• Aikido Ethiopia Project

    AEP coordinator Lou Pollack and members of the Hawassa Dojo.

  • Tai Sai Celebration

    Observing O Sensei’s passing atop Tabor Mountain

  • Taina Nyström

    Fetzer grant funds in action

  • Ikkyo Omote

    Traditional aikido training in Hawassa

  • Humble Beginnings

    AE Founder Don Levine performs Hawassa’s first tai no henko with Tesfaye Tekelu

The Aikido Ethiopia Project (AEP) grew out of the success of the Hawassa Peace Dojo, which is one of AE’s oldest and most successful programs – what began in 2005 with a simple tai no henko demonstration between AE founder Don Levine and a local youth named Tesfaye Tekelu has blossomed into a thriving dojo in the Ethiopian town of Hawassa.

The Hawassa Dojo (the town of Awassa officially changed its name to Hawassa in 2012) provides regular aikido instruction for 200 boys, girls and young adults ages 7 to 25, more than 30% of whom are female. The dojo is part of a larger community organization called Action for Youth and Community Change (AYCC), which provides health and fitness opportunities and community education programs in Hawassa and throughout Ethiopia.

Training conditions are far from ideal, yet the students participate with smiles on their faces. The dojo itself is a mud and grass structure with cloth-covered mats. Temperatures are in the 70s year-round, and humidity is high. Some students have dogi that have been provided by AE donors, while many train in their street clothes.

AEP is based on the Hawassa Dojo model, and seeks to replicate its success elsewhere in Ethiopia. Among its current initiatives is planning for the inaugural Ethiopian aikido seminar in November 2014, which will feature six shodan exams, including the first female aikido shodan candidate.

“Aikido changed and shaped me and the path I am on. It continues to shape me as an individual and my community around me.”

Tesfaye TekeluFirst Hawassa Dojocho

Tesfaye Tekelu

When AE founder Don Levine called him up to demonstrate tai no henko, Tesfaye Tekelu never could have imagined that he would become Ethiopia’s first aikido black belt, or the first dojocho of the Hawassa dojo. His journey has paved the way for many others.

Read more here.


Action for Youth and Community Change (AYCC) serves 375 youth who actively participate in aikido, theater, sports, writing, and other programs that reach 75,000 audience members annually.

Read more here.

Tai SaiTai Sai

Members of the Hawassa Dojo joined Aikido Ethiopia Project coordinator Lou Pollack for a Tai Sai celebration atop Tabor Mountain. Visit AE’s YouTube channel to see a video of the event honoring O Sensei’s passing.

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