William Gillespie, 5th Dan

William Gillespie is the only “Japan-trained” Aikido instructor residing in Beijing.  A 5th degree black belt, he started studying Aikido formally in 1987 in a traditional dojo in “Little Tokyo” in Los Angeles, but left the practice of law in California in1997 to move to Japan for intensive training at the Aikikai Hombu

Living adjacent to the dojo, William lived a simple even austere life, training 3 to 5 times a day 6 days a week for a year while assisting a former Hombu kenshusei (live-in trainee) teach Aikido at foreign schools and private clubs in Tokyo.   William lived and trained in Japan for 8 years and remains a student of the Hombu Dojo.

During those years, many shihan (masters) who were direct students of O-Sensei, such as Arikawa Sensei, Ichihashi Sensei, Masuda Sensei, Tada Sensei and others, were still actively teaching at Hombu dojo.  William feels particularly fortunate to have studied directly under O-sensei's son Kishomaru Ueshiba, 2nd Doshu (leader of the way).  William returns to Japan several times a year to further his understanding of martial arts, training under the 3rd Doshu  Moriteru Ueshiba and other masters at Hombu Dojo.

William began Aikido in a traditional dojo in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles under Reverend Kensho Furuya - who stressed the martial roots of Aikido as indispensable to proper training.

Furuya sensei lived in Hombu Dojo in 1969 as kenshusei under Kishomaru Ueshiba Doshu.  From 1970 to 72, he studied under Mitsunari Kanai Shihan of New England Aikikai while completing his Masters Degree in Asian studies at Harvard University and he continued his studies under other direct disciples of O-sensei.  A 6th Dan in Hombu Aikido and 6th Dan Kyoshi in Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido, with over 47 years experience in martial artists, he opened the Aikido Center of Los Angeles in 1974 and in 1988 was ordained as a Zen priest.

In 1991, William was selected to serve as one of three disciples (deshi) to Furuya sensei - studying Aikido, weapons, Muso-shiden-ryu Iaido and martial arts daily before his move to Japan.

In 2005, William moved to Beijing and served as a senior instructor to a dojo in Wangjing before starting Beijing Aikikai.  

William has also studied Judo (under Vasil Panfil) and its derivative art Brazilian Jujitusu (having started in 1996 at the Rickson Gracie Academy in Los Angeles before leaving for Japan and from 2008 at the Roger Gracie Academy in London - who awarded him a blue belt - and also in Beijing).  Aikido, Judo and BJJ are all more modern forms of the jiujitsu of Japan and, while Aikido is unique in key ways, these three arts are highly complimentary for self defense by combining tachi-waza (standing technique), suwari-waza (seated technique) and ne-waza (ground fighting).