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Judith McSpadden was born in Belfast in 1969. In 2002, at the age of 32 she moved to the United States to work. Judith started practicing Aikido in 2003 at the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba (ASU) dojo in Washington D.C., headed by Mitsugi Saotome Shihan, an uchi deshi (live-in student) of O Sensei Morihei Ueshiba. As she witnessed Saotome Sensei's demonstrations, she was immediately struck by the gentle, fluid, yet dynamic power of the movement.
Judith moved to Philadelphia in 2004 where she began to train at the Philadelphia Aikikai with Henry Smith Shihan. Philadelphia Aikikai is affiliated to the United States Aikido Federation (USAF), headed by Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan, another one of O Sensei's close students.
During her five years in Philadelphia, Judith attended seminars and summer camps in Philadelphia, New York, Washington D.C. and New Jersey. She had the opportunity to attend classes instructed by many highly respected instructors. These include: Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan, Mitsugi Saotome Shihan, Mary Heiny Sensei, Seichi Sugano Shihan, Jane Ozeki Sensei, Harvey Konigsberg Sensei, Donovan Waite Shihan, Zenko Okimura Shihan and Ichiro Shibata Sensei.
In January 2009, Judith McSpadden was promoted to the rank of 1st Dan Aikikai by Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan in his New York headquarters. Shortly after, she moved back home to Belfast where she immediately started looking for a new Aikido dojo to practice. During this search, she discovered the Dublin Aikikai, the headquarters of the Irish Aikikai Aikido headed by Cyril Lagrasta, 4th Dan Aikikai. On her first visit in January 2009 she was excited and inspired by the clean technique, powerful dynamic movement, yet very gentle approach and decided that she would continue her Aikido apprenticeship within Lagrasta's organisation.
Summer seminar in the South of France with Philippe Gouttard
Since her return to Ireland, Judith has had the opportunity to travel to Europe and experience Aikido in France, Italy, Sweden and England under the direction of masters such as Philippe Gouttard, 6th Dan Aikikai and technical director of the Irish Aikikai Aikido and Christian Tissier Shihan, 7th Dan Aikikai, technical director of the French Aikido Federation (FFAAA), and Seishiro Endo Shihan, 8th Dan Aikikai.
Judith travelled from Belfast to Dublin in order to train at the Dublin Aikikai as often as she could for over a year. However, it became evident that in order to train consistently she would have to find a way to practice Aikido closer to home. So, under the guidance of Cyril Lagrasta and Philippe Gouttard, she set out to look for a venue where she could set up her own dojo. The Belfast Aikikai opened its doors in March 2010, in affiliation with the Irish Aikikai Aikido.
It is through this outstanding martial journey, under the guidance of some of the most influential Aikido instructors in the world, that Judith McSpadden has come to realise that Aikido is a very personal journey, experienced and expressed very differently by each individual. She believes that Aikido can work for anyone, regardless of age, size, gender or strength. Currently, she is specifically interested in examining the redundancy of force, and how to deal with the natural physical reaction to conflict and fear. While passionately teaching in Belfast, she continues her own apprenticeship by attending classes in Dublin and seminars all around Europe.
Post by +Guillaume Erard