About Roanoke Budo Kai
Chris Gaston Sensei has studied aikido for 27 years and currently holds the rank of sandan. He founded the Roanoke Budo Kai in 1994 as an independent dojo. The dojo’s independence allowed Gaston Sensei to broadly focus on many aspects of the art. Additionally, by offering aikido as a class through the Roanoke County Parks and Recreation Department, Gaston Sensei could also uphold O’Sensei’s belief that Aikido is for everyone. Gaston Sensei designed the patch worn by all RBK aikidoka on left shoulder of his/her gi. There is important symbolism in this patch: the landscape and star references our dojo’s home in the Roanoke Valley, the bamboo represents the flexibility and movement of aikido and the crane shares Aikido’s Japanese origins.
Eric Goodbar Sensei began his martial arts training under Gaston Sensei in 1997 and continued under Hamden Sensei when he was appointed Chief Instructor. He was awarded the rank of shodan in 2000 and was appointed as Assistant Instructor thereafter. Goodbar Sensei’s professional training in massage therapy and Ki for Health engenders an increased appreciation of the meditative and spiritual aspects of aikido and its everyday applications.
Aikido is a Japanese martial art teaching self defense using efficient body movements, not strength, to redirect the force of an attack and diffusing it. The physical aspects of aikido replace punching and kicking an opponent with joint locks and throws. Aikido training also focuses on the flow of energy and the dynamics of movement and encourages partners to train together cooperatively. Training offers additional benefits beyond self-defense and will increase your awareness, flexibility, and balance. You will also have the opportunity to train your body and mind with breathing, and meditative exercise which help you learn principles that are practical for self defense as well as daily life.
O’Sensei (Dec 14, 1883 – April 26, 1969)
The founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, was born in Japan in 1883. As a child, O’Sensei lacked a healthy physical constitution and spent much of his time indoors. Upon his second attempt, he was able to enlist and served in the army during the Russo-Japanese War. After the war, Ueshiba continued his physical training by studying jujutsu at the dojo his father built. In 1929, Ueshiba moved his family to the Hokkaido province and lead the wilderness village to prosperity. During this time Ueshiba broadened his training to include and focus on aiki jutsu under Takeda Sensei. Martial arts were not all that fascinated Ueshiba and he was greatly influenced by masters of the Omoto-kyo. This spirituality is often what O’Sensei credits with his own enlightenment. Ueshiba continued his training and teaching up through World War II even though he moved to Tokyo. Hombu Dojo was built during this time and the name Aikido was officially used. In 1942, Ueshiba again moved, this time to the village of Iwama. His son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, lead Hombu Dojo after his father’s departure and Aikido continued to grow. Ueshiba returned to his farming roots until his death in April 1969.
Aikido is the result of O’Sensei’s personal spiritual awakening to the knowledge that the source of Budo is God’s love, a spirit of loving protection of all things. He left behind the old view that martial arts should teach defeat and destruction. Instead, Aikido is an ethical martial art that is committed to peaceful resolution of conflict whenever possible and to self-improvement through training.
Meet the Instructors and Students
Eric Goodbar Sensei
Eric Goodbar Sensei began his martial arts training under Gaston Sensei in 1997 and continued under Hamden Sensei when he was appointed Chief Instructor in 1999. Eric was awarded the rank of shodan in 2000 and was appointed as Assistant Instructor thereafter. He has enjoyed years of studying/teaching at Roanoke Budo Kai, visiting different aikido seminars of different styles/lineages, and reading a variety of aikido book’s, articles, blogs, etc. just taking it in and making it part of his life. Goodbar Sensei’s professional training in Massage Therapy, The Rossiter System, Ki for Health, and other healing and movement arts engenders an increased appreciation of all the physical, meditative, and spiritual aspects of aikido both as a martial art and its everyday applications in life.
Devin Hamden Sensei
Devin Hamden Sensei studied Shotokan karate for four years before beginning his training under Gaston Sensei in 1994. He received his shodan rank from the Roanoke Budo Kai in 1999 and was subsequently appointed Chief Instructor by Gaston Sensei. Hamden Sensei continues Gaston Sensei’s traditions while also overseeing the dojo’s continued growth and development for its future prosperity. His practical approach to self-defense and focus on perfection provides a firm foundation for all students.
