Aikido of South Florida - Donto Iwama Ryu - Iwama Shin Shin Aiki Shuren Kai USA
Morihiro Saito Sensei
Hitohiro Saito Sensei
Stephanie Yap Sensei

Student Testimonials

Joining Aikido South Florida has been a very unique and fulfilling experience.

Being instructed by Sensei Yap has been a privilege. It has been a challenging both mentally as well as physically.

I have participated in many marathons, triathlons to adventure racing and I had a rude awakening on how difficult it was to get my body to adjust with learning something new. Coordination and concentration while receiving or applying a technique has been the greatest challenge.

My body had been condition to push thru pain, muscle through challenging obstacles and finish the challenge. Although I have been a student at ASF for several years, I am still learning how proper technique and finding ways that use the least amount of energy is the most effective.

Sensei Yap is an incredible teacher and has very talented and devoted sempai. It is amazing to see how effortless they make techniques look. It is all very inspirational and gives me something to strive towards.

Besides the physical and technical aspects of Aikido, I have met and befriended great individuals during my years at this dojo. ASF has become part of my extended family.

Alex V

Aikido is something I've wanted to study for a long time. It has been said that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

I apparently wasn't ready until this year. And the teacher that appeared is the sensei of what is considered to be one of the best aikido schools in the world, located right here in sunny Hollywood, Florida.

I realize that a year experience doesn't exactly qualify me as an expert in the quality of aikido schools, and yet, when I view videos of students from other dojos, it is obvious even to me how amazing the instruction is here at Aikido of South Florida.

It is one of the few aikido dojos that has not only preserved the tradition of weapons practice, considered essential by the founder of aikido, but dedicates nearly half of all available class time to the study and practice of weapons technique.

Sensei Yap brought an immeasurably valuable gift to South Florida when she opened her school here.

As amazing as she is, her most advanced students, or sempai, Alex and Jose, are incredible teachers in their own right, with seemingly unlimited patience, and an unwavering commitment to the proper and safe practice of aikido.

In fact, all of the students I've met at the dojo share the same generosity of time and commitment to the practice of correct technique in a safe environment. Clearly, these shared values have arisen from the foundation of commitment and generosity built and nurtured by Sensei Yap.

She has fostered a community dedicated not only to the practice of aikido, but to the practice of peace, humility, and generosity exemplified by the school's participation in several fundraisers for the less fortunate, parties and work days at the dojo, and picnics and volleyball games at local parks.

I have found that there is a meditative, present-moment awareness quality to aikido practice, and practicing it several times a week has complimented my formal sitting meditation practice in ways I hadn't expected. I am less reactive and more focused in my daily life, as well as during my daily sitting meditation.

The practice of aikido has definitely improved my physical endurance and fitness as well. A deepening sense of spiritual and physical well-being has emerged from, and is fostered by my continued participation with the Iwama style of aikido taught at Aikido of South Florida.

I have been practicing aikido for only a year, but there's no question in my mind that I am a lifelong member of Sensei Yap's dojo.

Gary G
Miami-Dade Fire Battalion Chief Ret.

I am a member of Aikido of South Florida and can sincerely state that it has been the best learning experience and decision I have ever made for myself. It has proven to be the most valuable tool in my life's progression thus far as I have learned so much about myself through my practice.

Prior to joining the dojo, my understanding of any martial art was bound by frequent trips to Hollywood blockbuster films. So, like most people, I had envisioned many scenarios of what it would like to enter a dojo.

As I recall, Sensei Stephanie Yap required two classes watched before registration. This is so we can get a realistic impression of Aikido lessons, what to expect and what is expected from her members. Upon observing the first class, I found an instant admiration for the high quality of respect shared by so many people for the dojo, Sensei and the art of aikido. I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of this environment.

I have found that through my time spent on the mat training and how the members are all responsible for taking care of the dojo, my respect has now extended to friendship with all students of Aikido of South Florida.

Through the physical and mental hardships of my training, I find that it has helped me tremendously in my daily life as it has heightened my confidence level and honed my concentration. I have found far more inner strength than I thought existed. Still, there is so much more to learn.

I am so fortunate to have found such a traditional school with a vigilant and insightful Sensei. Sensei Stephanie Yap is a dedicated instructor with an enormous amount of experience and technical skill and has a great passion for the art. She and the other members of the dojo are always willing to help anyone wanting clarification after classes.

Sensei says that as long as we stay sincere in our trainings we will always improve, and I look forward to growing and improving!

Jason R.

