Pathway to Harmony, Inc.
Uniting Mind, Body, and Spirit to Accomplish Goals - Academic, Professional, and Personal

Pathway to Harmony, Inc., a not for profit created in 2006 to address the issues of stress, apathy, frustration, anger, and violence that have a profoundly negative impact on our communities; and to motivate youth and adults to enhance their quality of life.

We are headquartered at the Japanese Culture Center, located at 8512 South Cicero in Burbank, IL. For information on how to have our programs brought to your site contact us at 773-720-4100 or e-mail us at


  SELF DEFENSE                  VIOLENCE PREVENTION                   SELF DISCIPLINE                 STRESS REDUCTION               

Pathway to Harmony Aikido Program - The Art of Peace



Aikido is a self-defense martial art created in Japan by Morehei Ueshiba. It is not a religion or competitive sport. There are no tournaments and no sparring. Aikido means the way of coordinating your mind and body, or philosophically, the way of harmonizing with the energy of the universe. It is known for graceful, yet dynamic self-defense movements; the inner peace and self-discipline students develop; and the respect students have for life and diversity.

Aikido is often referred to as "the art of peace" because it promotes non-violent conflict resolution and minimizing chaos in everyday life. It is a life changing and life affirming art that teaches students how to be in harmony with themselves and the people they meet.

Click on "Programs" above and select "Aikido Program" for more information.

"Chicago's Very Own"

Click on the picture to view the commercial aired on WGN-TV.

Sensei Butler has been selected to be one of "Chicago's Very Own" by WGN-TV channel Nine for his work with youth and adults. In October 2013 was honored with his image being placed on the WGN's Chicago Hydrant located at Navy Pier.







Stress Buster Classes


 Stress Is A Killer - A Slow Killer for Kids and A Faster Killer for Adults!

The Pathway to Harmony Stress Buster class is an exercise and meditation class designed to help participants relax, loosen tense muscles, enhance coordination and balance, develop good posture, proper breathing, promote good blood circulation and wake up the energy centers of the body. Participants will enjoy the combination of light Aikido, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong exercise, stretching, breathing meditation, health information, and the sereneness of the Japanese Culture Center. Our goals are to provide participants with the opportunity to take a brief hiatus from the stresses of everyday life, learn how to relieve stress, and develop a healthy life style that can enhance their quality of life and help extend it.

The Pathway to Harmony Stress Buster class is an exercise and meditation class designed to help participants relax, loosen tense muscles, enhance coordination and balance, develop good posture, proper breathing, promote good blood circulation and wake up the energy centers of the body. Participants will enjoy the combination of light Aikido, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong exercise, stretching, breathing meditation, health information, and the sereneness of the Japanese Culture Center. Our goals are to provide participants with the opportunity to take a brief hiatus from the stresses of everyday life, learn how to relieve stress, and develop a healthy life style that can enhance their quality of life and help extend it.

Class Schedule

Tuesday   6:00 a.m. - 7:00 a.m.

Thursday 6:00 a.m. - 7:00 a.m.


"My Aikido Journey - What I've Learned!"


Josefina Vargas!

Hello, my name is Josefina Vargas, I am a student of Aikido, a Japanese self-defense martial art, and a 2016 graduate of Hancock High School. I ranked 11th in a class of 220 with a 4.2 GPA. In the fall I will be pursuing a degree in meteorology at Valpraiso University in Indiana. For the past seven years I have been working on uniting my mind, body, and spirit, through my participation with the Pathway to Harmony Aikido Program. When I tell someone that I practice Aikido, the first thing they want to know is “What is Aikido”, sometimes, depending on who is asking, I’ll give them the short answer - A self-defense art, or, the longer answer which best describes why Aikido is called the “Art of Peace” and how its “graceful yet dynamic”. I rarely give the longer description.

