Chief Instructor Benjamin Pincus, 6th Dan, Shidoin
Pincus Sensei brings over 30 years of aikido experience to his classes. He studied under several direct students of O Sensei, beginning with the late M. Kanai Sensei (8th degree black belt) in 1982. During his undergraduate years studying philosophy, he apprenticed with the late Paul Sylvain Sensei (6th degree) and Y. Yamada Sensei (8th degree), Chairman of the United States Aikido Federation, Eastern Region. At New York Aikikai, he also studied under the late Seichi Sugano Sensei (8th degree) and became a student of Donovan Waite Sensei (7th degree). Seeking to deepen his understanding of Aikido after deciding to become an Aikido teacher, he studied in San Diego with K. Chiba Sensei (8th degree) in a kenshusei (intensive instructor’s training) program.
Sensei also took classes from the late Terry Dobson Sensei (5th degree), the only American uchi deshi (direct student) of O Sensei. Terry Dobson was the first person to show the relationship between technical Aikido and verbal conflict resolution, writing the book “Giving in to Get Your Way” and “The Tokyo Train Story”. Inspired by his example, Pincus Sensei enrolled in Woodbury College Mediation/Conflict Management Program in order to understand the relationship between verbal conflict resolution and Aikido. He is a conflict resolution and mediation trainer certified by Champlain College (formerly Woodbury College).
Sensei married his long time partner and student, Heidi Albright, an assistant instructor at Aikido of Champlain Valley. They are raising two sons, Caleb and Kai, Sensei has discovered that the only thing more challenging than Aikido is parenting. “My boys continually remind me to balance rigidity with softness, and playfulness with structure, both on and off the mat,” he explains. “Despite my Aikido training, I still can’t figure out how to attach a cloth diaper to a moving target.”
Sensei presently holds the rank of Rokudan (6th degree black belt) and shidoin (certified instructor) with the United States Aikido Federation, Eastern Region and the International Aikido Federation in Tokyo, Japan. He is sandan (3rd degree) in Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido which he began studying under Paul Sylvain Shihan.
Sensei is the only fully certified and professional Aikido instructor in Vermont, and is dedicated to deepening his understanding of Aikido by attending and hosting seminars with senior instructors from around the world. He and Heidi Albright also run a rural retreat called Cloud Mountain Aikido in Roxbury, Vermont.
“My emphasis on traditional form allows students to develop fundamentals: strength, grace, flexibility and effective technique. Meanwhile, I make training accessible and challenging by integrating other traditions — from yoga to zazen (Zen meditation) — other martial arts and verbal conflict resolution. Aikido is not separate from daily life — it provides students with a context to enrich themselves and their relationship with the surrounding world. A fundamental aspect of this growth involves gaining insight into the paradox of martial arts: by learning how to fight one ultimately learns how to resolve conflict.”
–Benjamin Pincus Sensei