My two children have been students of Aikido of South Florida since 2011.  The discipline they learn at the dojo has helped them both inside and outside of the dojo. They thrive on helping students who are a lower rank than they are, the confidence that this fosters in them is fantastic. I love to see how all the students help one another without hesitation.

The training is strict and not only are they learning the skills of aikido, but they are learning how to take directions as well. The class and it's structure teaches them a healthy sense of respect towards others as well. I highly recommend Aikido of South Florida.

Jennifer W

Over the past years I have attended several martial arts schools including aikido and I definitely believe that Aikido of South Florida is the best martial arts school in South Florida.

Throughout my research I definitely found it to be the most traditional school, a school where you can understand the fundamentals of aikido in a traditional training environment. Yap Sensei is incredible passionate and can sometimes be very strict in her training but this is because she gives great importance to the basics and more so preventing any injuries due to careless practices.

Until now, I was never able to find this level of attention to detail in an instructor in any dojo. Most other instructors provide few corrections and even less attention to the understanding the technique. Aikido of South Florida is very different and will be an eye opening experience if you are not used to this type of training, discipline or putting your ego to the side.

I highly recommend Aikido of South Florida if you are serious about learning. You will not be disappointed.


Before joining Aikido of South Florida, I was looking for something that would provide the tools to make me a better person, a martial art, Aikido. I can seriously say now that there is nothing that can be sold or purchased under the sun that can affect your entire being as effectively and positively as the study and practice of Aikido at Aikido of South Florida under Stephanie Yap Sensei. I know my experiences on and off the mat with the dojo thus far will forever be a valuable asset in my life.

South Florida can be a tough place, just as the training in the dojo, but the journey of success begins with the decision to want to grow, want to be a better person. I have found the dojo is a place where I feel secure and confident, and not in a false sense of the word, but based on having a family who I can trust, and training that is honest. The training most days are very challenging physically and mentally, but ASF is a family that will support you in many ways. Monday through Friday 7:00-8:30, I know I will be in a place surrounded by positive individuals who are on the same path, people who only want to learn and sincerely train with a teacher who sincerely believes you will be a better person through aikido.

There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child. What I appreciate most about Aikido of South Florida, more than the mental, physical or spiritual aspects of practice, is the knowledge that by committing to my practice, mind, body and spirit, I know that I have earned a loyal family who supports my journey.

We have all missions in life, and although the destination may be different, what brings us together to this dojo is not just the desire to train a Budo from an exceptional teacher, but a place where I found friends and family- and learning that if you give, you will receive 10 fold.

Gabriel Joseph Z.

Sensei Stephanie Yap constantly exceeds my very high-demanding expectations. She is not only an outstanding instructor in Aikido, but teaches my children extremely important traditional values- Honor, Respect, work ethics, among many others. Immediately after visiting the Dojo, people realize that this school is not about money, not about business, but to truly share this amazing traditional martial art.

Having spent many years practicing martial marts myself, it was very easy for me to evaluate a school, not only based on the techniques and style, but the whole philosophy and approach to teaching. It was NOT easy though to find the right school for my children... After MONTHS of researching, visiting and evaluating many many schools from Kendall to Boca Raton, I concluded that the best option for my kids was Aikido of South Florida.

I consider myself very fortunate to have found a TRUE 6th DEGREE BLACK BELT in Aikido, fully accredited by the most reputable Aikido organization in the world. She is not only amazing with open hand, self defense techniques, but extremely proficient with weapons as well.

If you are looking for a school that will not only teach your children (or adults) one of the greatest self defense martial arts systems, but values, discipline and ethics, in a no-nonsense positive environment, you found the right place.

Daniel Brio

My 6 years old boy has been with Sensei Stephanie and we really enjoy seeing him practice Aikido in Aikido of South Florida. He looks forward to his training with Sensei every time and he loves it!

Sensei has reinforced in him, self-discipline, respectful manners toward others, concentration and he is getting a great physical exercise.

Sensei Stephanie is wonderful, the dojo is so clean and peaceful; her class is well managed, and the kids are really focused on the class.

We are so happy that we found Aikido of South Florida, and we highly recommend it to everyone.

Pablo and Maria

I'm currently a student at Aikido of South Florida. I've attended a few martial arts schools including aikido and I would definitely say it's the best martial arts school in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area.

It is also the most traditional school. If you really want a school where you can truly understand the ins and outs of aikido then this is it. Yap Sensei can sometimes be very strict in her training but this is because she gives great importance to understanding the basics and being able to perform the techniques perfectly on a fundamental level first before moving on to more advanced levels.

