Boulder Ki Aikido Martial Arts logo

About Boulder Ki Aikido Martial Arts & Our Aikido Instructors

The teaching of the martial art of Ki Aikido began in Boulder, Colorado in 1977, when Koichi Kashiwaya Sensei founded our parent martial arts organization, Rocky Mountain Ki Society (RMKS). Twenty years later, the Boulder and Denver dojos were combined and moved to form a new home in Westminster, Colorado, which now serves as the official Headquarters of RMKS.

In 1999, with the blessing and encouragement of both Russell Smith and Kashiwaya Sensei, Abel Villacorta Sensei formed Boulder Ki Aikido. Thus, today, the tradition of disseminating the principles and graceful martial art of Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido continues to thrive in Boulder.

Boulder Ki Aikido Instructors

Additional Instructors

Abel Villacorta Sensei | 5th Degree Black Belt (Dan) | Dojo Director & Head Instructor

Abel Villacorta Sensei 4th dan image

Husband, father of three, business professional in the fields of branding, marketing, design, and  entrepreneur, Peruvian-born Villacorta Sensei, has been teaching and sharing the application of mind-body coordination principles, on and off the mat, since 1995.

He began his practice of Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido in the spring of 1993, under the tutelage of Russell Smith Sensei (5th dan), while attending Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

“I first became interested in martial arts because I wanted a solid discipline to develop my character and a way to feel confident in defending myself. Due to its circular, fluid and effective techniques that harnessed the energy of my opponent, Ki Aikido quickly became a perfect fit.”

Throughout his training, Villacorta Sensei has studied with many high-ranking instructors across many styles of Aikido, including week-long seminars and weekend workshops with Shinichi Tohei Sensei, David Shaner SenseiMorihiro Saito Sensei, Shinichi Suzuki Sensei, Christopher Curtis SenseiRobert Koga Sensei, Russell Jones Sensei, and Lael Keen Sensei, among others.

Abel Villacorta Sensei Teaching Ki Aikido  at One Dojo BoulderVillacorta Sensei received the rank of Yondan (4th degree black belt) in Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido (“Aikido with Mind & Body Unified”/Ki Aikido) in January 2016. He recently tested for the rank of Joden, 3rd degree black belt, in Shin Shin Toitsu Do (“Way of Unifying Mind & Body”/Ki Development), is certified as Assistant Lecturer and as Assistant Examiner for the Japanese international organization, Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido Kai.

Villacorta Sensei has a genuine dedication for inspiring students of all ages to discover their true inner power and to live life positively. “Over time, this art has become a spiritual path for me. I remain a lifelong student of this profound art by training primarily under the guidance of Kashiwaya Sensei.”

Jennifer Trotter Sensei | 4th Dan | Senior Instructor | Office Manager

Jen throwing Nathan 2 Sandan sepiaTrotter Sensei first took a Ki Aikido class as a graduate student in chemistry at CU Boulder in 1996, looking for a less aggression-based martial art.

“I found the emphasis on relaxation and connection very compelling and have practiced ever since. I have found the Ki practice very useful in my daily life, both as a mom and as a volunteer at a therapeutic riding center.”

Trotter Sensei achieved the rank of Shoden (1st degree black belt in Ki Development) in August  2011, and the rank of Yondan (4th degree black belt) in January 2022. She is certified as Assistant Lecturer for Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido Kai and has been teaching aikido for more than 15 years.

Stephen Randy Thompson Sensei | 3rd Dan | Senior Instructor

Boulder Ki Aikido Instructor Randy Thompson Sensei imageA live-in student (uchideshi) of Kashiwaya Sensei (8th Dan) for more than 3 years, Thompson Sensei seeks to pass on the mind-body coordination taught by the founder of Ki Aikido, Koichi Tohei Sensei, through the pursuit of effective martial technique.

In addition to the traditional weapons of Aikido — short staff (jo) and wooden sword (bokken) — Thompson Sensei trains live-sword arts.

Formerly the Lead Instructor for the Aikido arm of North West Martial Arts, north of Seattle, Washington, Thompson Sensei is excited to be able to share his passion for Ki Aikido with students in the Teens and/or Adults classes at BKA.

