At the University of California, Irvine (UCI), learning goes far beyond lectures and exams. And this year, first-generation students will have the unique opportunity to level up their learning through practicing the martial art of Aikido. This is all thanks to a special partnership between UCI and Josh Gold, long-time Aikido practitioner and co-founder of Budo Accelerator.

About Aikido and Budo Accelerator

Aikido is a modern martial art developed in Japan. Aikido is a form of Budo, a category of martial arts originally designed as personal development and leadership training systems. As Josh explains:

“The Aikido system centers on a series of throws, joint locks, and pins as well as techniques to absorb, counter, or transform them. While the techniques of Aikido have the potential to break bones or worse, their application is never designed to ‘finish the opponent.’ The technical architecture of the Aikido system is built on the premise that we must always provide our attacker with a way to recover. There is no competition in Aikido. Instead, training is collaborative, with advanced practitioners helping beginners learn the art in the way most appropriate for their goals and abilities.

Josh began practicing Aikido in 1991 after being inspired by the beauty and power of the art as well as its potential to bring people together. Because AIkido is built upon the premise of collaborative training, Josh says that Aikido has played a huge role in teaching him how to work with individuals and organizations of all backgrounds, even when they hold different opinions. He also credits Aikido with helping build his confidence, increasing his perseverance, and improving his ability to understand and relate to others. 

Recognizing the positive impact Aikido had on his life, Josh teamed up with Mark Tercek in 2019 to found Budo Accelerator with a goal of using the martial arts to forge a new generation of leaders equipped to face the great challenges of our time. Budo Accelerator combines the traditions of Budo with a modern science and technology education to create programs that positively impact the lives of young people and help them to become the best versions of themselves. Budo Accelerator programs teach the practice of Aikido as well as foster the development of leadership skills, resilience, and emotional intelligence. 

The New Partnership Between UCI and Budo Accelerator 

This year, UCI students will get the chance to learn about Aikido by enrolling in UNI STU 3: Aikido and Physics. Taught collaboratively by Josh and Michael Dennin (Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, Dean of Undergraduate Education, and Professor of Physics & Astronomy), this innovative course is a fresh take on “active” learning.

The course offers an introduction to Aikido while also exploring the physics principles behind popular martial arts moves. While this may seem like a strange combination, Josh points out that practicing martial arts is a great way for students to observe and experience different physics concepts. “Things like leverage, momentum, and energy can be explored, felt, and understood through Aikido techniques,” he explains. 

Josh adds that the course will enable students to develop their leadership and communication skills, strengthen their empathetic abilities, and offer opportunities to learn about themselves at a deeper level. Additionally, the course will offer students a chance to connect with their peers as well as with Aikido practitioners from around the world.

Josh explains that the course is unique for several reasons:

“We use the martial arts as a platform to teach leadership skills and physics through an experience that engages the intellect, emotions, and the body. It’s fun and a powerful way to learn. Students will also have the opportunity to train at a traditional Aikido dojo near campus—it’s like being transported to another world. Lastly, we have epic speakers, mentors, and advisors involved in the program. Some of our previous speakers have included the President of Aston Martin North America, the CTO of AI at IBM, the producer of Halo, Halo 2, and Hearthstone, and the former CEO of the world’s largest environmental nonprofit.”

As co-instructor for the course, Vice Provost Dennin has been looking forward to jumping in and seeing how students experience the course:

“My daughter and I were former students of Josh’s dojo, so I’ve experienced Aikido first-hand. What I found particularly interesting about it was that there wasn’t an emphasis on competition or winning. Instead, there was a real sense of community between students and instructors, and the focus was really on finding ways to come together. Opportunities for genuine connection like this are so important for our students, especially as we continue to recover from the pandemic. And this is why I’m so excited to teach alongside Josh and watch the community take shape!”

Serving UCI’s First-Generation Community

Another unique aspect of this course is that it was designed with UCI’s first-generation students in mind. “First-gen students face unique challenges, both academically and in transitioning to the workforce. But it’s also important to recognize that they bring unique perspectives and advantages to the table as well,” Josh says. “Budo Accelerator is excited to provide programs that are fun and can make a real difference in these students’ lives.”

Rose Jones, Director of UCI’s Scholarship Opportunities Program, trains at Josh’s dojo and has also played an instrumental role in developing the course and supporting the partnership between UCI and Budo Accelerator. For her, this collaboration offers an unparalleled experience for UCI’s first-generation students: 

“From my own training in Aikido, I am keenly aware of the self-transformation that one experiences as well as the forging of lifelong friendships with fellow practitioners, friends, mentors, and teachers. I’m excited for our talented and motivated first-gen Anteaters to experience this incredible journey, and I’m also excited to be a part of their journey.”

Course Specifics

UNI STU 3: Aikido and Physics will meet in the UCI Anteater Recreation Center (ARC) once a week for two hours. Students will also have the opportunity to further their study of Aikido with free and unlimited access to Josh’s Ikazuchi Dojo located in Irvine. Students will receive Uber vouchers for free transportation to and from the dojo.

The course will consist of 50% martial arts training and 50% discussion and small group activities. The martial arts training portion of the class will be accessible to all enrolled students, regardless of skill or fitness level. In addition to in-person class time, students are expected to complete an additional hour of self-guided work per week. 

Students enrolled in the course will earn one academic unit per quarter. While registration for Fall Quarter 2021 is closed, the course will be available during Winter Quarter 2021 and Spring Quarter 2022. Students are encouraged to apply now for the Winter quarter course. Please note that after applying, prior approval is required to enroll. Students interested in joining the Winter session can apply for registration approval here. Early applications are given priority, so apply today!

With instruction for Fall Quarter 2021 officially underway, Josh is excited to work with his first group of students:

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to run a Budo Accelerator program in partnership with UCI. And I’m so excited to train, teach, and learn together with UCI students. I’ve done a series of one-on-one interviews with applicants for the Fall program and really look forward to getting to know them better. They’re all pretty awesome.”

For more information on this course, click here. To learn more about Budo Accelerator, click here. To learn more about Josh, click here or reach out at