There are only a few direct O-Sensei disciples left alive and Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei is one of them. He holds a rank of the 8 Dan in Aikikai and is a teacher with a name known all over the world. This is one reason he is so respected and demanded. A bigger reason is his high aikido skill, unique style and colossal contribution to the Aikido.
Yoshimitsu Yamada was born on February 17, 1938, in Tokyo, Japan. His father’s (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 Hombu in 1955 he did that as an uchi-deshi right from his start.
Training quality and the count were rich but not the Hombu Dojo. The building was not heated in winter and in summer it was very 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. The Dojo was growing and Sensei made a lot of friends from the group like Yasuo Kobayashi, 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 economic situation in Japan after WW2, there was a constant will to leave a county.
Americans got interested in Aikido and Sensei got his chance to represent Aikikai in New York in 1964. It’s not an easy thing to create something from a scratch in a foreign country 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 Tamura’s invitation in 1973. Since then the count is constantly growing and Sensei is still active and interested. Seminars he conducts these days are in Russia, Bulgaria, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Cuba, Canada, Chile, Australia, etc. Take a look at a 2019 schedule if you have a deeper interest in the dates and places.
Yoshimitsu Yamada is holding an 8th Dan Aikido Aikikai, a status of Shihan. He is a president of the United States Aikido Federation and chairman of the Latin America Aikido Federation. Also, 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 the USA, 6th Dan Ivan Novikov in Russia and others.