Nathan Prucha Sensei | 1st Dan | Instructor

aiyana w nathan sepia_360x300Nathan was born in Colorado in 1984 and, after many years of searching through other forms of martial arts, began studying the art of Ki Aikido in 2009. Already having an idea that mind moves body Ki Aikido was a perfect fit.

“Ki Aikido has helped me in every facet of my life from relationships to snowboarding to drifting. It’s amazing how much the principles apply to everyday life.”

He has a degree in Network Engineering and is currently a Network Administrator for a software company in Boulder. Nathan is dedicated to nurturing the lives of children and their parents at Boulder Ki Aikido through his assistance in our Child-Parent classes. He received his Ki Aikido Shodan rank in December, 2015.

Eric Neeb Sensei | 1st Dan | Instructor

Eric was first introduced to the art of Aikido in the early 1990s by reading Dan Millman’s book “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior,” where he was impressed with the idea of smoothly moving through life despite the appearance of obstacles and conflict. He was studying Economics at the University of Colorado at the time and it took a couple of years for the idea to marinate and then to begin practice. In 1995, he took his first Aikido class and soon begun training 2-3 hours per day, five days per week, rapidly advancing through the ranks. After nine months of intense training, life caught up with Eric and it would be another twenty years before he set foot back in the Aikido dojo.

Eric’s wife Leslie grew tired hearing Eric’s Aikido stories and in 2015 she purchased a two month trial membership at Boulder Ki Aikido, gently nudging him back in the direction of the dojo. The hook was set and he was back on the mat training in Ki Aikido (thank you Leslie!). Eric fulfilled a lifelong dream in attaining the rank of Shodon (1st degree black belt) in 2019.

“A lot of people lament about all the conflict in the world but don’t know a place to start to make effective change. Aikido is just that for me. It’s a place where I can go to become the best version of myself. It’s a place where I can be the peace that I want to see in the world and simply control how I show up. I may come into the dojo carrying the concerns of day-to-day life, but I leave feeling energized and full of life. And, of course it’s a crazy amount of fun to throw and roll across the mat!”

Eric and Leslie lives in Boulder with his wife Leslie, son Rider and dog Emma, though he can often be spotted in Estes Park or skiing at Copper Mountain in the winter.

Aikido has helped me in every facet of my life from relationships to snowboarding to drifting. It’s amazing how much the principles apply to everyday life.”

He has a degree in Network Engineering and is currently a Network Administrator for a software company in Boulder. Nathan is dedicated to nurturing the lives of children and their parents at Boulder Ki Aikido through his assistance in our Child-Parent classes. He received his Ki Aikido Shodan rank in December, 2015.

Our Leadership, Affiliation, and Inspiration

Russell Smith Sensei | 5th Dan | Head Instructor Rocky Mountain Ki Society | Dojo Director Ft. Collins Ki Aikido

Ki Aikido began in Fort Collins in 1979, when a small group of individuals asked Kashiwaya Sensei for permission to begin practice and open an official school there. From that humble beginning, the school established a foothold in the community and, after some location moves, found a home on campus as a CSU Club Sport in late 1980.

CSU students ran the organization on campus. Instructors would come from our headquarters dojo in Boulder to teach one night a week, while Russell Smith Sensei provided instruction the other night. The group practiced at CSU continually until December 2012. In January 2013, Fort Collins Ki-Aikido moved into their new location, the Shugyo Training Center.

Russell Smith Sensei, who now holds a 5th degree black belt (Godan) in Ki Aikido with the Ki rank of Joden, is still teaching most of the classes, after more than 30 years.

Over the years, Smith Sensei has touched the lives of many people on and off-campus and has nurtured the continued flow of energy brought to the Ft. Collins Ki Aikido organization by new and sustaining students. He has inspired many who have gone on to fill key roles in RMKS, among them Derek Nabel Sensei, 4th dan, Dojo Director at Westminster-RMKS HQ, and our own head instructor, Villacorta Sensei. Smith Sensei continues to share the way of budo with those who enroll in martial arts classes at his dojo.

