Rocky Valley Aikido is a traditional martial arts school, where we take a comprehensive approach teaching open-handed, sword and staff techniques. We train to develop balance, strength, flexibility and power through the unifying of body and mind. Working with one another as partners, we explore the way of reconciling conflict by encouraging balance and harmony. This is why aikido is called the art of peace.

Rocky Valley Aikido Dojo is affiliated with Suginami Aikikai in Tokyo, Japan, which is an official branch of the Aikido Aikikai Hombu Dojo. Suginami Aikikai Dojo in Tokyo was founded by Hiroshi Kato Sensei (8th dan, Shihan). Kato Sensei was a direct student of the founder of Aikido Morihei Ueshiba (O’Sensei).


Jalal Brian Heery began his Aikido journey under Frager Sensei (7th dan) and McKean Sensei (6th dan) in 1994 at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology.

He began training with Hiroshi Kato Sensei (8th dan, Shihan) in 1995.  He spent two years training intensively with Kato Sensei in Japan from 1998-2000 and spent the next twelve years hosting and facilitating Kato Sensei’s seminars at Rocky Valley Aikido Dojo and other locations in California.

He currently trains under one of Kato Sensei’s senior students from Suginami Aikikai Dojo in Tokyo, Japan which is directly affiliated with the Aikikai Hombu dojo in Tokyo.

He holds the rank of 5th-degree black belt in Aikido.

He wrote his dissertation on “Awakening Spirit in the Body” at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (now Sofia University) in 2003.

He is the founder and current head instructor of Rocky Valley Aikido Dojo in Palo Alto/Santa Cruz, CA.

Upcoming Events:

Aikido Class on Zoom (Weekly)

Tuesdays 6:30 - 7:30


Meeting ID: 654 288 393
Password: 779211


1.    What is Aikido and how is Rocky Valley part of it?

  • Aikido is often called the peaceful martial art. It was developed in Japan in the first half of the 20th century by Morihei Ueshiba who is often called O Sensei or Great Teacher.  Ueshiba had studied many of the traditional martial arts before developing his own approach which emphasized blending with the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of the attack rather than opposing it head-on.  Aikido includes both empty hand techniques and training with wooden practice weapons.  O Sensei’s students have spread Aikido around the world.
  • Rocky Valley Aikido is associated with a Dojo (training school) in Japan, Suginami Aikikai, started by one of O Sensei’s students, Hiroshi Kato. Suginami, in turn is affiliated with Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, which is headed by O Sensei’s grandson and is the world center for Aikido.

2.    How is Aikido different from other martial arts such as Tae Kuan Do and Karate?

  • People of all levels of ability can train safely and productively together in Aikido, so most classes have a range from beginners to advanced students learning together.
  • Aikido emphasizes cooperation over conflict, so we learn techniques that effectively deflect and neutralize attacks without harming our training partners.
  • Aikido has no competitions. While we train and learn together, in the end we each are finding our own Aikido, not trying to beat an opponent.

3.    Why learn Aikido?

  • Aikido is great exercise. It can be safely practiced by people of all ages and all levels of athletic ability.  With regular practice, you will gain in strength, endurance, and flexibility, but you can start at any level of fitness.
  • Aikido is great for your spirit, you will learn to be more grounded and centered in yourself and in every aspect of your life.
  • Aikido is great for your relationships as it teaches you to connect honestly and directly with others and use cooperation instead of looking for conflict.
  • Aikido is great for self defense. You will be more confident which will make you less of a target, and the techniques do work in real life situations to neutralize an attack.

4.    Why train with Rocky Valley Aikido?

  • Jalal Brian Heery, our senior instructor, has a fifth level black belt in Aikido. He is also a gifted gymnast who was the Irish national champion and his knowledge of how to move and fall gracefully informs his aikido teaching.
  • We have a very supportive community of students who go out of their way to help beginners learn the basics including how to train safely.
  • We have fun! While we take our Aikido training seriously, we enjoy our training and don’t take ourselves too seriously.
  • Rocky Valley is a 401C3 charitable organization dedicated to furthering Aikido learning.
  • In addition to weekly classes we have the opportunity to deepen our training through twice a year seminars with a visiting senior teacher from Japan and we also make group trips to train at Suginami Aikikai every couple of years.

5.    How can a new person start?

  • Your first class is always free, just show up a few minutes before the start of any class to sign in and introduce yourself. Wear sweats or similar comfortable athletic clothes with long sleeves and full length legs.  One of our senior students will give you a quick briefing on Aikido etiquette and what to expect.  Everyone in the class will help you have a great first experience on the mats.


I came to Rocky Valley Aikido looking for physical fitness and training, but I found a lot more. Even though I'm just a beginner, Aikido has changed many aspects of my life, and I use the tools that I learn in Aikido class everywhere. I was very lucky to stumble into a dojo with a world-class teacher. It is amazing to watch Brian explain the rudiments of a technique to a beginner, and then turn to a black belt and describe subtleties that are beyond my comprehension, and then turn to me and tell me exactly what I need to continue my development. I appreciate Brian's ability to see where each student is and what they need to go to the next level, and then provide that input. This is a teacher's job and he is very good at it. The other students are great too; the black belts always help out the rest of us and make it easy to learn. The class seemed somewhat intimidating the first day; with me in my sweats in a room full of white-robed people performing mysterious movements, and the techniques seemed hard at first, but the cooperative teaching style at Rocky Valley made it easy to learn, and now sometimes I am amazed at the things I can do.

      -Albert B.

I am deeply thankful for the time I have spent training with Sensei Brian Heery and the Rocky Valley Community! This dojo comes highly recommended for children and adults alike!

      -Erica Kshama Kellogg

One of the best things at Rocky Valley Aikido is the personal attention you get from more advanced practitioners. The nature of the training and the people in the dojo is such that you are often one with someone who has been doing this for years. This is a great advantage for the beginner! A great group of people!


Finding a good dojo is like finding a good, honest mechanic. Find one, and wherever that pied piper goes, you go as well. I've been training at Rocky Valley on and off for several years, and I've followed them from their first location in San Jose to their current, shiny new digs in Menlo Park. If they moved under the pier in Santa Cruz, I'd probably go there, too. The teaching is top notch and you get none of the posturing or chest pounding you see in other schools or systems. The atmosphere here is supportive from top to bottom and you quickly learn that your competition is less external than it is internal. If you're looking to duke it out with some cauliflower-eared galoot who's still upset about being cut from the Octagon, then look elsewhere. If you're looking for something more sublime, give this place a whirl. They'll still teach you martial arts, but you'll never hear anyone talking about how you need to destroy your opponent.

     -Gabriel Alvarado

Server IP: