Aikido: "The Art of Peace"

Aikido was founded by Morihei Ueshiba ("O-Sensei") in the late 1920's and 1930's. The movements and techniques of Aikido are derived from the many traditional Japanese martial arts studied by O-Sensei in his long years of practice. These include Kenjutsu (Japanese sword work), Aiki-jiu-jutsu, and Judo, to name only a few. Where Karate and Tae Kwon Do are "hard" martial arts, Aikido is often considered a "soft" martial art, which doesn't emphasize striking techniques, but focuses on using an opponent's strength and aggression against themselves.

Tenshin Aikido: The Aikido of Master Steven Seagal

Aikido has many expressions, ranging from slow-deliberate movements (think Tai Chi) to almost-acrobatic techniques. All these expressions derive from two main sources: the Aikido organization itself, and each instructor's interpretation.

What has always distinguished Tenshin (Tenjin) Aikido - and in particular, Master Seagal's school of Aikido - is its incredible realism. Master Seagal's school is uniquely focused on dealing with single and multiple attackers using Aikido's minimalist technique. Where many Aikido schools view Aikido as a metaphor for life, Tenshin dojos put that metaphor into action. The only official Tenshin Aikido dojo in the midwest is Three Rivers Aikido.

Three Rivers Aikido Dojo

Three Rivers (in Japanese, "San Kawa") Dojo is a first generation dojo under the direction of Master Steven Seagal. Three Rivers Aikido has been serving Saint Louis residents of all ages - 6 years old, to our oldest member at 73 - for more than a quarter of a century. Martial arts dojos often draw from the expertise of only one instructor. One of the greatest strengths of TRA is its diversity of instructors. It has always been a tradition for Three Rivers Aikido black belts to pass on the instruction they have received. Our instructors have broad ranges of martial arts backgrounds, and therefore their own unique interpretations of Sensei Freeman's Aikido.

Having multiple instructors of such varied backgrounds throughout the week allows our students to practice a wide range of training as if they were attending an international seminar.

Sensei Elliot Freeman

Sensei Freeman (6th degree black belt) is one of Master Seagal's principal students and direct representatives - leading seminars around the world for fellow Aikidoka, military /security personnal, and law enforcement. He has been doing Aikido for more than 40 years, and is the founder/ CEO of Three Rivers Aikido. He holds a 6th degree black belt in Aikido, 4th degree black belt in Mu Duk Kwon (TKD), a 6th degree black belt in Shorin-Ryu Karate, a 2nd degree black belt in Kendo, a 2nd degree black belt in Iaido, has served as adjunct faculty for several universities in the St. Louis area, and is the Chief Instructor of Defensive Tactic Technologies, a P.O.S.T. certified law enforcement program (co-authored with Master Steven Seagal).

The Udansha: Our Black Belt Instructors

Our current Black Belt Instructors (+ Our Udansha):

Sensei Elliot Freeman (6th Degree Black Belt)

Dan Woods (3rd Degree Black Belt)

Andrew "Kwon" Maminta (1st Degree Black Belt)

Kyle Rieger (1st Degree Black Belt)

John Aughey (1st Degree Black Belt)

Dojo Etiquette

In a dojo, there is a certain air of politeness. This is a very Japanese concept, and stems from a sense of profound respect for one's teachers, training space, and training partners. An important thing to remember about training at Three Rivers is to maintain a high level of respect at all times. Use the proper polite greetings* (see vocabulary list HERE), bow at appropriate times, never speak out of turn, don't use foul /vulgar language anywhere near the dojo, and so-forth. For a complete list of dojo etiquette, click HERE.

You don't need to memorize these guidelines, and you won't be expected to know them all right away - but they're here for reference. Everyone violates a few of them on occasion, particularly when the atmosphere in the dojo is playful, rather than studious. However, always remind yourself of where you are and what you're trying to accomplish. Remember to be respectful, and the rest is easy to pick up. Whatever the rules may be, respect is the basis for them - and respect is expected. Always.


  • What should I wear to my first class?
  • How do classes compare in cost to other dojos?
  • Do I need to purchase dojo insurance?
  • Where can I purchase a "gi" uniform and "obi" belt? Patches?
  • What age limits are there for students?
  • How can Aikido help my child?
  • Wait... Steven Seagal? The movie star? (Yes!)
  • I have a disability. Can I still train?
  • What is an "Uchi Deshi"?
  • Where can I get updates about class cancellations, test dates, and upcoming events?
  • Does TRA participate in competitions / tournaments?
  • How can I set up a seminar or demonstration with TRA / Elliot Freeman at my dojo?
  • How can I arrange a basic self-defense training for my workplace (or any group of 10+ people)?
  • What is Defensive Tactics Technologies (DTT)?