Seiichi Sugano Shihan, 8th dan, was an uchi deshi (inside student) who lived at the Hombu dojo (Japan) with O-Sensei (Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido) and remains one of the legendary figures in the aikido world community. He became an emissary for O-Sensei’s philosophy of love, kindness and compassion.

Another uchi deshi and spiritual emissary was Tamura sensei – who, in 1965, was sent to Europe while Sugano sensei was sent to Australia. Both were committed to stay on the path created by O-Sensei while introducing as many people as possible to the art of aikido. In a few short years, Sugano Shihan’s charisma and focus on a high standard of teaching the basics made aikido quite popular in Australia. All over the world, the physicality of his aikido became known for power and speed. He was also a master swordsman.

Tamura Sensei became so busy handling Europe and the Middle East that he asked for Sugano Sensei’s help with Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.

Aikido Swordsman

Sugano’s influence

After 15 years in Australia, Sugano Shihan left to teach aikido in Europe . It was while in Belgium that Sugano sensei met Pennewaert sensei, who became Sugano sensei’s otomo (attendant to the instructor). Pennewaert Sensei had originally followed Tamura sensei but after several encounters with Sugano Shihan, it was by divine intervention that Pennewaert sensei realized after (receiving approval from Tamura sensei) that he was to follow Sugano Shihan for the rest of his life. In 1988, Sugano Shihan went to New York to help teach alongside Yamada Yoshimitsu, 8th dan, Shihan and President of the US Aikido Federation. During this time, Pennewaert sensei served as uchi deshi to Sugano and Yamada, and he was privileged to teach at the New York Aikikai on several occassions.

When Pennewaert sensei opened his school in Southern California, Sugano sensei named “Shin Do Kan” (House where you practice the way of the heart) – the same name bestowed on the first dojo opened by Pennewaert in Belgium in 1987 – and presented the new school with the customary “ai-ki-do” scroll which he created by his own hand. Sugano Shihan’s “ai-ki-do” scroll is now permanently displayed as part of our dojo’s kamisa (front of the training area).

Sugano Shihan conducted aikido workshops all over the world, but always maintained regular contact with the Shin Do Kan dojo, which included an annual weekend seminar. For many people, all over the world, Sugano Shihan was an embodiment of the aikido philosophy that we are all connected in ways we may never fully understand.

practicing aikido weapons
Swordsman aikido
two senseis
aikido seminar


Tatsuaki Hatsukari

“Newport Beach Aikido is a great place to come and learn in a very family friendly environment. The class is very traditional and great for any skill level. My two sons (9 and 7) are in kids class and they also enjoy the learning in well disciplined practice. I personally enjoy Aikido to train my inner-core strength while learning fundamental self-defense skill. Sensei is very kind, patient, and professional. Highly recommended if you are looking for a dojo that offers both high-level spirits and respectful camaraderies!”

Anna Racheva

“I am so fortunate to have found Newport Beach Aikido-Shin Do Kan Dojo and Sensei Pennewaert both for myself and for my family. The adult classes provide a lot more than mere instruction in the techniques and skills of aikido. For me they also bring harmony and coordination between body and mind and are the source of new energy that always leaves me recharged and looking forward to the next class.”

Anthony Fiore

Sensei Pennewaert does an amazing job! I have been training for my entire adult life and we recently had Sensei out for a seminar and he was truly amazing. His knowledge, teaching style, and through understanding of his art allow him to connect with you and your students. We hope his schedule will allow him to visit us annually. If he is near your town do yourself and your students a favor and get there. It will be time well spent.


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