George Koliopoulos Sensei
George Koliopoulos was born in 1952 in Eleohori, Arcadia a mountain village at the base of Mt. Parnon in the eastern Peloponnese. At the age of 7 his family for economic reasons moved to Chicago, USA, where they had many friends and relatives. There they lived for over 20 years in the north side of Chicago and in 1981 when conditions had gotten better moved back to Greece.
During the 60’s and 70’s when he lived in Chicago, he received his education and in 1975 graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a Bachelors degree in Linguistics and Classical Studies. He continued his studies at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He also worked at many different jobs including construction work with his brother, renovating old historical buildings in Chicago.
George Koliopoulos first contact with Aikido was in September of 1974 when he attended an Aikido demonstration, given by Fumio Toyoda Sensei at Northeastern Illinois University where he was a student. There he had the opportunity to see and meet his future teacher in Aikido and Zen, Fumio Toyoda Sensei. Not knowing it at that time this meeting was to change the direction of his life. That same day he joined the NIU Aikido Club and became a member of the Chicago Ki-Aikido Society.
Initially, what attracted George Koliopoulos to Aikido was not so much the martial aspect but rather the philosophical and spiritual side of the art. The unification of mind, body and spirit in meditation and also in very dynamic movement is what interested him the most. The opportunity to study a traditional Japanese Budo based on harmony and peaceful co-existence under a Japanese Sensei was something that he found very appealing. Also, very important was the friendship that had developed between him and his teacher and later with his students.
He was one of Fumio Toyoda Sensei’s original students and trained extensively under him from 1974 to 1981. During this period he attended seminars given by Master Koichi Tohei and traveled with Toyoda Sensei throughout the Chicago and Mid-West area assisting him with seminars and demos. In 1981, George Koliopoulos tested for Shodan and was also awarded Associate Instructor’s Certificate from the Ki-Aikido Society.
In 1981, George Koliopoulos moved back to Greece with his family and lived in their home town of Tripoli, Arcadia. He opened up a foreign language institute which he worked till 1986. During that time he was searching for an Aikido Dojo in Athens where he could train but without success. In the summers, he would travel back to Chicago where he continued his training with his teacher Fumio Toyoda Sensei. On one of his trips in 1985, after consultation with Toyoda Sensei he decided to open an Aikido Dojo in Greece.
In 1986, George Koliopoulos opened up his first Dojo, “Aikido Association of Arcadia “. At that same time he finally made contact with an Aikido group training in the Athens Polytechnic University. This was part of the original Aikido group in Greece which was founded in 1976 by Mr.Kostas Politis. Presently, it was under the supervision of the British Aikido Federation with Technical Director M. Kanetsuka Sensei. He trained with them for a year and also attended seminars with M. Kanetsuka Sensei, Terry Ezra Sensei and had developed a friendship with Chris Mooney Sensei.
In the summer of 1987, he returned to Chicago where he trained at TenShinKan Dojo and tested for Nidan. He had many meetings and consultations with Toyoda Sensei explaining to him the Aikido situation in Greece and the need for a professional Aikido Dojo in Athens. It was then that he made the decision to make Aikido his life’s work and with the guidance of Toyoda Sensei and the Aikido Association of America, it was decided to open up a Dojo in Athens for the purpose of teaching and promoting Aikido in Greece.
On his return to Greece, with the support of his family and a few friends FukuShinKan Dojo was established in the center of Athens and on January of 1988, the Aikido Association of Athens started classes in Aikido. The first years were very difficult but with hard work and determination the Dojo eventually grew and developed. To further advance and promote Aikido, seminars and martial arts festivals were organized regularly. As the years passed the Association grew in membership and popularity.
In the summer of 1989, he returned again to Chicago and trained at TenShinKan Dojo and tested for Sandan. During his trips to Chicago, he was teaching and conducting coures at TenShinKan Dojo and was also invited to teach in different States where there were AAA affiliated Dojos. By that time, the AAA had grown to one of the biggest Aikido Organizations nationally and the need for an International Organization was then evident.
In 1990 he was appointed Shidoin for the Aikido Association of America and later the Aikido Association International. A year later he was awarded 4th dan after recommendation from Fumio Toyoda Shihan. He was a member of the teaching and testing committee and in 1992, was appointed Regional Director for East Europe for the Aikido Association International under Fumio Toyoda Shihan.
During the period that George Koliopoulos Sensei was Regional Director for the Aikido Association International he not only taught at FukuShinKan Dojo but also traveled extensively throughout Greece, Europe and the United States, conducting seminars and helping to spread Aikido. His simple and clear approach to the art of Aikido as well as his friendly personality made him a popular Instructor among his students.
In 1994, the Aikido Association of America and the Aikido Association International under Fumio Toyoda Shihan were formally recognized to belong to the Aikikai Foundation,Tokyo, Japan. A year later, George Koliopoulos Sensei with recommendations from Fumio Toyoda Shihan was awarded the 5th Dan Certificate from the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, Doshu, Kissomaru Ueshiba.