Next they’ll want to know how long I’ve been practicing it and what is my rank. After I tell them how long they say, “so you’re a Black Belt”, and I tell them yes and no, which confuses them, so I explain that I consider myself a Black Belt mentally because I’ve focused my training mostly on how I see life, how I think, and how I handle adversity, but officially, I have ways to go before I obtain the rank of Black Belt. For my school associates who question further, I explain that my sensei (L. Rick Butler) always says that he wants his students to be mental Black Belts, long before they obtain their official Black Belt. I also tell them that as we become adults we will get into few, if any, physical fights, however, we will be in a psychological battle everyday in our life and our ability to make disciplined decisions would determine our quality of life. So being a Black Belt mentally is the best self defense, and key to our future success. Ever since I first heard him say this in class, I’ve kept it in my mind along with the Pathway to Harmony Four Principles.

Four Principles

  • Relax Completely,
  • Stay Focused,
  • Keep Your Balance, and
  • Have a Strong Foundation.

Like my peers in the Pathway to Harmony Aikido Program I try to use the four principles on a daily basis and in every part of my life. This year I will graduate from high school and be the first in my family to go to college, and yes, I am so excited. Unlike most of my peers at school, I actually love going to school. In part, I think this is due to how I see life and what I want for myself and my family. In the Pathway program, I’ve learned that when I learn anything I am enhancing me and when I enhance me I automatically increase my potential for future success. This means I will have a greater chance of making life better for my family and me.

High school was a lot of hard work, not just school work, but work on myself. I’ve had to grow mentally and emotionally to meet the expectations of my parents and teachers, and even more to meet my own expectations. In my four years of high school I have been able to accomplish many things that I would have never thought I could. I’ve participated in clubs that have helped me to grow academically, socially, and culturally. I’ve also experienced the joy of being able to help others and give back to my community.

Josefina Vargas, WGN weather man Tom Skilling, and Sensei L.Rick Butler

My goal is to become one of the best meteorologists in the world. Of course, this means a lot more hard work in college and in my career. Because of all the effort that I will put into accomplishing my goals, I believe that I will live up to my expectations. My parents have taught me about the value of hard work and being in the Pathway to Harmony Aikido Program has helped prepare me for the mental hard work that will be needed to accomplish them.

From participating in the Pathway to Harmony Aikido program I learned the following:

  1. The importance of loving and respecting myself, and that I can affect the world as a positive force or negative force, it’s my choice.
  2. Everything I do in school is part of the process of enhancing me and not to let myself get stressed out or overwhelmed.
  3. When I feel overwhelmed, just remember to stop and take a breath because everything I experience is just a “moment in time”.
  4. To understand what it means to “extend Ki” or stay focused on my agenda. I can hear Butler Sensei saying keep my energy focused to the positive completion of my task, no matter what it is.
  5. I learned that to be happy and successful in life I need to have balance in every part of it, school, home, work, church, and social.
  6. To always start off with the basics as my foundation for anything. Once I understand the basics I can always advance because my foundation is solid.
  7. To follow my passion because it will help me to find fulfillment in life.

As I mentally prepare myself to go off to college, I think about how blessed I am to have so many amazing people in my life, like my parents, brothers, friends, school teachers, and of course my Aikido family. All of them have had a part in helping me to get to this moment in time. They have lifted me up and encouraged me to be myself and to pursue my dreams. I am excited about life and can’t wait to see what college and life has to teach me in the next four or more years.



Girls's & Women Only Self-defense Seminars


  • A woman is battered every 15 - 18 seconds in the United States
  • By age 20, 1 in 3 women will experience dating violence
  • 30 -65% of all homicides of women are related to Domestic Violence by male partners
  • Domestic Violence is the single leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the U.S. -  more common than car accidents, muggings and rape combined

Whether you're young or old, short or tall,  overweight or underweight, it doesn't matter to sex

ual predators, muggers, or abusers, what matters to them is "Fear". They can smell fear and see it. Fear is their best weapon.

Overcome your fear, empower yourself with knowledge - Stop feeding them!


You don't have to be a martial artist with a black belt, or be in the best physical shape to defend yourself. Come out to Pathway to Harmony's Girls & Women Self-defense Seminars and learn some basic self-defense skills that can help you avoid a situation, or help you neutralize an attacker.

Contact us to find out more about this empowering series of self-defense seminars and how they can be held at your church, community center, corporate office, location of your choice, or the Japanese Culture Center.


