Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei, 8th Dan, Shihan

USAF Technical Director & Chairman

Born in 1938, Yamada Sensei started his Aikido career as an uchi deshi at Hombu Dojo in 1956.

He was the first Shihan to reside permanently in the United States, moving to New York in 1964 as chief instructor of New York Aikikai. He was a key figure in the spread of Aikido throughout North and South America.

He is currently a Technical Director and the Chairman of the USAF, the Technical Director of Aikido Sansuikai International, and a member of the Superior Council of the IAF. He has a worldwide following, and travels continuously teaching seminars throughout the United States and the entire world.

Yamada Sensei Articles

Interview with Yamada Sensei, 2008

Editor’s Note: This interview was first published in Aikido East in January 2009)

What would be the one thing you would like to impart to all Aikido students.

I would like people to aim for a higher level of Aikido through fun and positive practice.

How has teaching affected your progress throughout your Aikido career?

Because I started teaching early, I think I progressed more while I was teaching rather than while training. I understand the learner’s perspective, and having a broader view, I was able to tackle matters more positively.

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Black Vortex – An Interview With Yamada Sensei

Translated by Masako Nakatsugawa from a Japanese Magazine 2004

Editor’s Note: This interview was first published in Aikido East, the newsletter of the USAF Eastern Region. Photo courtesy of Jaime Kahn.

Would you tell us what prompted you to start Aikido?

When I was a child, before Aikido opened to the public, I had heard about it from my uncle, Tadashi Abe. I even had the privilege of seeing O-Sensei’s demonstration at someone’s residence. He gave the demonstration in black kimono; it seemed as if I was watching a black vortex whirling around. Since then I wanted to do Aikido, and when I entered a University, Kisshomaru Sensei (Doshu) kindly let me in as an uchideshi. So in my case, the first day of my Aikido was the first day as an uchideshi.

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Inside Aikido Part 2: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada, 8th dan

by Peter Bernath, 7th dan & David Halprin, 6th dan

Part two: Coming to the United States

Sensei, how did it come about that you came to the United States?

There were a lot of reasons really. Number one because of the language. I already spoke English, not as good as now but some. That’s one reason. Secondly, I had been teaching American people at the American military bases in Japan so I was pretty familiar with the American people’s mentality. And also, I wanted to come to New York. I knew that New York was my kind of town.

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Inside Aikido: Interview with Yoshimitsu Yamada, 8th dan

by Peter Bernath, 7th dan & David Halprin, 6th dan

Editor’s note: This interview with Yamada Sensei was conducted during the 1998 USAF Eastern Region Summer Camp at the University of New Hampshire. It is the first part of an extensive interview. Here, in his characteristically frank and colorful way, Yamada Sensei recalls his early days as an uchi deshi at Hombu Dojo.

Part one: The uchi deshi years at Hombu dojo

Sensei, the first thing we wanted to ask you about is your history in Aikido. Your personal history, why you started Aikido and how that came about.

I started because of my relative Tadashi Abe Sensei. He was an uchi deshi of O-Sensei in the early days. Because of him I knew about O-Sensei and Aikido.

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