I was never able to find this level of attention to detail in an instructor in any of the dojos I've attended before. Most other instructors will give you a few corrections here or there but then will accept your technique even if the basics aren't fully correct yet. Frankly, I don't think this type of training is for everyone.

I've seen students leave the dojo after only one week because they're not used to this type of training, and I admit sometimes it can be very daunting both physically and mentally. However, if you do have the desire to truly learn and can keep up with the training then this is the school you want to attend.

Sal Al

I have two sons and both have attended Aikido of South Florida for almost 4 years. They have participated in Summer & Winter camps and they also train during the year. The dojo environment has been amazing for building their character, focus, discipline & sense of belonging. As boys, they have so much energy that is best channeled in an environment where they have organized, physical activity.

Training under Sensei Stephanie Yap is a once in a lifetime experience that has helped them increase their focus, learn new skills & working well with others. The training they receive is unique because the focus is not on violence or fighting but on self-defense & restoring the peace in any situation. Being responsible and doing the right thing is also a focus.

There are so many great mentors at the dojo. We are so happy to be a part of the Aikido South Florida Family. We look forward to many more years of training. The boys have enjoyed learning conversational Japanese as well as learning culture & practicing new mediums of art.

There are so many good things to say! If you are considering Japanese martial arts, this is the place to attend in South Florida.

Michelle Edmonds & Eddie
Proud parents of Marlo & Dylan

I first became interested in Aikido after some brief research in about 1998. After researching and visiting other dojos and sitting through entire classes, I felt these dojos had too much competitive attitude and egos which went against anything I had previously read about aikido, and were also lacking the traditional Japanese dojo etiquette I was in search of. Therefore, it took me quite some time before actually finding the right dojo. It wasn't until January of 2000 after moving to Hollywood that I stumbled across Aikido of South Florida. From the moment I set foot in the dojo, the feeling was entirely different. The aesthetics of the dojo, the students and the instructor reflected more of what I had previously read on aikido, the dojo and Japanese culture itself.

In fact, to make sure that I was making the right choice, I sat and watched classes for two consecutive weeks, everyday! I think Sensei probably thought I was a stalker of some sort.

Immediately after joining, I knew I had made the right choice. The instruction is exceptional and the intensity level is always high. If you like detailed instruction, your brain will be on overdrive here!

The training is intense and I remember the senior students really seemed to make an effort to make me feel welcomed and assisted me greatly in my early stages of training. The style that is taught is extremely traditional and focuses on extreme details. This is all a reflection from the numerous years Stephanie Yap Sensei has spent living and training under Morihiro Saito Sensei, 9th dan, the longest uchideshi (live-in apprentice) to serve O'Sensei. Saito Sensei gave 24 years of his life to live and learn under the Founder.

Over the years, and after meeting and speaking with many students when we have either traveled to participate in seminars around the world, or when we have hosted seminars ourselves, they always mention how lucky we are to have Yap Sensei as our instructor. Her intensity, passion and attention to detail are evident to anyone watching her teach. I became so addicted to aikido I found myself training 6 days a week, 12 classes a week!

Now, more than ten years later, at age 43, and training towards my 3RD dan, I have become one of the senior students that are assisting the new members of the dojo with their training. The one thing I am completely sure about is that our dojo has a unique family feeling with all our students. For this reason, I will probably be here for the next ten years. I believe I have made some friends for life within the dojo.

Steven Lemus
Private investigator/Security Specialist

I have always been attracted by the beauty of Aikido and I consider myself fortunate to learn this impressive art from Stephanie Yap Sensei at Aikido of South Florida. I believe it is extremely important to practice the founding techniques of Aikido correctly within an unbiased environment and Sensei Yap's dedication and power to touch student's hearts through the eloquence of her teaching is very inspiring.

Beyond the high quality of instruction from Sensei Stephanie Yap, the camaraderie among students in the dojo also creates an even more powerful sense of confidence and enhances positive thinking, which all have positively benefited the unavoidable instabilities of day to day life. I warmly recommend this unique traditional school for all those who are willing to learn and practice the exceptional art of Aikido and enjoy the rewarding results of their passion and dedication.

Dan P.
Electrical Engineer

I have been a practitioner of Aikido for about 6 years, on and off. I have also trained in Krav-maga and I was a wrestler during my junior high and high school years.

