The Keiko Hajime event and a New Year’s gathering event were held to commemorate the arrival of the New Year.
A day after these events, we received a sad news that Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan, a pioneer of Aikikai Aikido in the U.S., had died.
At the time of the United States Bicentennial, Aikikai Aikido in the U.S. was under a big influence of Koichi Tohei with Yamada, Kanai, A. Tohei, S. Maruyama (with their titles omitted), etc. as they were toiling away as a monolithic team to establish a structure and an organization of Aikikai Aikido in the U.S. If my memory serves me right, an Aikido Embu event at Madison Square Garden during the United States Bicentennial was the last activity in which all these pioneering members participated together.
However, the monolithic relationship among the instructors started to crack and a group of instructors with their lineage to Koichi Tohei Shihan broke away, who then formed 2 separate organizations soon after to pursue their own distinct paths with their own unique instructional philosophy. Today, quite a few of those pioneers have left our world. I have remained deeply respectful toward Yamada Shihan as he had remained dedicated with a huge responsibility toward the continued development and flourishing of Aikikai Aikido in the U.S. without having been swayed during the period of uncertainty and confusion decades earlier.
Looking back, I remember staying with an Aikikai instructor during my first visit to the U.S., and I also remember having to go back to Japan before having to choose which instructor to be affiliated with among those highly ambitious senior instructors when their different ideas and ambitions, while all were directed at developing the practice of Aikido in the U.S., had been intertwined complicatedly behind the scenes, and I realize now that the firsthand experience from those days was one of the reasons why I have been an independent dojo since my return to the U.S. without any affiliation to a larger organization or any network of branch dojos. I came to the U.S. as one of direct students of the Founder of Aikido, and when I witnessed my “senpai” students, who had practiced together under the Founder of Aikido, being at odds with one another, I, for being younger than the others, eventually arrived at the only choice I thought I had, and that was to leave them all behind to pursue my own path, and I still find the decision I made back then fortuitously fortunate. Therefore, I had never been allowed any opportunity to seek any lesson from the late Yamada Shihan.
I think it was a few years ago when I sent an email to the late Yamada Shihan, after over 40 years, out of an inexplicable urge within me to share with him what I had been going through emotionally back then, but a reply from him was short and brief, presumably due to the lack of expressiveness in my writing, through his staff.
As I received the sad news of his departure, I thought about how Budo-ka ought to live a life, and I express my sincere condolences to his families and to our fellow Aikido-ka in the U.S and in the world who have been touched by his dedication to his duty as an Aikido-ka. Thank you and “Otsukare sama deshita!”, Yamada Shihan!
Founder & Kancho, AHAN Aikido Nippon Kan
Note: Expressing our condolences, Aikido Nippon Kan has decided not to post a report from our “Keiko Hajime” and New Year’s celebration event which had been held before the news of the late Yamada Shihan’s passing.