7th Dan, Shihan
The Aikido Shindokan Instructors team is lead by Chief instructor, Chris Johnston Shihan, who is also a Senior Instructor with Aikido Yoshinkai Canada. He began his martial arts career studying Chito-ryu Karate and, after achieving a 5th degree black belt, turned his focus solely to Aikido.
Today, after almost 40 years of studying and teaching Japanese martial arts, Johnston Sensei holds the rank of 7th degree black belt in Yoshinkan Aikido along with the Shihan (Master Teacher) title. Both of these were awarded to him by the Aikido Yoshinkai headquarters dojo in Tokyo upon the recommendation of his teacher, Takeshi Kimeda Sensei (9th degree black belt).
Johnston Sensei has studied directly under Kimeda Sensei throughout his Aikido career. Kimeda Sensei is the Chief Instructor of Aikido Yoshinkai Canada and is currently the most senior teacher in the Yoshinkan system throughout the world. He is widely credited as the “Father of Aikido” in Canada, having been responsible for the introduction and spread of Aikido in Canada beginning in the early 1960s.
Johnston Sensei has direct experience with all of the most senior teachers in the world and has travelled to Japan numerous times to participate in training and demonstrations. At the 60th Annual All Japan Yoshinkan Aikido Demonstration he and Paul Gagliano Sensei were awarded the Certificate of Commendation for their demonstration in the International Division.
Beyond training and teaching, Johnston Sensei is also a translator of Japanese martial arts texts into English. Notably, he has published two works in collaboration with Jacques Payet Shihan of Aikido Mugenjuku in Kyoto, Japan; Aikido Shugyo and Aikido Jinsei. Both these works are by Gozo Shioda, the founder of Yoshinkan Aikido.
Outside of the dojo, Johnston Sensei is a teacher by profession with 35 years of experience teaching at both the post-secondary and secondary levels. He holds two degrees from the University of Toronto in Political Science and Education.
7th Dan, Shihan
Paul Gagliano Shihan is a Senior member of the Aikido Shindokan Instructors team as well as being a Senior Instructor with Aikido Yoshinkai Canada.
Gagliano Sensei started his Aikido career in the mid 1970s in Mississauga, Ontario. After a hiatus of a number of years he reconnected with the art of Yoshinkan Aikido under Kimeda Sensei in the early 1990s. Over the next 25 years, Aikido Yoshinkai Canada provided an ideal training environment. With weekly Kenshu classes and a pool of dedicated seniors, Kimeda Sensei made it possible for anyone with the time to train to advance quickly.
Kimeda Sensei’s international reputation also allowed him to draw many talented instructors from Japan and elsewhere to run clinics at the dojo. As a senior student, Gagliano Sensei was able to benefit greatly from these experiences. He was also fortunate enough to travel frequently to different Aikido clubs in Ontario, the US and Europe to assist Sensei when he was invited to run his own clinics. In addition, he travelled to Japan on various occasions to demonstrate. At the 60th Annual All Japan Yoshinkan Aikido Demonstration he and Chris Johnston Sensei were awarded the Certificate of Commendation for their demonstration in the International Division.
Gagliano Sensei received his 7th degree black belt in 2015 and was recently awarded the title of Shihan (Master Teacher). Both of these were awarded to him by the Aikido Yoshinkai headquarters dojo in Tokyo upon the recommendation of his teacher, Takeshi Kimeda Sensei (9th degree black belt).
His passion for Aikido remains undiminished and he fills in when Johnston Sensei has to be away. As a teaching philosophy Gagliano Sensei believes that there is no substitute for mat-time. Aikido is an art that is as sublime as it is, at times, direct. Hard, repetitious training must be tempered with thoughtful study of the nuances of the technique which in his mind makes Aikido worthy of lifetime of devotion.
Gagliano Sensei taught high school for 31 years and is now enjoying his retirement. Travel, friends, family and playing hockey occupy most of his time off the mat.
Elie Zakaria is also a Senior member of the Aikido Shindokan Instructors team. He began his martial arts career studying Shoto Kan Karate and Judo at the age of 10. In his early 30s he became captivated by Aikido and has been studying intensively ever since. After more than 20 years as a direct student of Takeshi Kimeda Sensei, he now trains and teaches at the Shindokan dojo.
Zakaria Sensei holds black belt rankings in multiple martial arts. Along with a 5th degree black belt in Yoshinkan Aikido, he also holds a 4th degree black belt in Zen Ken Ren Jodo.
He has travelled to Japan for training and to participate in demonstrations in both Aikido and Jodo. Both in Japan as well as here in Canada, he has had the opportunity to study with many of the most experienced teachers in the world.
When he is not at the dojo, Zakaria Sensei works as a Senior Network Architect and has over 20 years of experience. He is also a skilled video editor and producer.