A.K. Briele Sensei
Shodan – Instructor for Monday Classes
I joined Roanoke Budo Kai in 1999 at the age of 40. My then-teenage daughter wanted to take a martial art and I had read some about aikido, so we gave it a try. I have been here ever since. The study has truly helped me learn to relax and handle stressful situations more calmly. I still have much to learn and improve on and that is part of the fun.
Christie Rakes Sensei
Hello there…I moved to Roanoke in 1999, and started doing debt collections in 2001. I started aikido in 2002 and it has been an excellent way to balance the stresses of life. I love the intelligence of the art, and it is always good to try to be proactive/prepared for any situation the best way possible. I am a member of the Roanoke Elks Lodge 197 and the Roanoke Square Society. I love people, socializing, and live music. Rock n Roll!!!!!
Tonya Whitt Sensei
I moved to Roanoke in 2002 after getting a job with a local law firm. Two years later I stumbled across the Roanoke Budo Kai classes listed in the County Parks and Rec magazine when I was looking to join a yoga class. I’ve been training ever since as I simply fell in love with this art! Traveling is another passion and I try to combine the two by always searching for dojos to visit! I have now trained in Orlando (FL), New York City (NY), Richmond (VA), Charlotte (NC), Pagosa Springs (CO) and San Francisco (CA) and hope to add many more to the list!
Mike Franke Sensei
Shodan – Instructor for Saturday Classes
When I’m not on the mat, I’m a husband and father, fixer of my 130+ year old house, manager of projects at GE, maker of music (mikefrankemusic.com), and hiker of trails. Aikido has been a part of my life since 1996, having trained in San Francisco and Asheville prior to moving to Roanoke. I trained in Taekwon Do prior to that, but was drawn to Aikido because if I put my thoughts about conflict resolution into a dance, Aikido is what it would look like. That’s why I train. That, and to keep proving to myself that salt and pepper hair doesn’t mean stiff and brittle body. For more of my ramblings, please check out mikeidomo.blogspot.com.
Chris Lee Sensei
Shodan – Instructor for Thursday Classes
Why Aikido? It’s not that I’m paranoid, but there is something about being prepared for the moment when things go wrong that gives you a lot more peace. While I have studied and trained extensively with firearms for self defense, what got me interested and started my Aikido training in 2010 was the realization that I had virtually no skills between zero and gun. What I have found is that Aikido is so much more than just self defense training, it is the study of an art that will permeate the rest of your life. Yes you’ll get in better shape, have more flexibility, enjoy increased spatial awareness, and develop skills to protect yourself if attacked. But, you will also find yourself simply more at peace with a (possibly dangerous) world.
Forrest W. Stevenson Sensei
I was raised in rural Kentucky and attended a school with 14 people in my class. I attended William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on a baseball and basketball scholarship (BS Education). I worked for the Norfolk Southern Railroad for 36 years and retired in 2010. My wife Barbara and I have been married since 1988. I practice Aikido because it challenges me and makes me go outside my comfort zone. My Aikido goals are to relax and reach a level of skill so that if I am faced with an unavoidable confrontation with an aggressor, I will neutralize the situation and if required use a more forceful approach. Off the mat I want to enjoy life every day and consider each new person that I meet as a potential new friend. Aikido has taught me to be humble in the fact that it takes time, dedication and hard work to gain skill and proficiency in the art. Off the mat, as in Aikido, sometimes you have to wait and see what life gives you and react.
Todd Marlowe Sensei
I moved to Roanoke in 1989 with my wife Teresa and our 2 daughters, Ashley and Kelly (both girls now attend graduate school). As a Virginia Tech graduate (BS Electrical Engineering) I am a lifetime Hokies fan! A friend and fellow Roanoke Budo Kai member (TG Ayers) invited me to class in 2009 and enjoying the athletic and mental challenges of aikido has kept me training for over 4 years. Aikido requires that you always relax, breathe, and perform “in harmony”. Rather than meeting a challenge with blocking and resistance, it teaches us to blend and control. This applies well to everything we do in life, whether it’s at work or at play. It just makes so much sense, yet it is contrary to what many of us have always done.
