There are only few direct O-Sensei disciples left alive and Yamada Sensei is one of them. This is one reason he is so respected and demanded. The other and even bigger reason is is his high aikido skill, unique style and colossal contribution to aikido.
Yoshimitsu Yamada was born on February 17, 1938 in Tokyo, Japan. His fathers (Ichiro Yamada) cousin Tadashi Abe been practicing aikido from 1942 and Yoshimitsu had his first contact with O-Sensei while he was still a kid. This was unforgettable for Yamada Sensei and when he joined a dojo in 1955 he did that as an uchi-deshi right from his start.
Trainings quality and count was rich but not the Hombu Dojo. The building was not heated at winter and at summer it was very much hot. Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Koichi Tohei, Kisaburo Osawa, Kenji Tomiki, Hiroshi Tada, Seigo Yamaguchi were giving the classes and O-Sensei of course appeared on mat quite often. Dojo was growing and Sensei made a lot of friends from the group like Yasuo Kabayashi, Kazuo Chiba, Mitsunari Kanai, Seichi Sugano, Nobuyoshi Tamura and other big aikido names you know today.
Soon Yoshimitsu Yamada was able to teach aikido at American military bases in Japan. And because of the economics situation in a Japan after the WW2 there was a constant will to leave a county.
Americans got interested in aikido and Sensei got his chance to represent a Hombu Dojo in New York and in 1964. He moved to NY then to establish headquarters of aikido in USA. It’s not an easy thing to create something from a scratch in a foreign country at that moment and Yoshimitsu had it all. Like troubles with living, promoting and even temporarily visas he and his family had. In 1968 United States Aikido Federation (USAF) was created and it was already far beyond NY only.
In 1972 problems with the visas were solved and Sensei devoted himself to spread the aikido abroad. One of his first foreign trips was to France via Tamuras invitation at 1973. Since then count is constantly growing and Sensei is still active and interested. Seminars he conduct these days are in Russia, Bulgaria, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Cuba, Canada, Chile, Australia etc.. Take a look at a 2017 shedule if you have a deeper interest for the dates and places.
Yoshimitsu Yamada is holding an 8th Dan Aikido Aikikai, a status of Shihan, is a president of the United States Aikido Federation and chairman of the Latin America Aikido Federation, a patron of Aikikai Australia, a founder of Aikido Sansuikai with a lot of Aikikai recognized dojos around the world. Has a lot of high ranked students like 7th Dan Donovan Waite in USA, 6th Dan Ivan Novikov in Russia and much much more.