Kevin McGough, Chief Instructor
While participating in competitive and sometimes violent sports during his teen years on the Big Island of Hawaii, McGough Sensei often heard of and was intrigued by stories of the unusual powers displayed by Aikido practitioners in the area. After witnessing a few of these events first hand, he became even more curious.
While attending the University of Hawaii, McGough Sensei, accompanied by his now wife Leilani, started training in Aikido in 1979 in a physical education class taught by Takashi Nonaka Sensei and Ramon Goya Sensei. Soon thereafter, having fallen in love with the art, McGough Sensei joined Aikikai of Hilo under Barbara and Robert Klein Sensei students of Akira Tohei Shihan.
In 1987 McGough Sensei spent one year studying under Sadao Yoshioka Shihan in Honolulu. Upon returning to Hilo, McGough Sensei began assisting with teaching duties in the children's program.
He moved to Kohala in 1996 and began studying with Kristina Varjan Shihan and Rikko Varjan Sensei, both students of Kazuo Chiba Shihan.
McGough Sensei received a shidoin teaching certificate from Chiba Sensei of Birankai International in 2007, and currently holds the rank of Godan. His two children, Hollie and Ryan, have also chosen to continue their practice that started in childhood and are both yudansha.
One of McGough Sensei's greatest joys is to be in the Dojo with others, practicing, teaching, and learning. In addition to his Aikido practice he has had a life long interest in energy medicine and hands on healing methods.
Leilani McGough, Assistant Instructor
Leilani started her practice in 1979 along with Kevin Mcgough sensei. Her aikido career closely matches that of McGough sensei as described above, and she currently holds the rank of yondan (4th degree black belt). She instructs junior (ages 9 to 12) and general adult classes.
Ryan McGough, Assistant Instructor
As Kevin and Leilani's son, Ryan started his aikido training before he was born in 1988, but started formally taking class at the age of five. Since then he has trained steadily, and currently holds the rank of Sandan.
Sandra Otero, Assistant Instructor
Sandra began her study of aikido in 2003 at Kohala Aikikai. She also instructs junior (ages 9 to 12) and general adult classes. Sandra currently holds the rank of nidan (2nd degree black belt).
Kristina Varjan, Senior Instructor
Kristina Varjan started Aikido training in 1975 at New York Aikikai with Y. Yamada Shihan. From 1989-1992 she was in the advanced teacher training program with T.K. Chiba Shihan at San Diego Aikikai. She is a member of the Senior Council in Birankai North America, an international Aikido organization founded by T.K. Chiba Shihan.
Varjan Sensei established Kohala Aikikai, with her husband, Rikko Varjan Sensei, on the Big Island of Hawaii from 1996-2005 and New Mexico Aikikai from 2005-2008 in Placitas, New Mexico. She was the Technical Advisor and Senior Instructor for Aikido of Albuquerque from 2008-2012. She currently holds the rank of 6th dan and shihan.
In addition to her Aikido teaching, Varjan Sensei teaches Awareness Through Movement classes at Kohala Aikikai and maintains a private practice as a practitioner of the Feldenkrais Method. She also teaches Aikido and the Feldenkrais Method in Europe.
Rikko Varjan, Ph.D., Senior Instructor
Rikko Varjan began practicing martial arts in the mid 1960's and in 1972 received his first Aikido instruction from M. Nakazono Shihan in Santa Fe, New Mexico. From 1989-1992 he was a kenshusei with T.K. Chiba Shihan at San Diego Aikikai in the advanced teacher training program. He is the President of Birankai International, an Aikido organization founded by T.K. Chiba Shihan.
Varjan Sensei established Kohala Aikikai with his wife, Kristina Varjan Shihan, on the Big Island of Hawaii from 1996-2005 and New Mexico Aikikai from 2005-2008 in Placitas, New Mexico. He was a Senior Instructor for Aikido of Albuquerque from 2008-2012. He currently holds the rank of 6th dan and shidoin.
In addition, to his Aikido teaching, Varjan Sensei is a Mental Health Consultant in Neuropsychology and Counseling Psychology. He maintains a private practice in Kapaau, Hawaii specializing in Neurofeedback therapy and training. He also teaches Aikido and provides Neurofeedback training/consultation in Europe.