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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.”

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