I am currently working as a House Arrest officer for Miami Dade County. I do this job 4 days a week, 10 hours a day. This job requires me to check up on mostly pretrial offenders ordered to house arrest, by judges in Dade County (their charges can range from 1st degree murder to driving while license suspended). When an offender cuts their monitoring bracelet or leaves their home and fails to return, I also go looking for them...In my off time, I am a Defensive Tactics Instructor for the Miami Dade College School of Justice (law enforcement academy). I have trained hundreds of police and correctional officers in self defense. And, one weekend a month and two weeks a year(normally), I serve the United States Air Force Reserve as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician(If you have seen the movie hurt locker, you know what I'm talking about). I have deployed twice to Iraq, as a team leader. I say all this so you will understand what type of environment I operate in and what dangers I am exposed to.

From November of 2008 to present I have trained at Aikido of South Florida, under the guidance of Stephanie Yap sensei. I have found Yap Sensei to be a competent and thoughtful teacher. She is consistently detail oriented and strives to instill this behavior in all of her students. Her methodology is contemporary, yet she maintains all the traditional aspects of Aikido teachings. She not only makes our classes physically and mentally challenging, but she makes them relevant and enjoyable. Her dedication to her student's growth is beyond reproach.

My work environment can be very chaotic; I find relief in Aikido. Stress is the cause of many health and personal problems for people in my line of work. Aikido is a great tool to manage and relieve tension. Whether it's the yoga we do for warm up, the weapons or empty hand training, you have to recruit a great majority of the muscles in your body. At the end of class, you would be hard pressed to find a group of muscles that haven't been loosened up...During class you have to maintain focus; and discipline is a must. I operate in an environment, where lack of focus and discipline can be life threatening. Aikido has helped me to maintain my composure in tense and unpredictable situations.

Being someone who has a hand in training new law enforcement officers, I find Aikido to be a perfect fit. I would recommend it to anyone of my colleagues. The focus on body movement, balance displacement and joint manipulation are all aspects of defensive tactics for law enforcement officers. Aikido would be a compliment to any style of martial arts practiced and it would greatly enhance your vision and responsiveness.

Lastly, Aikido of South Florida is not just a place to learn, it's a place to grow. When you join this dojo, you become part of a family; you are not just another face in the crowd.

Gavin Sinclair
Correctional Officer/ Defensive Tactics Instructor / EOD Technician

Joining Aikido of South Florida three years ago has been the best physical activity experience in my life. When I started, I had never done any martial arts and really did not know what to expect. I was not very coordinated, so learning at the beginning was very tough. But lucky for me, I found a place with a Sensei (Stephanie Yap) that just never has given up on me and would not take an "I am not coordinated" or "my body cannot do that" excuses. By training regularly, I have much improved my flexibility, focus, strength, patience and learning skills.

I use what I have learned not only on the mat, but in my everyday life. On top of it all, I have gained a wonderful group of friends with a one of a kind martial artist mentality.

Marianne N.

It's not enough to know the type of martial arts and to have the guts to actually learn it. You have to do your research 'coz enrolling in a school can either make or break you. I believe I chose the right Aikido school. Based from my inquiry and observation of the classes before joining, as well as my first-hand experience with Sensei Stephanie Yap and the sempai (higher belters), I can attest that they really know their craft. What's unique about the school is that I not only learn the open hand techniques (what Aikido is known for) but also the weapon techniques. I didn't even know that Aikido uses weapons before this. Thus, I got more than I bargained for! What's more, the atmosphere in the dojo is very welcoming. It's a fusion of different cultures with people from different walks of life yet sharing that bond known as Aikido. We also get to hang-out after classes. Sometimes have parties at the dojo, so it's like having an extended family. Which I think is so cool!!

Being in aikido class for me is a therapy. It de-stresses and helps me cope with depression caused by the struggles of my personal life and my stressful work. It makes me zone out everything for at least 2 hours while on the mat and just focus on the class. Aikido is self-defense and my form of exercise. Looking at my friends who are depressed and so stressed out with work, I'd say in my mind...that used to be me. But, I'm feeling better now, and I ain't going back to that!

Would I recommend Aikido of South Florida to friends? Most definitely...not only to friends but to all the readers of this article! I stand 5', but I can work with anybody in class (be it a 6' guy), it doesn't matter 'coz it works. If I can do it, so can everyone else!

-Van V

I guess my martial arts journey began in the late sixties when I studied Tae Kwon Do with Henry Cho in New York City. After that I went to London around 1969, and started studying Aikido with Sensei Chiba for a couple of months, after which I had to return to the States because I couldn't extend my visas in London.