Koichi Kashiwaya Sensei | 8th Dan | Chief Instructor Midland Ki Federation

Koichi Kashiwaya Shihan Ki Aikido imageKashiwaya Sensei is one of the very few full-time Aikido professionals in the United States and travels extensively and frequently, teaching on behalf of Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido Kai HQ, for his MKF dojos, and occasional seminars for other groups.

Students from all over the world relish the opportunity to train with this spirited, dynamic teacher who continually inspires his students to polish, refine and explore their arts. His compassion and care for students have inspired many to take these arts into their daily lives. Literally thousands of people, through his efforts, have experienced the teachings of Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido Kai International and Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei.

A major emphasis in his teaching is the development of the next generation of instructors and leaders for MKF and Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido Kai International.

kashiwaya senseiKoichi Kashiwaya Sensei is the designated:

  • ADVISOR for Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido Kai for North America (formerly Ki Society International).
  • SOHOMBU SHIHAN (Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido Kai Headquarters Instructor) teaching on behalf of Ki Society internationally.
  • CHIEF INSTRUCTOR of Midland Ki Federation (MKF), a group of 25+ dojos across the USA, and Canada.

He also works to support Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido Kai’s international teaching efforts in Australia, Brazil, the Philippines,  Thailand, among many others.

Currently, Kashiwaya Sensei holds the following ranks and certifications from Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido Kai International:

  • Okuden in Ki Development (1977)
  • Hachidan in Shinshin Toitsu Aikido (1998)
  • Koshi (Ki Lecturer – full professor) (ca. 1983)
  • International Taigi Competition Judge (1996)
  • Special Examiner (2007)
  • Sohombu Shihan (Headquarters Instructor) (2011)
  • 1949 – Kashiwaya Sensei is born in Yamagata Prefecture, Japan, but his family soon relocates to
    Tokyo, where he grows up.
  • 1969 – Begins Aikido training while a student at Risshou University
  • 1971 – Meets and begins training with Tohei Sensei (at the time Aikikai Chief Instructor); he is struck by Tohei Sensei’s words: “If the mind moves, the body follows.”
  • 1971 – Tohei Sensei founds Ki no Kenkyukai (Ki Society) to teach Ki Principles. Kashiwaya sensei is one of the first members.
  • 1971 – 1973 – Trains with Tohei Sensei exclusively until completing his Business Management degree.
  • 1973 – 1975 – Relocates to Seattle, Washington, USA, at Tohei Sensei’s request, to assist Hirata Yoshihiko Sensei, with instruction and administration of Seattle Ki Society. (Yoshihiko Sensei founded Seattle Ki Society in 1971, as a development of the Seattle Aikikai, founded in 1969).
  • 1974 – Tohei Sensei resigns as Aikikai Chief Instructor and parts ways with Aikikai organization; begins teaching Shinshin Toitsu Aikido within Ki no Kenkyukai.
  • 1975 – Kashiwaya sensei returns to Japan and undertakes training as uchi-deshi with Tohei Sensei. Ushi-deshi means “inside disciple” and represents an intense, professional apprenticeship.
  • 1977 – Moves to Boulder, Colorado USA; founds Rocky Mountain Ki Society.
  • 1980’s – Independent Ki-Aikido groups in the midwest began to ask Kashiwaya sensei for guidance, and to become their guiding Chief Instructor.
  • 1983 – Appointed by Tohei sensei as Chief Instructor for Ki Society USA (by election of the US Ki-Aikido Chief Instructors and appointment of Tohei sensei).
  • 1985 – Founding (and Incorporation) of Midland Ki Federation with Kashiwaya sensei as Chief Instructor.
  • 1990 – Relocates to his current home base of Seattle.
  • 1990 – 1998 – Serves as Chief Instructor of Seattle Ki Society in addition to MKF.
  • 1998 – Present – Focuses on traveling to teach in MKF dojo and for other groups.
  • 2003 – At Kashiwaya sensei’s suggestion, the position of Chief Instructor USA is eliminated. He is the last person to hold this position.
  • 2003 – Appointed by Tohei sensei to the special position of Advisor for Shinshin Aikido Kai in North America, serving as a bridge for Ki Society between the US instructors and membership, and Ki Society HQ.
  • 2007 – Ki no Kenkyukai is reorganized as Shinshin Toitsu Aikido Kai with Shinichi Tohei as President and Chief Instructor.
  • 2011 – Kashiwaya sensei is appointed Sohombu Shihan; begins teaching internationally for Shinshin Toitsu Aikido Kai Headquarters, in Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, and other countries.

