Head Instructor

Josef Birdsong, 6th Dan, Shihan

Josef Birdsong Sensei has been teaching aikido since 1974. He is also on the faculty of Austin Community College where he began the aikido program in 1986. He began his training in 1970 in Sacramento, California, under the teaching of Mr. Dang Tri, 6th Dan. In 1974 he began attending the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champagne, where he began training under Akira Tohei, chief instructor of the Midwest Aikido Federation and technical director of the United States Aikido Federation.

Birdsong Sensei is a Shihan with the United States Aikido Federation, and studied under Tohei Shihan from 1974 to 1999.  He was an apprentice at the Midwest Aikido Center from 1978 to 1980, and part of Tohei-Sensei's teaching program until 1999.  Birdsong Sensei has a masters in Physical Education and extensive background in elementary, secondary and college sports coaching and teaching.

Assistant Instructors

Ismael Rangel, 5th Dan (Godan), shidoin

Ismael joined Aikido of Austin in January of 1988 after attending a demonstration by Sensei Birdsong. Having no martial arts background or interest in any physical sports, the philosophy and ideas behind Aikido were the main attraction for the just turned 30 year old. It provided a means of training to deal with a more physically demanding job he had recently started as a Probation officer with the Juvenile court. Several career and life changes have occurred, but his Aikido practice has remained constant.

Much of his development in Aikido comes from being fortunate enough to study
with Sensei Birdsong for over 20 years. Many of his classes are colored by
practicing with a sense of peace and fluidity, while maintaining a vigorous
pace. Ismael teaches Monday noon class as well as occasional evening and
Saturday classes.

Nancy Birdsong, 5th Dan (Godan), Fukushidoin

Nancy Birdsong is a godan (5th degree black belt) and Fukushidoin (certified teacher), of the United States Aikido Federation. She has been on the Board of Directors since 1990 and was a major contributor to the current design of the dojo.

Nancy started training with Aikido of Austin in 1989. Previously a student of Tai Chi and an athlete since high school,  Nancy was initially attracted to the graceful, interactive, and dynamic qualities she found in Aikido after a friend invited her to try a few classes. At the time she expected to train in Aikido for only a few months. Now, years later in her practice she continues to be drawn to the cooperative nature of the movements, the unspoken aspects, the inevitable health benefits, and the community of the dojo.

James Goeman, 4th Dan (YOndan), Fukushidoin

James first joined Aikido of Austin in the fall of 1988, having trained in a variety of other martial arts as a child and young adult.  He left the dojo and the city of Austin to pursue a graduate degree in 1992, and joined the local Seidokan aikido club at his university. He was awarded a shodan by Seidokan founder Rod Kobayashi Sensei, and then went to Denton, Texas to enroll in a doctoral program. 

While in Denton, James founded an aikido club at the University of North Texas in 1994, and then an off-campus dojo in 1995.  After the death of Kobayashi Sensei, James asked for Birdsong Sensei’s assistance and through him re-affiliated with the Midwest Aikido Federation under Akira Tohei Sensei in 1996.  After earning his doctorate, James returned to Austin in 2002 and once again joined Aikido of Austin.

James enjoys practicing simple and effective techniques with an emphasis on weapons training.  He teaches the Friday evening class, usually featuring the bokken (wooden sword), and the Sunday afternoon class, usually including the jo (short staff).

Sempai: Senior Members

Cody R Cowan, 3rd Dan (sandan), Yudansha

As a teenager, Cody was introduced to Aikido & Birdsong Sensei in 1997 through ACC Aikido Classes. Aikido’s ability to effectively engage conflict without ego, as well as it’s (and Sensei’s) emphasis on world community & the Heart, made a deep impression on this young man – he immediately felt at home! He joined the dojo & began studying Aikido diligently. Afterwards, he received regular seminar instruction & tested under Akira Tohei Shihan, until his passing in 1999.

In 2001, Cody moved to San Francisco, continuing training at SF Aikikai under Joel Poslun Sensei – becoming introduced to the Aikido of Kanai Sensei, Yamada Sensei, Shibata Sensei & many others. Returning to Austin in 2003, he has continued his training with Birdsong Sensei at AOA, as well as instruction with David Halprin Shihan (from Framingham Aikikai – a sister-dojo of AOA), until the present. Cody has a life-long career in music & the Live Music Industry in Austin, and his experience working in Clubs in Austin for the past 15 years informs his approach to conflict resolution & the martial spirit.

Cody regularly instructs noon classes on Wednesdays. He focuses on the basics of A. Tohei Sensei and of Kanai Sensei. Cody also leads the Sunday meditation class at the dojo. His study of meditation & breath in classical Sufism informs his understanding of Ki (Universal & Personal), intuition, Spiritual Chivalry (moral/ego training), subtle centers (hara/ lata’if/ chakras) & breath – all of which are regular topics in both classes.

Sheng-Cheng (Hans) Huang, 3rd Dan (Sandan)

Originally from Taiwan, Sheng-Cheng first started training in Aikido when he studied at the University of North Texas in 2001 as a graduate student.  He was promoted to the 4th kyu by David Delong sensei (4th Dan, Iwama Aikido of the lineage of Morihiro Saito shihan) before he moved to Austin to pursuit his doctoral study at the University of Texas in 2003.  Sheng-Cheng continued training in the Aikido club of UT Austin until he joined Aikido of Austin in 2005.  Sheng-Cheng was promoted to the 1st Dan by Jo Birdsong sensei in 2009.

Sheng-Cheng leads the Monday evening class that focuses on basics of Aikido practice: ukemi (taking falls) and taisabaki (basic movements).

Dmitry Snovalnikov, 3rd Dan (Sandan)

Eric DeValpine, 3rd Dan (Sandan)

Jason Ferrell, 2nd Dan (Nidan)

Sean Wheeler, 1st Dan (Shodan)

Billy Zachary, 2nd Kyu (Nikyu)