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Shihan Fumio Toyoda
Sensei Garrett Hawkins
Rick Butler Sensei’s teaching career began at age sixteen when he gave karate lessons to the neighborhood kids in the basement of his family’s house. It was during the Bruce Lee craze, and so to keep his students interested he'd make up a fight scene for a karate movie, give everybody a role, and choreograph the action. His goal was to get them to see martial arts as an alternative to joining a gang or participating in behavior. Today Butler Sensei teaches students how to unify mind, body, and spirit to accomplish their academic, professional, and personal goals; guiding the young and old as the founder of Pathway to Harmony, Inc., a Not for Profit corporation that provides quality educational programs like the Pathway to Harmony Aikido Program (PHAP), Pathway to Harmony Financial Literacy Program, Pathway to Harmony Aikido Summer Enrichment (PHASE), Pathway to Harmony Stress Buster, Pathway to Harmony Healthy Eating and Exercise Program, Pathway to Harmony Aikido Youth Development (PHAYD), and Pathway to Harmony Leadership Program. Each program is specifically designed to be of benefit Rick Butler Sensei’s teaching career began at age sixteen when he gave karate lessons to the neighborhood kids in the basement of his family’s house. It was during the Bruce Lee craze, and so to keep his students interested he'd make up a fight scene for a karate movie, give everybody a role, and choreograph the action. His goal was to get them to see martto youth and adults at risk from stress related to school, family, work, finances, personal relationships, and their environment; domestic and community violence; and poor nutritional habits.
Butler Sensei embarked on his path as a martial artist and teacher when he was a boy growing up in New Orleans. The beauty, grace, discipline, inner strength, peace, and calm of martial arts had always fascinated him. At age twelve or thirteen, he ordered his first self-defense course from an ad in the back of a comic book. A few years later at the age of fifteen, Butler Sensei began his formal training in Shorei-Goju Karate.
In 1979, Butler Sensei witnessed Shihan Fumio Toyoda and his student Sensei Garrett Hawkins demonstrate Ki-Aikido, a life affirming Japanese martial art that emphasizes non-aggressive self-defense, non-violent conflict resolution, and minimizing chaos in daily life. The experience was life changing. He immediately switched from karate to Ki-Aikido, and began training under Shihan Fumio Toyoda who later founded the Aikido Association of America and Aikido Association International. In 1981, Sensei Garrett Hawkins became Butler Sensei's primary instructor. Hawkins Sensei and Toyoda Shihan trained Butler Sensei to black belt proficiency. In 1993, with encouragement from Hawkins Sensei, Butler Sensei began teaching aikido at various locations including Bessemer Park and West Chatham Park in Chicago.
Prior to devoting himself to teaching aikido and administrating Pathway to Harmony, Inc., Butler Sensei was the president and chief executive officer of Gibraltar Servicing Consultants, Inc., a nation-wide mortgage servicing consulting firm. He served as a regional servicing representative for the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC); held positions in the mortgage banking industry; and is a published author. Butler Sensei was well regarded in the mortgage servicing industry, and was considered a resource by numerous industry publications. Throughout his corporate career Butler Sensei used aikido principles to help his company and clients minimize losses and enhance their economic positions.
Compelled by his desire to help people enhance their quality of life, Butler Sensei left Gibraltar Servicing Consultants, Inc., to teach the Pathway to Harmony Aikido Program (PHAP) full time in 1997. PHAP is a life skills and self-defense program designed to teach students how to unify mind, body, and spirit (will) to accomplish their academic, professional, and personal goals; help students gain greater control and balance/harmony in their lives through the use of martial arts and meditation; help students minimize stress in their lives; and, help students develop skills that can help them improve their quality of life.
In 2006, Butler Sensei founded Pathway to Harmony, Inc. to address issues of stress, apathy, frustration, anger, and violence that have a profound negative impact on our communities; and to motivate youth and adults to enhance their quality of life. Currently, he administrates and teaches the programs to agencies, organizations, schools, church groups, and the public. He is known for his passion for teaching and his true desire to help people enhance their quality of life. Students, parents, and his peers praise him for his motivational skills, patience, and the individual attention that he provides everyone.
For forty years Butler Sensei has taught and worked with youth, adults, numerous church groups, and community organizations. He is a husband, father, surrogate father, and big brother to many. Butler Sensei has been a member of the Aikido Association of America since its founding in 1984. He is also a member of Aikido Association International. Butler Sensei is a Ni-Dan (2nd Degree Black Belt) in aikido. His credentials are recognized by the Aikikai Foundation, the Aikido World Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, and Aikido United in Chicago, IL.
Rick Butler Sensei and the Pathway to Harmony Aikido Program have been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Black MBA Magazine; on the cable shows "View Point" hosted by Marc Simms, "Chicago Youth Net", "Moving On" hosted by Shiela Frazier, and on WVON 's Cliff Kelly radio show" hosted by Cliff Kelly. In 2011, WGN-TV selected Butler Sensei as one of"Chicago's Very Own" for his work with youth and adults. In October 2013 he was honored with his image being placed on the WGN adults. In October 2013 was honored with his image being placed on WGN's Chicago Hydrant located at Navy Pier. In 2012 Butler Sensei was elected president of the Aikido International Foundation.