October 21, 2018

Chief Instructor: Denise Barry Sensei

Denise Barry - Chief Instructor

Denise Barry Sensei holds a Master of Arts Degree in Organizational Development and a 6th Degree Black Belt in the non-violent martial art of Aikido. She is the founder and Chief Instructor of Kuma Kai Aikido in Sebastopol, CA. She began studying Aikido in 1977 and opened Kuma Kai Aikido in 1995. In addition to teaching regularly at her school in Sebastopol, Denise also teaches and consults with groups and individuals in Europe and New Zealand.


Denise Barry Sensei began her journey on the Aiki Path in March of 1977. She was not looking to participate in the martial arts and had never heard of Aikido as it was just finding it’s footing in the United States at that time. She immediately knew that the principles and practices of Aikido held very important life lessons.

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The Kuma Kai Aikido Head Instructor or Sensei – Denise Barry- not only trains you well in the techniques of the art, but helps you to understand how to embody the true spirit of Aikido: how to be in harmony with nature and life even in the face of a confrontation.

I have great admiration for Barry Sensei, because she “walks the walk,” is dedicated to the art, is very clear and honest in how she communicates Aikido to her students and shows them the hard part – how to be honest with oneself.

– M.K.

Teaching Philosophy

I love working with people and feel honored to participate in and witness the ways in which these practices influence people’s lives.

In my teaching, I like to emphasize the ways in which Aikido movements mirror both the subtle and powerful movements in nature and the natural everyday movements of human beings. Done properly, Aikido should feel natural and easy. Students practice moving, breathing, grounding, centering, blending, extension, timing and connection in a relaxed and dynamic way. Through the embodiment of these principles, students learn to live more fully and consciously both on and off the mat. They learn how to embody what O’Sensei called “the loving protection of all beings”

Aikido practice affords a student the opportunity to know themselves deeply (polish their spirit) and to understand and work with their responses to varying degrees of stress or pressure. The goal of the student is to engage both their practice and their daily life with a relaxed body, an alert mind and a strong spirit. I emphasize the importance of allowing oneself to open to and utilize the universal energies that are here to assist us. The integration of these elements provides the student with a powerful and compassionate presence and an ease of adaptability in their training and to life’s changing or difficult circumstances.

Thoughts on These Times (Essay by Sensei):

The times in which we live are both challenging and exciting. They are challenging because old paradigms are breaking down, resources are limited, pressures abound and there rarely seems to be enough time to do the things we need to do, let alone the things we want to do. It can be easy to feel as though we living at the behest of outside forces.

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My most memorable Aikido experience:

My most memorable Aikido experience was also my first Aikido experience. I became enthralled with the hidden aspects of Aikido when I spent a day doing energy awareness and basic Aikido practices in one of my high school classes. I was a junior in high school.

The class was taught by Richard Moon and Paul Ehrlich both of whom were studying with Robert Nadeau Sensei at the Turk Street dojo. I knew at the time that I was looking for “something more” than life in my head. Doing Aikido for a day had given me a glimpse of the possibilities. I felt so strongly that Aikido held important answers for me, that I jumped at the chance to go on a six week trip with them to the Southwest.

The trip turned out to be life altering for me.

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