Instructor Bios

Read more about this year's instructors.

Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan is the founder and chief instructor of Boulder Aikikai, Inc., a non-profit school of Aikido in Boulder, Colorado. He currently holds the rank of 7th Dan through Mitsugi Saotome Shihan and the Aikido World Headquarters (Hombu Dojo) and travel extensively as a guest instructor, conducting Aikido seminars at dojos around the world. He has spent the last 40 years travelling extensively throughout the United States and the world promoting Aikido's philosophy of non-violence, peace, and self-development through constant training. His teaching emphasizes learning and understanding Aikido with the body, specifically the concept of "chushin" or how to maintain one's own center while breaking another's balance. Ikeda Sensei has been a huge influence and driver of Aikido Bridge Seminars and has been involved with the Midwest Bridge Seminar since its inception.

Art Wise Sensei is the chief instructor of the Evanston Aikido Center and holds the rank of 6th dan. He is a certified instructor of the United States Aikido Federation and is one of the founding members of the Midwest Aikido Center (MAC) in Chicago where he studied Aikido with Akira Tohei Sensei, 8th dan, for twenty-five years. During that time and after Tohei Sensei's passing in 1999 Wise Sensei served on the MAC Board of Directors helping guide and direct the growth of Aikido in the Midwest Region. Wise Sensei remains on the instructor staff at the Midwest Aikido Center, and continues his study of Aikido under the direction of Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan.

Lisa Tomoleoni holds the rank of Roku Dan (6th dan), received directly from Moriteru Ueshiba, Aikido Doshu. She spent over 13 years in Japan training at the Aikido World Headquarters and teaching Aikido professionally at a dojo in Tokyo. Tomoleoni Sensei is Director of the Aikido Shimbokukai, an organization officially recognized by the Aikikai Foundation and Aikido World Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, and she serves as the Chief Instructor at Abiding Spirit Aikikai in Illinois. She is also an advisor and instructor at Jiai Aikido in San Diego, California. In addition to her Aikido rank she holds yudansha ranking in Judo and Iaido, and is a member of the Kenshukan Dojo in Tokyo. Tomoleoni Sensei is a co-author of the book "Along the Way", a collection of writings about training.

Mike Ellefson is owner and Chief Instructor of Midwest Center for Movement (MCFM) in Hudson Wisconsin, a traditional martial arts school dedicated to effective, realistic and sincere technique. MCFM has affiliate schools throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota. After training in Okinawan Kempo and Shotokan Karate, Mike began studying Aikido in 1989 and fell in love with the art. To further his understanding of martial arts, he also studied Western Boxing, Judo and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Mike is a 5th Degree Black Belt in Aikido and is a direct student of Bill Sosa Shihan who is credited with introducing Aikido to the southern United States. He is now a student of Randay Bonifay Shihan who is Sosa Shihan's highest-ranking student. He is a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu under Master Rigan Machado. Mike has also Japanese swordsmanship for over 20 years. His schools train under the United States of Batto Do Federation as part of the Zen Nihon Batto Do Renmei. Mike is also a Defensive Tactics Instructor for Federal and Local Law Enforcement.

John Boland Sensei began his formal study of martial arts in 1967 and Aikido in 1977. In l979 he traveled to Japan and trained at Hombu Dojo, studying directly under Okumura Sensei and attending classes with senior teachers, including the Nidai Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba. Returning to the United States and following the death of Kobayashi Sensei, Boland Sensei continued his learning under the teachings of Saotome Sensei and Ikeda Sensei. Additionally, he has studied with top Aikido instructors: Mary Heiny Sensei, Clyde Takeguchi Sensei, Michio Tasaka Sensei, Frank Doran Sensei, and the late Kevin Choate Sensei. He is currently the director of the La Crosse Aikido Society in La Crosse, WI.

Nicole Di Bernardo Sensei is Chief Instructor of Milwaukee Shobukan. She began her Aikido training in 2000 while attending the Univerisity of Wisconsin- La Crosse. In 2009, as part of a collaborative endeavor to open a dojo, Di Bernardo Sensei facilitated the start of a student Aikido club at the West Bend West High School where she teaches. The club evolved over the years, culminating in the opening of Milwaukee Shobukan in January of 2017. Di Bernardo Sensei brings her education background and creativity when teaching Aikido to children and adults. She enjoys traveling to seminars around the country to explore and expand her understanding of this facinating art.