Mill Valley Aikido was founded in 2014 with the mission to bring traditional Aikido to the North Bay and beyond.
Jason Yim has been training Aikido since 1973 and holds a 5th degree black belt. He served under the late Morihiro Saito Shihan, 9th dan, as "uchi deshi" (live-in student) in Iwama, Japan. His total "uchi deshi" experience was 3 years where he made numerous trips to Japan from 1976 to 1987. He holds an Aiki-Ken (Sword) and Aiki-Jo (Staff) teaching certificates from Morihiro Saito Shihan.
Jason is Chief Instructor and Co-founder of Mill Valley Aikido. He is also acting Chief Instructor at Aikido by the Bay Dojo in San Mateo. Previously he was Chief Instructor and Founder of Golden Gate Aikido for over 10 years. He has trained extensively for years under Bill Witt Shihan starting at the age of 15. In addition to Aikido, he has also studied Goju Ryu Karate under Gosei Yamaguchi, eldest son to Gogen Yamaguchi "The Cat" and Wing Chun. Jason continues his studies in Iyengar Yoga and Argentine Tango.
Rob Okun, Chief Instructor, Co-founder, and Dojo Cho, Mill Valley Aikido has trained in Aikido since 1973. He is a 4th degree black belt and a "Shidoin" Certified Instructor from the Takemusu Aikido Association. Rob was “uchi deshi” (live-in student) in Iwama, Japan under the late Morihiro Saito Shihan, 9th dan for a total of 3 years between 1976 and 1981. He was Saito Shihan’s uke (demonstration partner) at the 1981 All Japan Aikido Demonstration.
Rob currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Takemusu Aikido Association, a non-profit corporation dedicated to promoting Aikido. He has trained extensively with Bill Witt Shihan, 8th dan, Hans Goto Shihan, 7th dan, Ryuji Sawa Sensei, 7th dan, and the late Otani Kazue Shihan, 8th dan. He holds a Masters, International Management, B.A., Japanese and served as translator for Saito Shihan, Inagaki Shihan and Ryuji Sawa (Inagaki) Sensei. Rob is also a student of Beikoku Wado-ryu karate.
The Mill Valley Aikido Story
- written by Patrick Reynolds
In seventh grade two school boys struck up a friendship that would stand the test of time.
Jason and Rob were local kids who would bike around Mill Valley in the afternoons, talking, laughing, and scavenging enough glass bottles to recycle them and get Slurpees at 7-11.
One day Jason saw a flyer for an Aikido class at the old Mill Valley Rec-Center. He had never heard of Aikido, but his love for Samurai films and martial arts gave him a reason to try. After school he would find Rob and practice all the new moves he learned the night before. Eventually Rob got frustrated of getting beat up on, and started going to the classes as well! They liked Aikido, and more importantly, stuck with it, so much so that after a few months they were the only two students left in the class. The instructor told them if they wanted to continue they'd have to start going to the main dojo in San Francisco.
And so five times a week the teens would make their way over the Golden Gate Bridge to train with the pioneers of US Aikido, masters like Bill Witt, Frank Doran, and Bob Nadeau. It was early in these years that Morihiro Saito Shihan (the inheritor of Morihei Ueshiba's Takemusu Aikido lineage and guardian of the Aiki Shrine/ Iwama Dojo) began making trips to San Francisco to spread the art. After graduating from Tam High School, Jason and Rob were given the honor of an invitation to live and train in Japan at the Iwama dojo, the home of Aikido. It was during their first trip to Japan that they earned their black belts. They were 18 years old.
Over the next twenty years Jason and Rob split their time between university studies in California, Aikido training in Japan, and traveling the world for work and adventure. They continued training and teaching Aikido whenever they could.
In the year 2000 Saito Shihan made his final trip to the US in ill-health. He passed away in 2002. His legacy was hundreds of students around the world who had learned the traditional Iwama style that O-Sensei developed. With busy careers and family lives, both Jason and Rob had less time for training, and with Saito Shihan gone, drifted away from the Aikido path. Rob focused on building his investment business, while Jason began exploring other physical arts like yoga and dance.
In 2012, Rob approached Hans Goto Shihan and asked if he could begin training at Bay Marin Aikido. During the process he felt his passion for the practice reignite. He surprised the newer Aikido students with his depth of knowledge and close connection to the Aikido lineage. As Rob worked to shake the cobwebs off, he asked Jason to help him brush up his form. 40 years previously, it was Jason who pulled Rob into Aikido. Now it was Rob's turn to bring Jason back into the practice. Both men quickly regained their former skills and attained new black belt levels.
But their story wasn't finished. Their former instructors, now aging and at the end of their teaching careers, had one more task for them - it was time they started their own dojo to keep the Iwama lineage strong.
Rob and Jason decided to found their dojo in Mill Valley, the town they had grown up in and first learned Aikido.
In 2014 Mill Valley Aikido opened its doors, and is now the fastest growing Aikido dojo on the west coast. Jason and Rob have come a long way since they recycled bottles and newspapers to pay for their training at the community center, but the heart of their practice is unchanged. Aikido is a deep and rewarding art, and has been the bond that has kept a friendship strong for five decades and counting. Jason and Rob are honored to share its teachings with the next generation of students.