Chief Instructor

Dr. James Graves, 6 Dan, Shidoin

Jim Graves Aikido KoshinageJim 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, 9th Dan 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.

Assistant Instructors

Tom Ito, 4 Dan, Fukushidoin

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, 7th Dan. 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.

Rod Yabut, 3 Dan, Fukushidoin

Rod began his study of Aikido in 1999 at Orange County Aikikai with Henry Oshiro Sensei. After moving to Los Angeles in 2004, he furthered his practice at City Aikido of Los Angeles with Kazuho Nishida Shihan. In 2015, he continued his training at Southland Aikido under the direction of Jim Graves Sensei, and actively trains at seminars led by Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan and other renowned master instructors to deepen his understanding of Aikido.

Yukihisa Aokusa, 1 Dan (Senior Instructor in Iaido)

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.

Anna Ito, 1 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.