Our Dojo Instructors

Michele Simone - 4th Dan

Michele stepped on the mat for the first time in 1989 in San Luis Obispo and has been teaching Aikido since 1995. One of the highlights of Michele's teaching was the opportunity to work with children age 4 - 12 when she directed a local Aikido program for 9 years. Michele considers Frank Doran Shihan (Aikido West, Redwood City) and Michael Friedl Shihan (Aikido of Ashland; California Aikido Association Division 2 Head) her primary teachers. She travels several times a year to train with them. 


In the various stages of her training for the past 28 years, Michele's Aikido has been influenced and supported by many teachers: Tom Elliott, Mary Tesoro Sensei (Aikido of San Luis Obispo), Danielle Smith Sensei, Dennis Evans Sensei, Michael Smith Sensei (Aikido of Monterey), Cindy Hayashi Sensei (Aikido West), and Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan (Boulder Aikikai). Michele's interest in Aikido emerged while studying full contact, adrenaline-state, self defense training referred to as "Model Mugging" where she taught classes for over 10 years. Since 2014, Michele has been practicing Krav Maga as an extension of her interest in self defense and protective use of force. 


In reference to questions and concerns about human aggression and self defense, Michele likes to paraphrase Dan Millman's words: "Unless someone has the power to truly say no, they never truly have the power to say yes." Since 2009, Michele has provided Aikido training to at-risk youth and has presented to local agencies on the use of Aikido principles for effective interpersonal skills and conflict resolution in the workplace.

Paul Stallman - 5th Dan

Paul began martial arts training with Washin-Ryu Karate and, after several years, transitioned to Aikido at a dojo in New York that was under Yamada Sensei. His direct instructors at the dojo were Tom Collings Sensei, Bio Gabriel Sensei, Cliff Marcus Sensei, and Joe Nemeth Sensei. They presented a coherent yet varied curriculum of traditional Aikido. At that time, Paul was able to train often at NY Aikikai with Yamada Sensei and Sugano Sensei and had exposure to Kanai Sensei, as well. After moving to California, he trained at an "Iwama Style" dojo under Patrick Cassidy Sensei and gained an appreciation for the precision of that style and for weapons training. Paul later moved to San Luis Obispo and has been training under Frank Doran Sensei. He has always enjoyed vigorous traditional training as a means towards continual learning. 

Russ Rayburn - 4th Dan

Russ began training in 1980 in Olympia, Washington. He trained under a student of Hirata  Sensei in Seattle, Washington. A year later, he moved to Orange County and trained at Orange County Aikikai for three years until he then moved to the San Luis Obispo area. After spending a short time training in Aikijiujitsu with Kiama Sensei, Russ returned to Aikido training. For the next few years, he trained with a number of teachers, including Shiohira Sensei in Mountain View, California. In 1995, he began training at Aikido San Luis Obispo, an affiliate Aikido West dojo under Doran Sensei. There, he trained under Tom Elliot and then Mary Tesoro. After leaving Aikido San Luis Obispo in 2010, Russ rained for a year with Larry Bardach, a student of Pat Hendricks Sensei. In 2012, he started Aikido Central Coast with Michele Simone and Paul Stallman. 


There are many teachers and aikidoka who have had a strong and lasting influence on Russ' development, most notably Frank Doran Sensei, Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei, and Michael Friedl Sensei.

Larry Bardach - 5th Dan

Training since 1975, Larry Bardach has studied under many renowned teachers. His training was solidified from 1981 - 1982 when, as a student living under the tutelage of Morihiro Saito Sensei in Iwama, Japan, he received the rank of shodan, and subsequently nidan. Under Saito Sensei, he received extensive training in Aiki-Ken and Aiki-Jo. Over the years, he returned to Iwama to train under Saito Sensei. Bardach Sensei also trained under Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan in New York City for five years, and thereafter with several highly ranked instructors in the California San Francisco Bay Area. He was promoted to godan under Pat Hendricks Shihan. Currently, he is under Michael Friedl Sensei, 7th dan. 


Bardach Sensei emphasizes the internal aspects of power inherent in Aikido, focusing on developing an "aiki body", which Ueshiba Sensei expressed as Heaven/Earth/Man or "The Dance of the Gods". Bardach Sensei continually strives to develop his budo practice; as such, he is furthering his shugyo training under the teachings of Dan Garden, and Daito-Ryu Aikijiujitsu teachers Hayawo Kiyama Shihan and Roy Goldberg Sensei. 


Personally, Bardach Sensei follows an advaita spiritual tradition and Maha Kundalini Yoga path, and has traveled to India throughout the years to further his meditation practices. He seeks to train and teach earnestly with a sense of vitality, joy, and warmth.