The years that followed, the Hellenic Aikido Association FukuShinKan Dojo grew and developed into the major Aikido organization in Greece. Every year, hundreds of students where training at FukuShinKan Dojo. There was a full schedule of classes and many courses and seminars were organized. Instructors from Europe, United States, and Japan would teach at the Dojo. Many of George Koliopoulos’ students had reached Dan level and with the help and support of George Koliopoulos opened Dojos in Athens area and throughout Greece.
In 1999, the Hellenic Aikido Association became independent with FukuShinKan Dojo as its Headquarters in Athens and many affiliated Dojos throughout Greece. George Koliopoulos Sensei assumed the position of Technical Director and Chief Instructor for the Hellenic Aikido Association.
In January of 2000 the Hellenic Aikido Association is accepted as an associate member of the United Kingdom Aikikai under Principal William Smith Shihan. George Koliopoulos becomes a member of the United Kingdom Aikikai Technical and Testing Committee. The Hellenic Aikido Association through the United Kingdom Aikikai is affiliated to the Aikikai Foundation, Aikido World Headquarters; Tokyo, Japan.
In 2003, the Hellenic Aikido Association under the leadership of George Koliopoulos Sensei and the support of the United Kingdom Aikikai and help of Mr. William Smith, Shihan applied for formal recognition from the Aikikai as an organization in Greece. In April 2006, the Hellenic Aikido Association was the first organization in Greece to be officially recognized by The Aikikai Foundation, Aikido World Headquarters, as an official organization in Greece.
In January of 2008, George Koliopoulos Sensei with recommendation from The Hellenic Aikido Association was awarded the rank of 6th Dan Aikido from the Aikikai Foundation, Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba.
George Koliopoulos, in March of 2008, after invitation from his student Dimitris Farmakidis and the Hadeland Folkehogskole of Brandbu, Norway had the chance to travel to Japan for the first time. It was a trip he had wanted to make for many years but didn’t have the opportunity. He visited Tokyo and trained at Aikikai Hombu Dojo with Doshu and many Shihans. He traveled to Fukuoka where he trained at Takasago and Tensin Dojo with Morito Suganuma Sensei and to Shingu where he trained with Motomichi Anno Sensei at Kumano Juku Dojo. He also stayed at Kyoto where he visited many of the Shrines which made a big impression on him. George Koliopoulos Sensei was also moved by the beauty of the Japanese countryside, and the discipline, and politeness of the Japanese people.
On his return to Greece, George Koliopoulos Sensei had to encounter many difficulties. The situation in the center of Athens, (Victoria Square) due to economic problems and illegal immigration caused a very unstable condition with a high rate of crime and many riots. People were afraid to travel to Victoria Square especially in the evening and as a result the Dojo membership had dropped drastically. This made it very difficult for FukuShinKan, Athens Dojo to meet its obligations.
In July of 2011, because of the conditions in Athens and his mother’s illness George Koliopoulos and his family moved from Athens to their home town Tripoli, Arcadia. At that time, he relocated his headquarters to his original Dojo “FukuShinKan, Arcadia Dojo”, his Dojo in Athens; he left onto the care of the few senior students that were still at the Dojo.
The Organization had grown to over 20 Dojos in Greece and over 10 Dojos Internationally. Many of the Dojo-Cho and high ranking members had voiced the need for changes and reorganization. There were many meetings and the result was a plan with several proposed changes which included a name change to the Hellenic Aikido Aikikai and relocation of the headquarters. These changes were voted upon by all of the member Dojos and were sent to Aikikai Hombu Dojo in December of 2011. The purpose of these changes was to secure the unity and harmony of the Organization.
Presently, George Koliopoulos is 6th Dan black belt in Aikido. He is Chief Instructor for the Hellenic Aikido Aikikai and his headquarters is in Eleohori, Tripoli, Arcadia. He teaches regularly and continues to travel extensively and conducts seminars in Greece and Europe. He organizes two International Seminars yearly in Athens, where he invites high ranking Aikido Shihans and he does Dan Gradings for his students. He also conducts an annual Instructors Seminar, a HAA National Seminar in Athens and an International Aikido Seminar in Arcadia where students and Instructors come from all over the world and participate in training and many cultural events. His Organization is one based on mutual support, respect and friendship and is responsible to its members for the proper training in Aikido according to the guidelines and principles set forth by the Founder O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba and the Ueshiba family.
George Koliopoulos Sensei has been a student of Aikido for over 42 years now. Since 1986, he has worked as a professional Aikido Instructor with his own organization based in Greece and has been a member of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo since 1994. His main purpose over the years has been the development and expansion of Aikido in Greece and Europe, to bring people together and to help them understand and learn from each other, to appreciate the simplicity of life and the importance of the pursuit of truth and knowledge. Through the daily practice to cleanse oneself of negativity and transform the way one thinks and views life. He has spent a lifetime learning and preserving the old ways and through his art passing the timeless wisdom on to the next generation. It is his sincere hope and desire that he has made a small contribution towards fulfilling the dream of Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei: “helping the peoples of the world to work together in peace through Aikido”.