TG Ayers Sensei
I am a Retired First Sergeant (28 years) Virginia State Police and am the Senior Pastor for Community Advent Christian Church. My wife of 38 years (Debbie) and I have one daughter and one grand-daughter. I began Aikido training in 2007 (for 8 months before breaking my arm – not class related) through friendship with Goodbar Sensei and returned to class with Todd Marlowe in 2009. There are many reasons I study aikido: It gives me exercise and keeps me in the gym outside of class; there is a good measure of satisfaction when I finally do something well – even if that isn’t often; I gain confidence from the training, but the best part is getting to know and train with some great people. The friendships developed while learning in class together are special. The greatest challenge and, and for me anyway, the greatest benefit of aikido, is learning to relax. As a policeman I was trained to never relax – but when I can it feels great and works wonders!
Nicole Doherty Sensei
I am a Roanoke native and teach U.S. History at Patrick Henry High School. In addition to aikido, I enjoy dancing, hiking and am a roller coaster junkie! I chose Aikido for the exercise, stress relief and to learn self-defense…plus, I wanted to get out of my girly pink sparkly comfort zone and be a little tougher! I have trained since 2011 with the Roanoke Budo Kai! Aikido has taught me that in a confrontation (whether verbal or physical), the only actions you can control are yours. In a stressful situation the best defense is to breathe, relax and keep a clear mind so you react to the attack. My goal on and off the mats is to be the best I can be every day – I want to challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone, conquer my fears and to make a difference in the world.
I am an Army brat and have served in the Army as well (active and reserved for 20 years). I have also practiced emergency medicine for 30 years. My wife and I have 2 sons and 5 grandchildren. I have a brown belt in judo and starting my aikido training in 2004 – my goal is to be the baddest guy in the nursing home!orld.
Mike has been studying martial arts since he was around thirteen, most recently taking up Iwama style Aikido at Blue Ridge Aikido and Yoga, attaining the rank of 4th Kyu, until Sensei Malachowski decided to retire from teaching. He has also studied at Nippon Kan in Denver, Fighting Wolf Martial Arts in San Antonio, and King Cobra Karate in Erie, Pennsylvania. He even attended some Shotokan classes at Roanoke College. He chose to come back to Aikido for fitness, because it is non-competitive, and because of its relatively low injury rate. He hopes to continue to study for many years to come.
When not practicing Aikido he enjoys playing League of Legends, programing, and playing strategy games.
I moved to Roanoke in 2010, working for Automotive Companies since 1997, father of three kids who I enjoy every day. I started with Aikido to know a martial art and got engaged with this way of life which had helped me to better understand the balance of the body and movements; it also provides an idea on how to face certain situations being alert at same time when it is necessary to be calm. I look forward to follow the path of this martial art to keep me active physically and mentally”.
I grew up in a large city in northern New Jersey (Nort Joisey). Served in the Navy Seabees. Raised 3 great kids, who’ve given us 5 wonderful grandkids. Retired after 35 years as a Construction Boilermaker working in power plants and oil refineries all over the Northeast. My wife of 39 years and I moved to Roanoke last year and fell in love with the place! The only thing I miss about Jersey ( except the grandkids) is not being able to drive the 3 miles to the ocean to go surf fishing.
Since I don’t climb 200 foot tall refinery towers for a living anymore, I needed something to keep me in shape.
Aikido is the perfect fit. Both physically and mentally challenging. I have rarely met a finer group of people who care
about each other and everyone’s progress. I consider them my friends. I’m think I’m losing my Jersey accent too! I’m learning how to say “you’se all”
My son wanted to be a teenage mutant ninja turtle at 7 years old, hence our exploration into martial arts where we quickly became addicted. We studied/practiced World Tae Kwon Do under Grandmaster Duk Sung Son for 20 years attaining 4th Dan Black Belts and becoming instructors as well. For me, the principles, honor, traditions and training in martial arts provide grounding and incredible inner resilience. I moved to Virginia in 2011 and was fortunate to find Roanoke Budo Kai where I was immediately welcomed into this wonderful Aikido family. I look forward to studying Aikido with my new family while continuing to learn and grow with the physical and philosophical challenges that this art provides.
I’m from the beautiful metropolis of Rocky-mount Va. I have been attending Roanoke budo Kai since February 2017. The way I came to Know the of the dojo was though my family. My brother in particular was looking for a place to study and thought it would interest me. As it turns out he is correct. Through Aikido I have been learning how to control my anger and overcome my own limitations. I owe a massive thank you to Roanoke Budo Kai for being willing to guide me through it, as well as the wonderful teachers for their patience. I wholeheartedly recommend Aikido for anyone looking to better themselves in any way.