Academic Highlights

Josefina Vargas - Pathway to Harmony, Inc.

Freshman Year

International Club - Trip to China (2013)
Book Club - Meetings once a month to discuss the assign novel.

Sophomore Year

Book Club
Build On - community service organization
Culinary Club - Food related community service.

Some projects include:

  • Pacific Garden Mission - helped feed the homeless along with helping to clean the kitchen at the shelter.
  • Food pantry - helped with given duties such as, organizing canned food items.
  • Retirement homes - make meals for the senior residents and play games with them.
  • Chicago Hostel - we cook a specific traditional food from a country and have dinner with those that are residing at the hostel.

Participated in the College Connect summer program at DePaul University, and successfully completed a humanities class.

Junior Year

  • Book Club
  • Culinary Club
  • Build On
  • International Club - Trip to France (2015)
  • College Ambassadors Program (CAP) - this program is dedicated to promote the college going culture in our school. I participated in the Visuals Committee, in which we helped designed and hang flyers through the school.
  • Wellness Ambassadors Program - this program helps promote a healthier lifestyle for students physically, mentally, and emotionally.
  • Chicago Scholars - Community based organization that helps under-represented students succeed in college and after college.

Senior Year

  • Student Council - helped plan the homecoming dance and spirit week.
  • College Ambassadors Program - Visuals Committee Officer
  • Book Club - Secretary
  • Senior Committee - worked with the Prom Committee
  • Chicago Scholars  
  • Posse Semifinalist
  • Cooking Club - Senior Officer
  • Peer mentor program - helped designated group of freshman transition to high school.

I am currently an employee at a local restaurant. I have been working there since the summer before my freshman year. I work as a cashier but do other task when assigned. While working at the restaurant I’ve developed good customer service skills and learned how to interact with different kinds of people. I’ve learned how to balance my school work and the responsibility of maintaining a job.

Over the summer before my senior year, I interned at a Chicago Public Library. As an intern I helped decorate the children's library space and developed and implemented arts and crafts activities to do with the kids. I also helped register kids for the Chicago Mayor’s reading program, Rahm's Readers Explore and Soar Summer Learning Challenge.

"How Aikido Changed My Life"


Walmer Saavedra


Aikido has brought a lot of change to my life. When I first joined the Pathway to Harmony Aikido Program, it was because I had recently gotten into a fight and my parents wanted me to join so I could be more disciplined. At first, I thought Aikido was fake, the throwing and the techniques didn't look "violent" enough for the old me. I thought it was going to be easy. I changed my mind when I met my first challenge, rolls. At first I couldn't roll, I was scared. When I tried to do it, I kept hurting myself. I wanted to quit but Sensei Butler didn't let me.

Sensei taught me to not give up, to use the four principals of Aikido not just on the mat but in my daily life too. I learned that in order to do aikido you need to be relaxed and be patient. This wasn’t always easy because I like doing things. Over time Sensei Butler taught me it was important to relax my mind so that I could think better and see more clearly my options for solving any type of problem and to relax my body so that it could do what I needed it to do.


In the Pathway to Harmony Aikido Program Sensei Butler teaches alot of things that are really important. Some days it might be self defense, on other days it may be history or something about the world we live in. You never know what he’s going to talk about, but you do know its going to be something interesting. In every class he is always motivated and talks about what it means to have an agenda. Sensei Butler wants us to accomplish our goals, help others and do important things with our life. Using aikido exercise, techniques, and principles he provides examples of what it means to have an agenda and to stay focused on it until we accomplish our goal.

In the Pathway to Harmony Aikido Summer Enrichment (PHASE) program we played chess. I learned that life is like chess, every move you make provides new options for the players. Being impatient, moving too fast, not being relaxed enough to see your options could cost you the game or possibly your life. Now I don’t get into trouble, I think of the consequences of every move.

The Pathway to Harmony Aikido Program is really fun, I would recommend this program to everyone who needs a change in their life, need help at school or with other things. I would recommend it because like it helped me in life, it could help them and it isn’t boring. You learn alot, get to exercise and maybe even become a black belt in Aikido and in your mind. The Pathway to Harmony Aikido Program is great and Sensei Butler makes it unique.