We are at an important time, coming out of the pandemic, looking to get fit again, connect with others, and explore new possibilities. Active participation in a physical, mindful art is an excellent way to begin to recover from our collective trauma.
San Diego County has a diverse and thriving Aikido community, with many active dojos. Each has its own personality and priorities. When choosing a dojo be sure to check out a few and see which is the best fit for you.
These are simply the San Diego area dojos I know about. I do not represent them, and they are not affiliated with this website, or with each other. I am strictly sharing about them so that folks in the San Diego area will be able to find local dojos easily. Got a dojo to add? Awesome! Tell me about it at GrabMyWristAikido@gmail.com
When you are considering joining a dojo, look to the teaching and the dojo community first, location and convenience second, and price last. You will be investing your time and heart in the practice, surrounded by new friends, possibly for years, or even decades. Almost all dojos invite visitors to come observe classes, and you should do that. Get a sense of the place. Find the one that feels like home – where you will be both welcomed and challenged – even if it’s a little more expensive or a longer drive.
If you aren’t in the San Diego area, look for dojos near you. Aikido is practiced worldwide!
A Few Things to Know about Aikido Dojos
- Most Aikido dojos belong to one of a variety of international organizations, but some excellent ones are independent. Affiliation might give you an idea of the temperament of the dojo, the teaching lineage, and the kinds of seminars and events offered there.
- The dojos listed here are all independently owned schools, each with their own heritage and affiliations. Aikido dojos are not franchise businesses, and are not branches of one big company.
- Aikido teachers and students are a dedicated bunch. Joining a dojo isn’t just “paying for lessons.” You become part of a community, and your participation and membership supports your dojo.
- During the Covid 19 pandemic many dojos switched to training outdoors, offering classes on Zoom, and other creative solutions. Some are returning to indoor training for fully-vaccinated participants, and wearing masks. Be sure to ask about each dojo’s safety protocols.
Aikido Dojos in San Diego County
I am including only the most basic information below, along with a few personal comments, as keeping each dojo’s details up to date would prove difficult. You can visit each dojo’s website to read more. I encourage you to call and talk with the sensei (teacher), and to observe classes and see for yourself.
Aikido is an inclusive art for all ages, body types, and abilities. The San Diego area is far more gender-balanced than some parts of the country, with women and LGBTQ people well represented throughout the ranks, including as instructors and heads of dojos, as you’ll see below. Aikido everywhere is struggling to attract more young people, who often don’t have time to add another activity to their busy weeks, and more people of color. This is an active topic of discussion internationally. Be assured that whoever you are, you will be welcomed and treated with respect.
Dave Goldberg Sensei, Chief Instructor
This is the dojo where I train. Obviously I recommend it – I would not be here if I didn’t love it. Goldberg Sensei’s teaching resonates with me, and I appreciate the dedicated, supportive community of members and friends. Sensei has a solid technical background, having trained in Iwama, Japan with Morihiro Saito Sensei, Shoji Nishio Sensei, and others. The weapons forms we practice are Iwama style, as taught by Saito Sensei. Some time after returning to the states Goldberg Sensei began training under Robert Nadeau Shihan. Aikido of San Diego is a member of the Evolutionary Aikido Community, and offers an annual Evolutionary Aikido seminar.
Goldberg Sensei incorporates into his teaching additional dimensions beyond static tradition and prescribed technical teachings, encouraging students to look within, and to expand our understanding and application of Aikido both on the mat, and in our lives outside the dojo.
Lisa Tomoleoni Shihan, and Cat Strada Sensei, Head Instructors
A friendly, dedicated community of students, guided by two top-notch teachers and leaders. Jiai Aikido is a member of Aikido Shimbokukai. A beautiful facility, with very large mat space. Jiai Aikido also offers the annual Aikido Bridge Friendship Seminar.
Bernice Tom Sensei, Dojo Cho
This Iwama Aikido dojo is one of the oldest dojos in the area (since 1984), with Bernice Tom Sensei as Chief Instructor since 1990. I have only visited this dojo a handful of times, for various seminars. The dojo is in a big building with an open-air feel to it, just blocks from the beach. The facility has lots of character, and Bernice Tom Sensei is warm and approachable.
Deena Drake Sensei
A longstanding dojo in the San Diego area. In addition to Aikido, Drake Sensei also teaches Iaido (sword) and Zazen (meditation). She succeeded T.K. Chiba Shihan — the founder of San Diego Aikikai and of Birankai North America — on his retirement in 2008.
Martin Katz Sensei
A dojo affiliated with the Aikido Association of America (AAA). Do not be put off by this dojo being run as a program through a recreation center. Katz Sensei has been offering excellent Aikido instruction in this way, to a long-established community of students, for many years.
Kevin Pickard Sensei and Edward Sterrett Sensei, Co-Founders
A Yoshinkan Aikido dojo in Torrey Highlands.
Coryl Crane Shihan, Founder
Established in 1991. Crane Sensei’s dojo in Solana Beach is affiliated with Birankai North America.
Kevin Kelleher Sensei
In downtown Escondido. Kelleher Sensei also offers an active online/remote training program via Patreon.
Walter Muryasz Sensei, Chief Instructor
A longstanding dojo with roots in Ki Aikido, located above the Taoist Sanctuary on Park Blvd.
Robert Dziubla Shihan
Tomiki Aikido, or Shodokan Aikido, is unique in that it teaches a clearly-outlined curriculum, and incorporates competition (partnered kata, and randori with tanto and empty-handed). The purpose of competition in Tomiki Aikido is for all participants to improve their Aikido.
If you happened upon this page because you are thinking of taking up Aikido, great! I hope you find a dojo that’s perfect for you.
While you’re here, check out some of the other resources for new and advancing students. Here are a few to get you started:
- Japanese Words in Aikido – A place to learn some of the terms you’ll hear when training, including how to understand technique names, the words you say at the start and end of class, and how to count to 31 in Japanese.
- Aikido Books – A small collection of excellent books I recommend.
- How To Go To Aikido Seminars, Camps, and Retreats – Some posts about traveling and training.
Be sure to also follow Grab My Wrist — Aikido on Facebook. I post new articles there, and sometimes additional comments you won’t see here.
About the Author — Linda Eskin
Linda Eskin began practicing Aikido in 2009, at age 46, to improve her horsemanship. From the beginning she was inspired to explore how Aikido is taught and learned. In addition to mentoring adults, she assisted in the children’s programs for over eight years. Linda loves Aikido both from the technical perspective, and as a practice of awareness and embodiment. She is completing her forthcoming book, Aikido to Zanshin – 26 Essays on the Martial Art of Peace. Her passion is encouraging people to begin, and supporting new learners of all ages.
Linda trains with Dave Goldberg Sensei at Aikido of San Diego, in California, and holds the second black belt rank, nidan.