Instructors can impart only a fraction of the teaching. It is through your own devoted practice that the mysteries of the Art of Peace are brought to life.




Chief Instructor, Rokudan (6th Dan), Shihan



Laura Jacobs Pavlick, Chief Instructor and Owner of Litchfield Hills Aikikai is a rokudan (6th degree black belt) who recently received the title of Shihan, a rare distinction of achievement and proficiency as an instructor of the highest level. 


Aikido is a traditional Japanese martial art created by Morihei Ueshiba (O-Sensei) in the early 20th century. Its ultimate goal is peaceful resolution rather than defeat. Aikido is more than the study of physical techniques. Proper etiquette, attitude, and behavior are also stressed. The basic movements of Aikido are circular in nature and students train to harmonize with, rather than confront an aggressive line of force. This then converts it into a circular motion that renders attackers helpless. Aikido is not a sport so there are no competitive tournaments. As in traditional Japanese budo, Aikido maintains the qualities of martial spirit, effective technique, and precise training. This, coupled with the premise of mutual respect and caring, promotes the important balance between attacker and defender and the focus on unifying mind, body and spirit.  


Pavlick Shihan has been studying Aikido for 39 years, and will be celebrating the 25th anniversary as owner and Chief Instructor of LHA in September 2018. Her dojo is a member of the United States Aikido Federation (USAF), which is the largest Aikido organization in the US to be directly affiliated with Hombu Dojo, the founding Aikido headquarters in Japan. As a longtime student of Yoshimitsu Yamada, an original “uchi-deshi,” or live-in student of the founder of Aikido, and Chief Instructor/Technical Advisor of the USAF, she participates in and instructs at seminars throughout the year both nationally and internationally. 


Receiving the title of Shihan is life-long process.  In addition to the requirement of being a 6th degree black belt for a minimum of 6 years, which takes several decades to achieve, Shihan recognizes a mastery level as instructor.


Yamada Sensei begins the process by considering whether a person truly fits the qualifications of Shihan, embodying more than just the time requirements, but looking at the life-long dedication to the art and continual growth and quality as an instructor. He then presents an application to Hombu dojo, which is reviewed by Mitsuteru Ueshiba, the great-grandson of the founder of Aikido and current world leader, who either approves or denies the application. Being considered for Shihan is not taken lightly, and of the 4,000 members of the USAF, there are fewer than 70 Shihan. Of that, there are only 6 female Shihan.  


Pavlick Sensei states, “This is an incredible honor. My gratitude to Yamada Sensei as my instructor is very profound, and the beauty of Aikido is that even when we are instructors, we remain students forever. So my relationship with him as my teacher is deeply important to me. I am also grateful to my students, past and present, who have given me the opportunity to help them learn and experience this great art.  Teaching has helped me grow and develop my ability as a practitioner as well as an instructor.  I have learned that teacher/student relationships in traditional budo arts are very rewarding, on both sides. When I first learned of this promotion, all I could think was wow, I have large shoes to fill. Everyone I have every looked up to is a Shihan, and now I am one too. I don’t think of it as having arrived at something, but rather as a new launching pad for a new beginning. It’s very exciting.”

Laura Pavlick began practicing Aikido in 1981 at the New York Aikikai (NYA) under Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan, 8th dan. As a shodan, she was assigned to teach a regularly scheduled class at NYA while also taking several classes daily. In the early 1990s she moved to northwestern Connecticut and opened Litchfield Hills Aikikai, in Bantam, Ct where she has been Chief Instructor since its inception.


In addition to being a featured instructor at seminars, she continues to attend numerous seminar each year taught by Yamada Sensei and some of the most renowned aikido Shihan from the United States, Europe and Japan.


Pavlick Sensei has held the full time position of Director of Operations for the United States Aikido Federation since 2008. In January, 2018, she was awarded the title of Shihan from Aikikai World Headquarters, Japan. 



Yondan (4th Dan), Shidoin


With no previous martial arts experience, Don Zdeb began his aikido training in 1998 at Litchfield Hills Aikikai, where has been a dedicated student ever since.  Don has taught a scheduled class for several years.


While Don’s passion for aikido keeps him practicing regularly, he manages to balance his Aikido and work life with his love of the outdoors.



Nidan (2nd Dan)


Chris Hawke's first exposure to Aikido was with the Ki society in the early 90s in Akashi, Japan.  After a 10 year break he started again in 2000 in Cincinnati Ohio under Charlie McGinnis, 6th Dan, where he earned his Shodan rank in 2008.  Chris has been training at Litchfield Hills since he moved to Connecticut in 2011. 


Chris is a Mechanical Engineer working for the Duracell company. He lives in Newtown, CT with his wife and 3 children


Avery Jenkins

Nidan (2nd Dan)


Avery Jenkins began aikido in 1990 with Juba Nour Sensei, 8th dan, at Connecticut Aikikai.  In 1998 he joined Litchfield Hills Aikikai, where Laura Pavlick Sensei conducted his training from 3rd kyu to nidan. 


Avery is a chiropractic physician practicing in Litchfield.