Kashiwaya sensei travels nationally and internationally to conduct numerous seminars, workshops, and intensive training sessions, both as MKF Chief Instructor, and as a Sohombu Shihan, teaching on behalf of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido Kai, or at the invitation of other interested groups.

Over the years Kashiwaya Sensei has given many public demonstrations and lectures, including on multiple occasions, for:

  • the Consul General of Japan at Kansas City;
  • Greater Kansas City Japan Festival;
  • Cherry Blossom Festival at Independence, MO;
  • Japan week at the St. Louis Botanical Gardens; and
  • the Seattle Cherry Blossom Matsuri festival, to name only a few.

Because of his activities and support of organizations in the Greater Kansas City area, he was made an Honorary Citizen of Kansas City, MO by declaration of the Mayor. Sensei has taught Ki Principles to many professional athletes, including the defensive line for the Denver Broncos football team, and Alexi Grewal, the Gold Medalist in road race cycling at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Midland Ki Federation is a US 501(c)(3) Not-for-Profit corporation, which, as of 2014, has 27 member dojo and 6 sub-dojo clubs in eleven US states, two Canadian provinces, and Brazil.

Shinichi Tohei Sensei | President of Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido Kai

Shinichi Tohei Sensei Ki Aikido baby

Shinichi Tohei Sensei was born in Tokyo on 18th August, 1973. At the age of 2, he started learning Shinshin Toitsu Aikido, based on the Ki Principles, from his father, Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei, the 10th dan Aikido Master. Shinshin Toitsu Aikido was founded as Ki no Kenkyukai (Ki Society International) in 1974 by his father. In 1997, Shinichi Tohei Sensei became Uchideshi and started learning and training directly under his father. He also started teaching Shinshin Toitsu Aikido at the Keio University official Aikido Club.

In 2002, he completed his Uchideshi training and began teaching overseas. Since then, Shinichi Tohei Sensei has been conducting National Seminars in the United States, in places such as Hawaii, Seattle, Las Vegas, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington D.C., where instructors from all over the world come together to practice and learn.

In September of 2007, Shinichi Tohei Sensei succeeded and took over the teachings of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido from Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei. That same year, Shinshin Toitsu Aikido Kai was launched as an official organization, replacing Ki no Kenkyukai, and Shinichi Tohei Sensei became the president.

Currently, as successor, he is engaged in an effort to spread the ideas and principles of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido in Japan and throughout the world. He also serves as a part-time liberal arts teacher at Keio University and teaches Shinshin Toitsu Aikido classes at the official Keio University Aikido Club. Furthermore, he applies the teachings in communication seminars, guiding the development of human resources for business leaders, professional athletes and artists.

 Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei

Soshu_koichi_Tohei_Sensei_001Soshu Koichi Tohei Sensei was born on 20th January 1920 in Tokyo. He graduated from the Economics Department of Keio University.

When he was young, he suffered from pleurisy and he was very weak. Determined to strengthen both mind and body, he undertook intensive training in Zen meditation and Misogi breathing methods.

At the age of 19 he began the study of Aikido under the founder Morihei Ueshiba Sensei and ultimately achieved the highest level of 10th Dan. After the war, he studied mind and body unification from Tempu Nakamura Sensei.

From 1953, he traveled alone all around the world and spread Aikido, starting with the United States of America. He was also the author of a number of best-selling books such as “Ki in Daily Life,” “Kiatsu,” and several other books.

In 1971, he established the Ki society which focused on spreading of the Ki Principles and Shinshin Toitsu Aikido (Aikido with Mind and Body Coordinated) and started growing many instructors throughout the world.

On 19th May 2011, he passed away at the age of 91.