About Aikido of Westchester

Aikido of Westchester is a member dojo of the United States Aikido Federation, recognized by the Aikikai World Headquarters in Japan. Its purpose is to provide instruction in the martial art of aikido according to the principles of the founder, Morihei Ueshiba. Founded in 1997, it is the first and original USAF aikido dojo established in White Plains, NY, Westchester county. Aikido is a self-defense martial art suitable for the whole family.


Douglas Firestone and Sylvie Firestone with their Sensei, Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan.
Photo by Jaime Kahn

CHIEF INSTRUCTOR

Douglas Firestone, 6th Dan, Shihan 
Douglas Firestone is the founder and chief instructor of Aikido of Westchester. He is a full time professional aikido teacher accredited by the United States Aikido Federation and Hombu dojo, Japan. He began his aikido journey in Los Angeles in 1981 with the late Rev. Kensho Furuya. Ten years later, he founded City Aikido of Los Angeles.

Firestone sensei later joined the New York Aikikai in 1993 as a live-in student (ushi deshi) and trained intensely under Yoshimitsu Yamada shihan and the late Seiichi Sugano shihan, both direct students of the founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba. To this day, Firestone sensei continues to hold a weekly teaching position at the NY Aikikai, the United States Aikido Federation headquarters.

Firestone sensei and his wife Sylvie founded Aikido of Westchester in 1997, where he teaches seven days a week. In addition to aikido, Firestone sensei teaches the art of Japanese swordsmanship: Toyama Ryu Batto Jutsu, Zen Nihon Batto Do Renmei and its equivalent, the US BattoDo Federation curriculum.

SENIOR INSTRUCTOR

Sylvie Firestone, 5th Dan, Shidoin
Sylvie discovered her passion for Aikido at the New York Aikikai in 1994, where she had the privilege of training under the direction of shihans Yoshimitsu Yamada and the late Seiichi Sugano, respectively. Throughout the years, Sylvie has learned from many talented senior teachers, including her husband Douglas, with whom she founded Aikido of Westchester in the summer of 1997.

Always seeking to improve her technique and learn new skills, Sylvie routinely trains at aikido seminars across the US and abroad. 


SENIOR INSTRUCTORS

David Katz, 4th Dan,
Fuku-Shidoin

David started practicing aikido at the New York Aikikai in 1996. He brings to his teaching a love for aikido’s circular movement, aikido’s philosophy of caring for others and joy in practice.

David began his study of martial arts in 1971 under professor Harvey I. Sober, Tora Dojo Martial Arts Association, and received his black belt in 1983. He also studied iaido with sensei Phil Ortiz, of the New York Budokai and t'ai chi ch'uan with Herman Kauz sensei. 

 

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Neal J. Earhart, 4th Dan, Fuku-Shidoin
Neal started aikido in 1988 with James Walsh Sensei of Aikido of Delaware Valley. He then joined the New York Aikikai when he moved to New York in 1990, and eventually joined Aikido of Westchester in 2008.

Known for his extensive aikido t-shirt collection, Neal also practices the art of Sogetsu Ikebana. He continues to attend seminars held by senior aikido instructors and Shihan, striving for continuous improvement of his skills and understanding of the art.

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Peter Gundy, 3rd Dan
Fuku-Shidoin

Peter was introduced to aikido in 1998 by Yahe Solomon sensei and has been training at Aikido of Westchester since 1999.  What he admires most about aikido’s dynamic techniques is that they bring together physicality, artistry, and self-awareness. His practice reflects the generous instruction he received during many visits to dojos around the world.

An avid long-distance runner and exercise enthusiast, Peter enjoys a brisk pace and intensity in his practice and when instructing, he always strives to keep his classes lively as well.

Ivan Guerra, 3rd Dan
Fuku-Shidoin

Ivan began his martial arts training in jujutsu in 1986. Throughout the years, Ivan was fortunate to learn from several good teachers who conveyed their enthusiasm and passion for the martial arts.  Having earned the rank of sandan in jujutsu, and shodan in judo, he eventually joined Aikido of Westchester 2002.

Known for his tenacious demeanor on the mat, Ivan is a dedicated father, a long time professional educator and a volunteer certified Emergency medical technician.


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Pat Dougherty, 2nd Dan
Pat began his formal study of aikido in 1996 at the New York Aikikai, under the instruction of Yoshimitsu Yamada and Seiichi Sugano Shihans. After training for a brief time from 2002-2004 under Susan Wolk and Todd Martin in Massachusetts, Pat returned to the New York Aikikai until he joined Aikido of Westchester in 2008, where he earned both his 1st and 2nd dans.

Settling into his role as a dedicated instructor, Pat believes that aikido is a lifelong practice that can produce great strength, balance and joy.

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Robert Groce, 2nd Dan
Robert started aikido at Aikido of Westchester in March of 2002. Through aikido he has also developed a love for the Japanese sword. He began practicing Muso Shinden Ryu with Firestone sensei in 2005. Since then he has received dan ranks in two Iaido federations. He currently holds the rank of 2nd dan in US Federation of Batto Do, and a dan rank in Zen Nihon Toyama Ryu Iaido.

Robert brings a joyful approach to his practice. You will often hear him laughing as he works through the techniques with his partner on the mat.

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Matt Odell, 2nd Dan
Matt joined Aikido of Westchester in 2002 following a long break from intense martial art training in the eighties throughout the nineties. Through aikido, Matt developed a passion for the Japanese sword. He began practicing Toyama Ryu Iaido with Firestone sensei in 2007. Since then he has received dan ranks in two Iaido federations. He currently holds the rank of 2nd dan in US Federation of Batto Do, and 2nd dan in Zen Nihon Toyama Ryu Iaido.

Matt is often joined on the mat by his wife Rose, and son Alex, making for some exhilarating family fun-time.

Joe Giardina, 1st Dan
Joe first started practicing aikido in 2006 when he joined Aikido of Westchester. An avid practitioner, Joe loves to work with students that share his passion for the art, and understand its power, beauty, simplicity, and complexity. “Every time you step on the mat there is something new to learn; about the art, about your partner, and about yourself, a positive learning experience that you can apply to all aspects of your life”.

Joe’s other passions are: Family, travel, books, food and drink, guitar, and languages.  He is a firm believer in the “good life”.