded a ranking of Shodan.
At some point in 1982 the training was moved to Eden Park and teaching was done by the senior students. During this period, The Cincinnati Aikikai was often referred to as the “Green Gi Society” for obvious reasons. (no mats)
Later in 1982 a space was secured on the 5th floor of the Big Four Building, located on 3rd St. in downtown Cincy, formerly an office building for a railroad of the same name. (Or maybe it was 4 railroads.) Marc Comisar taught there until he took on responsibility in his family’s business. At that point classes were often taught by Denny Main, Paul Schulte, Lew Hoffman; and at times whoever was senior at a given class would lead and or teach. Marc was a student of Klickstein Sensei and Doran Sensei in California. Denny and Marc tested for and were awarded Shodan by Yamada Shihan. Lew was a student of Saotome Shihan.
The Big Four Building was not in good shape. The roof leaked so bad that during a heavy rain we would have to walk around a literal water fall on the steps on our way to the 5th floor. (Thankfully the stairs were wide.) Besides the leak over the stairs, there were numerous leaks into the dojo itself. This brought about the implementation of “clouds". The students constructed these “clouds” by making simple frames of wood to hold sheets of plastic which would catch the water. This worked well during a light rain but as heavier rains came the “clouds” would fill up with water and like their namesakes in the sky, they would drop the water on the mat. So they were frequently redoing and moving the structures and incorporating drains which would funnel the water out the windows. The whole process was shaky, to say the least, but many classes were held which would not have been possible without the “clouds”.
In 1984, Charlie McGinnis moved to town and began training at the Cincinnati Aikikai. McGinnis Sensei was a student of the Yoshinkai style of Aikido and held the rank of Nidan. As the leadership dwindled due to the careers of the other teachers, McGinnis Sensie assumed the role of Dojo Cho and his rank of nidan was accepted by Yamada Shihan under the United States Aikido Federation. Sometime in 1984 or ’85 the name was changed to Aikido of Cincinnati and that name remains today as does McGinnis Shihan.
In late 1985 a fire destroyed the Big Four building. The fire was mostly located in the attic and roof area but water damage took out nearly everything else. (When the fire dept. allowed us to enter the building to retrieve our few belongings, we found that our dojo was a total mess but the Shoman and the picture of O’Sensei were untouched.)
Needless to say, we were on the move again. The next few months were spent in the Hyde Park Gymnastics School on Wasson Rd. Where we would throw out temporary mats for training and then gather them up when we were finished. Yamada Sensei even taught a seminar there. (I wonder what he thought of that arrangement? I suppose he had seen worse.)
The search for a permanent space resulted in the move to the Nurre Building on Central Parkway just behind Music Hall. The fourth floor area we rented was a nice space but took a lot of preperation. All the work and build out was done by members and a great effort was made. The dojo was often a walk up because of the unreliable elevator. During the build out of this dojo, McGinnis Sensei taught Sunday morning weapons classes in Burnett Woods, weather permitting.
In or about 1988 AoC rented a large room across thehall from our mat room. The dressing rooms were moved to this new room, the mat size was increased and we adopted the name of “Cafe Dojo” for a lounge/kitchen space. Socializing was always an important part of AoC.
In December of 1995 AoC moved into the Red Bank Road location. Twenty two years in one location. Wow! What an accomplishment .
A lot happened in the Red Bank Road dojo, Many seminars, hundreds of classes, a lot of promotions, numerous parties, birthday and otherwise, CPR training etc. Too many great times to try to list them all.
If anyone has additional information on our history, please get it to us so we can share it with our entire membership.
As we are now in our own building on Montgomery Road, we still have a lot of work to do in order to get this impressive space ready. A late Kagami Biraki happened on January 20, 2018.
It is impossible to name everyone who has pitched in on this project so I won’t try for fear of leaving someone out, but I must say that without the vision and guidance of McGinnis Shihan, and the tireless efforts of Charlie Ellis, this would never have happened. As for everyone who participated, you know who you are, raise your right hand straight up then reach back and pat yourself on the back, you deserve it. GREAT JOB AIKIDOKA!!!