Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei (February 17, 1938 – January 15, 2023) was one of the direct O-Sensei disciples and the 8 Dan Aikikai holders. His name is known all over the world for his high aikido skill, unique style, and colossal contribution to aikido as a martial art.
Yoshimitsu Yamada was born in Tokyo, Japan. His father’s (Ichiro Yamada) cousin Tadashi Abe has been practicing aikido since 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 the mat quite often. The Dojo was growing and Sensei made a lot of friends from the group with 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. Yoshimitsu had all possible problems in a county starting from visa problems for his family, accommodation, and aikido promotion issues. In 1968 United States Aikido Federation (USAF) was created and it was already far beyond NY only.
In 1972 visas were fetched. That is when Sensei devoted himself to spreading aikido abroad. One of his first foreign trips was to France via Tamura’s invitation in 1973. Since then the count was constantly growing and Sensei was in the demand up until his last days. He regularly taught in Russia, Bulgaria, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Cuba, Canada, Chile, Australia, etc. Pretty much anywhere in the world.
Sensei had the status of Shihan was 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. Some of his high-ranked students are the 7th Dan Donovan Waite in the USA, the 6th Dan Ivan Novikov in Russia, and many-many others.
Yamada Sensei died peacefully under the care of doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital with his family by his side. The NY Aikikai will remain open as Yamada Sensei wished.