I knew I wanted to stay in Aikido so I went to the New York Aikikai & trained with Sensei Yamada. Around that time I started Tai Chi Chuan with William CC Chen & stayed there for around four years. I stopped doing any martial arts after this and in 1990 I moved to Hollywood, Florida. It was around 1996 that I started to get the itch to get back into martial arts & I started looking around. One day I happened into a martial arts store & they had a card from Aikido South Florida. The people there said I should check it out, that the teacher there was very good.

It was about a week later that I went to observe a class. I could see that the school was very traditional & the Dojo was clean & immaculate. I had just hit fifty years old at the time & so I decided it was either now or never. I have always loved Aikido & I'm happy I got back into it when I did.

Sensei Yap can be a taskmaster at times but she is an incredible teacher. She knows her shit! It's been fourteen years now & I still love going to class. I don't go as much as I use to but I expect to train until I am physically unable to.

The Dojo has been & still is an incredible place for me to be, it's very much like an extended family & everyone there is sincerely into helping each other.

Mark Chin

Aikido of South Florida dojo is an excellent school to learn the traditional Japanese martial art of Aikido. The dojo environment is disciplined yet very friendly and outgoing. They are always open to newcomers regardless of skill level, size, or strength. It is like a second home where the instructor and students are always willing to stay after class and assist you with your techniques. Sensei Stephanie Yap is extremely knowledgeable and an excellent instructor. It is amazing to watch and learn from such a skilled aikidoist.

Aikido is not only a great martial art for self defense, it is also a good way to get exercise, lose weight, reduce stress, and improve your mental focus and clarity. If you are looking for a traditional martial art that instills discipline, camaraderie, excellent hand to hand and weapons training, then the Aikido of South Florida dojo is for you. I would highly recommend this school.

Darren Watson Investment Consultant

Walking into Aikido South Florida for the first time was quite an experience. The dojo has an expansive, spacious feeling with a distinct Japanese decor. When there is no one on the mat, it has a zen-like energy, quiet and calm. However, when training is in motion, the atmosphere changes to being dynamic and vibrant. It is a welcoming environment to train, to learn, and to just be.

Training with Sensei Yap has been an amazing experience. I will never forget the first time I heard her kiai. Her power and strength are immense. Being a student of hers is humbling, with her knowledge and high standard of Aikido. Her instruction is a blend of direct focus with gentle encouragement. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to train under her.

The senior students at Aikido South Florida are wonderful people. They create a feeling of family, and are always willing to assist and guide. I have only felt support from them, and have never felt the stereotypical aire of superiority often found in higher ranks. The process of entering the world of Aikdio has been amazing. With no previous martial arts background, it has been, and continues to be, a huge learning curve. I am learning a new language, both literally as well as in physical form. It requires my full attention at all times, which is a great opportunity to be in the present moment. I am so grateful to have found Aikdio of South Florida, with its roots in Sensei Yap.

A. Eager Educator

I started training at Aikido of South Florida over ten years ago, and it hardly seems to have been so long. During this time, I have had the opportunity to experience so many adventures that would have normally escaped my life. I for one, have evolved greatly through my involvement with the dojo, which in turn, has enriched my life on many other levels. I feel incredibly appreciative to have a teacher so dedicated to the art and to her students, as well as to her own teacher, Saito Sensei. Sensei Yap continues to inspire all who she seems to touch and so much of her experience has been engrained in her students due to her relationship with each one of her students.

I am a part of a very unique environment that is not only due to the exceptional instruction, but also the unique sense of family and trust that permeates throughout the dojo and it's members. The classes at Aikido of South Florida are just as noteworthy as they are a combination of being physically and mentally challenging. Sensei Yap creates an atmosphere which somehow compels you to perform better and help others to do the same. Being a member has afforded me some of the best experiences and it is a lifestyle changer. I will not hesitate in the least to recommend this school as something that must be experienced.

Noam Lipaz Executive Chef

Thank you so very much. Although words will not do justice to express my gratitude, let me say that I am changed as an aikidoka but more so in a personal way in your presence. I am honored to be on the mat with you and Aikido South Florida. For me, aikido is viewed from the lense of ukemi and there have been no greater expressions of joy and vigorous practice than my opportunities to connect with you as uke. Rest assured I hope we have much more time to meet up so that I can continue my study of the art we both love.

I realize that I may not be able to offer much, but know that I am sincere and would offer 100% of my intent. I have found myself stunned by your intensity, professionalism and friendly nature. I am humbled and feel the urgent calling to continue to be in touch with you. I could probably go on at length, but let me wrap up by saying: DOMO ARIGATO GOZAIMASHTA SENSEI!

Gasper LaRocca