Aikido is unique among the modern Japanese budo in that it has a strong and healthy link to the family lineage of the Founder, Ueshiba Morihei.  Such a lineage is an important part of the history of all classical Japanese martial systems and other arts.  In most modern arts, the family has been replaced by an impersonal organization.  Aikido partakes of both the old and the new in this respect.  The current Doshu or Headmaster of Aikido is the Founder's grandson Ueshiba Moriteru, who inherited the title in 1999 at the death of his father, the Second Doshu Ueshiba Kisshomaru.  The Aikido Doshu is recognized as the moral center of the Aikido movement by the leaders of almost all Aikido groups.  This is illustrated by their desire to have grading certificates issued over the seal and signature of Ueshiba Doshu.  This traditional focal point is a valuable link to the martial history of Japan and helps to mitigate the natural fragmentation that occurs over time in any large movement.
In the U.S.A. there are a number of major federations or organizational frameworks dedicated to the promotion of Aikido.  Each federation represents the efforts of students to maintain the teachings of their sensei and thus their link back to the Founder, Ueshiba Morihei.  By far the largest is the United States Aikido Federation, of which FLA is a member.  The USAF is directly affiliated with the Aikikai Foundation, Aikido World Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan and is the only organization purposefully established under the direction of the Ueshiba Family.  Other well known and reputable organizations are the Yoshinkan, Tomiki Ryu and Seidokan systems, the Ki Society, the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba, and the Aikido Association of America.  Each has its own history, emphasis, and technical flavor.  In addition there are numerous minor groups and independent dojo.  (Unfortunately, you may also find completely unqualified persons claiming to teach Aikido despite their never having received proper instruction.)


Finger Lakes Aikido, Cornell Aikido Club, and the Cornell University Physical Education Aikido class (taught by Bieri Sensei) are all affiliated with the United States Aikido Federation under the guidance of 8th dan Yamada Yoshimitsu Shihan of New York City.  The USAF is further divided into four regional groups; the Eastern Region under Yamada Sensei, the Mid-western Region centered in the Midwest Aikido Center in Chicago, the Western Region centered in California, and the Hawaii Region where Aikido was first introduced to Americans in the 1950s.  The federation serves as a conduit to the Aikido World Headquarters in Tokyo for grading purposes, regulates grading procedures, and promotes seminars and other events that bring aikidoka together.  Yearly dues for the Federation are $30.00 for those under the rank of black belt.  Membership is optional unless you intend to take a grading examination.  At that time, you will be required to join the USAF since it is the conduit for grading certification from the Aikikai Foundation in Japan.



When you first get on the mat, it seems like everyone is more experienced.  In time, you'll be able to see the differences in levels, but in the beginning that can be difficult.  For this reason, Finger Lakes Aikido members begin and end class by lining up in the order of their seniority in Aikido: older, more experienced students (sempai) sitting to the right of the line while less experienced students (kohi) sit to the left.  This discipline helps members know who is likely to be able to answer questions or offer other help.
Generally in Aikikai Aikido there are two types of "belt ranks": white and black.
"White belt" junior students are officially called mudansha or yukyusha and advance through a series of kyu ranks beginning with Level 5 and progressing to Level 1.  Some dojos assign colors to certain levels, brown for nikyu and ikkyu being most common.  FLA and CAC do not use colors for kyu level ranks.

Level 5

Level 4

Level 3

Level 2

Level 1






"Black belt" senior students are officially called yudansha and move up through a series of dan ranks beginning with Grade 1 or 1st Degree Black Belt and progressing to a maximum of Grade 9 or 10 (usually awarded after death).

1st Degree

2nd Degree

3rd Degree

4th Degree

5th Degree

6th Degree

7th Degree

8th Degree

9th Degree

10th Degree