Aikido Center founder, Rodney Grantham, began his martial arts training in Japan in 1950. He earned his first degree black belt in Judo there before returning to the U.S. where he rose the rank of 3rd Dan. He was first exposed to Aikido when he took ukemi for the legendary Koichi Tohei and began making trips to New York to study under Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan. Grantham Sensei soon began offering Aikido classes at his “Black Belt School of Judo”. These classes were the foundation of what became the Aikido Center of Atlanta. After many years of practice, he became one of the first non-Japanese to be awarded the rank of 6th Dan. Grantham Sensei was a pioneer in introducing traditional Japanese martial arts to the Southeast. In 1989, after many years of teaching and shepherding the growth of Aikido throughout the region, Grantham Sensei retired to the mountains of North Carolina with his wife Janet. Grantham Sensei passed away in 2008, but his legacy is carried into the future by the hundreds of Aikidoka he influenced throughout his life as a Martial Arts pioneer.
George Kennedy, 7th Dan, Shihan, began his training in 1972 at the Aikido Center of Atlanta and became Chief Instructor and Dojo-cho in 1989. After a successful career in commercial art, Kennedy gained valuable teaching and administrative experience as Department Chair of Visual Communications and Continuing Education at the Art Institute of Atlanta. In 1997 he earned a Masters Degree in Conflict Resolution and embarked on a second career developing and teaching Conflict Management and Violence Studies courses at Oglethorpe University. Kennedy Shihan has also developed Aikido-based defensive tactics courses for Law Enforcement and has been a contributing member of the Georgia Association of Defensive Tactics Instructors. These activities reflect his belief that Aikido is both an effective method of self defense and a path of peace and reconciliation. He has served on the Board of Directors of the USAF since it's inception in 2007. He is chair of the Dispute Resolution Committee and is the main author of the USAF Student Guide.
Darrell Tangman, 7th Dan, Shihan, a retired software engineer, began his training in 1970 while a graduate student at the University of Illinois in Urbana. He was an early student of the late Akira Tohei Shihan, from whom he received his first degree black belt in 1975. While living in Minnesota he founded Twin Cities Aikido Center in St. Paul and served for a time as President of the Midwest Aikido Federation. Upon moving to Atlanta in 1985 he was invited to teach at the Aikido Center. Among his other contributions, Tangman Shihan organized our first children's class in 1990. Although Tangman Shihan now lives 140 miles away in Augusta, where he runs the Augusta Aikido Club, he still travels to our dojo to share his insight and experience with our adult classes.
WATU WADADA JAMES
Watu Wadada James, 5th Dan, Shidoin, began studying Aikido in 1978 at the Brooklyn Aikido Club in Brooklyn, New York under Shihan Luqman Hakeem who was a student of Yamada Shihan. He starting teaching aikido in 1983 at the Brooklyn dojo after receiving the rank of Shodan. Watu Sensei was an assistant instructor at the Delaware Valley Aikido School in Bensalem, Pennsylvania in 1991 and later at the Aikido of Philadelphia School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1992 to 1996. Upon moving to Atlanta he was invited to be an instructor at the Aikido Center of Atlanta in 1998. Watu Sensei’s martial training was further influenced by his association with the SWAM martial arts science academy under Sijo Abdul Mutakabbir; he holds the title of Professor under this system. Watu Sensei is a husband, father and retired bank regulator.
Richard Nardi, 6th Dan, Shidoin, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and moved to Atlanta in 1974. After studying another martial art for one year in Taiwan, Nardi began his Aikido training at the Aikido Center in 1984. He is a retired physician’s assistant in anesthesia at Grady Hospital, a husband and the father of two. He is known for his powerful technique and superb ukemi skills.
Edwin Stearns, 6th Dan, Shidoin, began his Aikido training at the Aikido Center in 1986. After achieving his first degree black belt, he was accepted by Yamada Sensei as an uchi deshi (a live-in student) at the New York Aikikai. During his two-year stay he was required to take five classes per day under Yamada Shihan and Sugano Shihan, both 8th Dan and former Uchi Deshi of Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido. Needless to say, this rigorous period of intense training forged him into a powerful yet subtle Aikidoka. He is a software engineer with a wife and two children.
Glenn Murray, 4th Dan, Fukushidoin, was born in Columbus, Ga, moving to Atlanta in 1980 to get his Masters of Science in Information and Computer Science from Georgia Tech. Having studied Tae Kwon Do, Judo, and some Shotokan Karate, off and on from the age of 13. He started his Aikido training under George Kennedy Shihan in 1995 at the Aikido Center of Atlanta. He was a software architect, now retired from AT&T, a husband, and father of three. Glenn is the Lead Instructor for the Zen Center of Georgia.