A brief introduction to our instructors:
Dojo-Cho / Chief Instructor
Gary Wagener Sensei is a Sandan (3rd degree black belt) Aikikai, recognized by Hombu dojo in Japan. Mr. Wagener has served as a member of the National Teaching Committee for Zenshinkai Aikido Association.
The centering and harmonious aspect of daily practice is what originally and continually draws Mr. Wagener to aikido. "After training for some time students begin to notice their everyday movements change, their breathing changes, and their daily communication changes. This injection of focused harmony and budo spirit begin to manifest itself through the understanding of aikido." Mr. Wagener's goal as a practitioner and instructor is to help students understand the foundations and find joy in their training.
In addition to his training and instructing at Zenshinkai Aikido of Manhattan: Genshinkan dojo, Mr. Wagener has taught aikido programs to underprivileged children in New York Public Schools.
Robert Hoff Sensei is a Sandan (3rd degree black belt) Aikikai, recognized by Hombu dojo in Japan. Mr. Hoff began his aikido training at Jikishinkan dojo in Brooklyn, New York, under the instruction of Joseph Jarman Sensei. It was following an intensive period in the practice of Zen Buddhism that he became initially attracted to the art. “I began training shortly after my introduction to Zen. I found in aikido a more physical and ultimately fulfilling means to similar ends – thinking and acting with compassion, existing more in the moment, being less attached to the ultimately transient nature of being. Aikido necessitates that the practitioner be supremely present, and it’s that reward that sustains my practice.”
In addition to his experience teaching aikido to both young people and adults, Mr. Hoff is a history teacher at a K-12 public school in Manhattan.
Mr. Smith is a Shodan (1st degree black belt), recognized by Hombu dojo in Japan. He started his training in 2007 and instantly found aikido to be a unique, challenging martial art that not only trains the body but also the mind. It's still the same today. "Aikido just keeps unpacking and revealing more and more to me. It teaches applicable techniques for self-defense, but its training also offers a deeper understanding of what it means to have a calm mind, body, and spirit. Being in the moment has always been an important lesson for me."
Outside the dojo, Mr. Smith works in digital marketing, and has an MA degree in Media Studies from The New School.