Instructors

james graves, 6th dan, CHIEF INSTRUCTOR

Jim started Aikido in 1981 at Mount Pleasant Aikido. During this time, he had the opportunity to travel the world and train with many of Morihei Ueshiba’s original students, including a brief stint as a live-in student with the late Morihiro Saito Shihan in Iwama, Japan. Jim began teaching Aikido in 1985 and became chief instructor of Mount Pleasant Aikido shortly after. After moving to Los Angeles, he became an assistant instructor at Aikido Center of Los Angeles. In 1991, he cofounded City Aikido of Los Angeles, where he remained a senior instructor until 2014. In 2015, Jim reestablished Southland Aikido in the Los Angeles area, a dojo he originally founded in the early nineties where he taught until he matriculated for graduate school. Graves Sensei is a Shidoin (certified instructor) with the United States Aikido Federation (USAF).

Graves Sensei is pictured above (right) demonstrating a bokken kata. Uke: Chris Bushra


Assistant Instructors

Tom throwing Wade with kotegaeshi

Tom Ito, 4th Dan

Tom began his Aikido training at Pasadena Aikikai in 1997 under Dan Nicodemo Sensei, along with their sister dojo, Aikido Academy under Francis Takahashi Shihan. He credits Nicodemo Sensei for much of his early development of his fundamentals and foundation. He continued his training at City Aikido of Los Angeles under Kazuho Nishida Shihan, where he received his dan ranks from Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan. Additionally, he was also heavily influenced by the late Mitsunari Kanai Shihan. In 2015, he continued his practice under the guidance of Jim Graves Sensei. Tom is a Fukushidoin (certified assistant instructor) with the USAF.
Rod raising Chris for Morotoderi Kokyuho

Rod Yabut, 3rd Dan

Rod’s formative years of Aikido practice began at Orange County Aikikai, then under the technical direction of Fumio Toyoda Shihan. He continued his study with Kaz Nishida Shihan at City Aikido of Los Angeles in 2004, where training was primarily influenced by Shihans Mitsunari Kanai, T.K. Chiba and Yoshimitsu Yamada–all direct disciples of Morihei Ueshiba. In 2015, Rod joined Southland Aikido under the tutelage of Jim Graves Sensei. He is a Fukushidoin with the USAF, actively training at seminars led by Yamada Sensei and other renowned teachers from the U.S. and Japan.
Anna throwing Tom with Makiotoshi

Anna Ito, 1st Dan

Anna began practicing Aikido at City Aikido of Los Angeles in 1996. After stepping away from Aikido in 2005, she joined Southland Aikido in 2015, rekindling her regular Aikido practice under Jim Graves Sensei. Anna received her Shodan from Peter Bernath Shihan in 2019.
Yuki using Aikinage to throw his uke

Yukihisa Aokusa, 1st Dan

Yuki started Aikido and Iaido training in 2011 at City Aikido and Swordsmanship of Los Angeles under Kazuho Nishida Shihan.  In 2015, he continued his training at Southland Aikido under Jim Graves Sensei (Aikido) and Aris Stamatelaky Sensei (Iaido). He has also trained intensively for many years at USAF summer camps and has been greatly influenced by Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan and Hayato Osawa Shihan. Yuki received his shodan rank (Aikido) from Peter Bernath Shihan in 2019. Yuki is a senior instructor in Iaido at Southland Aikido.