Along with the aikido world, we at the Chicago Aikikai were shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Kevin Choate Sensei, sixth dan and long time dojo-cho of our school. Choate Sensei passed away on December 1, 2012, from cardio vascular disease. He was 58 years old.
Emails and Facebook posts about Choate Sensei proliferated as word spread about his passing. These testimonials paint an excellent picture of the life and practice of someone who has dedicated his life to his art.
A practitioner and teacher of aikido for 36 years, Choate Sensei was renowned for his intense dedication and inquisitive mind. He never stopped learning and continually sought new ways to challenge himself and his students. He leaves a legacy of study that aikidoka in Chicago and all over the world hope to emulate.
“He had a lot to say and contribute not just to aikido or systema, but in the fundamental essence of the martial arts and life in general,” commented one post. “He was not just a teacher, he put the word ‘artist’ back in ‘martial artist.’”
Memorial services were held at Ahern Funeral Home in Oak Park, IL on December 5th. More than 100 students and teachers of aikido from throughout the world joined his family and friends to pay their respects. The following evening Saotome Shihan and Ikeda Shihan taught a special memorial class at the Chicago Aikikai. Many who had not been able to attend the memorial services came to the class to celebrate Choate Sensei’s life and practice through the live experience of aikido.
While the dojo and its students deeply mourn his loss, Choate Sensei’s spirit is infused throughout the school. His art was not just in his practice or his deepening understanding of aikido through the exploration of systema. It was also in the beautiful physical spaces that he created over the years in the several locations of the Chicago Aikikai. His art was in his compelling instruction and his constant thirst for knowledge. His art was in the impact he had on the people around him, on the many students he influenced throughout the world — on the way he challenged his peers, his mentors and himself. With its glowing golden wall and rich blend of wood and stone, the Chicago Aikikai will remain a physical legacy to Kevin Choate’s creativity and dedication to his art.
One student observed, “Choate Sensei was absolutely blessed, in that he found his direction, knew it to be right, and followed it at the right pace for his entire life, without deviation.”
The Chicago Aikikai would like to thank aikidoka around the world for the outpouring of support they have shown in the wake of Kevin Choate Sensei’s passing. We share your grief, and appreciate the respect you have shown through your moving words and remembrances.
Choate Sensei’s senior student, Marsha Turner Sensei, fifth dan, has assumed the responsibilities of dojo-cho. She comments, “This is a difficult time for all of us. There is a hole in our universe. However, every time we enter the dojo we feel Choate Sensei’s presence, and every time we train we hear his voice encouraging, admonishing, and challenging us. You can’t enter the Aikikai without thinking of the example he set. Through his practice he left a legacy that we will strive to live up to. With this place, he built a dream that we will keep alive.”