Yamada Shihan has passed away
VALE YAMADA SENSEI
This morning the world lost a great Aikido master: Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan.
Yamada Sensei was not only a pioneer of Aikido around the world, an uchi deshi of O Sensei, Chairman of the USAF, a member of the Senior Council of the IAF and an inspirational teacher to tens of thousands. He was also, to us, Honorary Patron of Aiki Kai Australia - a position we asked him to accept after Sugano Sensei died.
He accepted with the same generosity of spirit he so often applied to helping others. He was never our master – although he often taught us, alongside Sugano Sensei in earlier years, then returning for major events after our Sensei’s passing - and greatly assisted us to maintain the spirit of Sugano Sensei’s teaching. As Patron he helped us when we were greatly shaken by the all-too-early death of Sugano Sensei. And he did all that he could to help us sustain Sugano Sensei’s heritage within the Aikido world – not only in Australia.
I will personally remember him as an awe-inspiring teacher and practitioner of Aikido, and for his sage advice and generosity whenever needed. His nikkyo will always scare me and I will never forget his concern and care for Sugano Sensei over many years in New York and then final years of ill-health.
Yamada Sensei was a mix of traditional and modern, unashamedly himself, yet unshakably loyal to the Ueshiba family and Aikido. He will be profoundly missed by many, and remembered for his devotion to Aikido and those who shared that passion with him. Like many others I will also have private memories – for example, of Yamada Sensei sharing his secret supply of chocolates under the desk during a very trying moment at the IAF.
Please remember him in your classes; his passing reminds us how much we owe not only to Aikido, but to the great teachers and pioneers of his generation, including Sugano Sensei, who made it their life-mission to spread and nurture Aikido around the world, for us to enjoy as we do today.
Farewell Sensei. Thank you.
- Official Aikikai New York announcement -
Dear New York Aikikai Community,
It is with great sorrow that we announce the passing of our beloved teacher, Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan.
Yamada Sensei died peacefully on Sunday, January 15, 2023 under the care of doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital with his family by his side.
Private funeral arrangements are being made by Sensei's family. Please respect their privacy during this difficult time.
The New York Aikikai will hold a memorial at a later date that will be open to all who loved and learned from him. We know many of you will want to express your sympathies in some manner. We will make some appropriate suggestions shortly.
Yamada Sensei arrived in New York City in 1964 to become chief instructor at the New York Aikikai. He started aikido at age 17 at honbu dojo, Aikikai Headquarters, as an uchi deshi (live-in student) to O Sensei. He not only built the NY Aikikai into a world-class aikido school but he helped spread the relatively unknown martial art into a thriving community throughout the US, and later on, internationally. A great proponent of individuality and full-hearted training, his classes soared with the harmony and power of a symphony, inspiring all to give their best.
The NY Aikikai will remain open as Yamada Sensei wished. He loved nothing more than big classes with high spirits, so please honor him by training as you would if he were leading class. His amazing energy and generosity of spirit will be there on the mat for all of us.
February 17, 1938 - January 15, 2023