NC State History Professor Receives Hagley Grant for Oral History of Aikido in the US

Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba with foreign students at Hombu Dojo in Japan in 1967, including Joanne Shimamoto (later Tohei), who founded schools in Chicago and Terry Dobson (1937-1992), who returned to the US to found schools in New York and Vermont. Photo by Henry Kono

We are pleased to announce that History Professor Tammy Gordon received a Hagley Museum and Library Oral History Project Grant to support her research project “Aikido Dojos, Transnational Exchange, and Small Business: An Oral History.” Through interviews with the first generation of Aikido teachers to establish martial arts schools in the United States, this project will document the social, economic, and cultural conditions affecting the growth of schools associated with Japanese culture as well as the ways in which dojo chos (school directors) and teachers negotiated these conditions to establish a network of small businesses dedicated to the art. The project focuses on both Japanese and American instructors who started schools in the US  in the 20th century and has the potential for revealing the role of small business in transnational cultural exchange and for theorizing the exchange required to practice the art outside of Japan. Dr. Gordon seeks to document the growth of aikido in the US for future researchers as well as explore the historical context for the life of martial artist Virginia Mayhew, the subject of a biography on which she is working.

The Hagley Museum and Library, located in Wilmington, Delaware, specializes in collections related to the history of business in the United States. The Library will archive and disseminate the interviews as part of its collections on American business. Professor Gordon is the author of three books on the connections between historical memory and the leisure economy and holds the rank of sandan in Aikido under the teaching of Andrew Sato Shihan of the Aikido World Alliance. She is dojo cho of Hemlock Bluffs Aikido in Cary, North Carolina.

If you have experience with Aikido in the 20th century as a dojo cho, teacher, or leader and would like to donate an interview to this collection, please contact Tammy Gordon at

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