It Has To Be Felt

It has to be felt.

How many students felt the dynamic power? Have you experienced the exhilaration, fear, uncertainty, excitement as the dynamic circle sends you spinning to the conclusion of the technique? The uke may not fully know how it will end, but for sure they are fully engaged and dare not lose the connection. Those who have had this happen will say to you, it has to be experienced; it’s active, not passive. You have to make contact and stay committed. If you give up that commitment, the interaction changes in a single moment. We love our videos; it gives us a reference point. It gives us something to observe, but it’s passive. Ultimately, we must physically delve into the depths of the movement. We have to engage physically. It’s in that interaction, the ‘doing’ where we feel what happens and it becomes a part of us.

USAF President Emeritus, one of the first members of the New York Aikikai (NYA) and current Sensei, Mike Abrams, explains that it’s important for students to feel the instructor’s technique. He’s an open history book.  Sensei Abrams is another living legend, who explains the importance of what Yamada Shihan and his contemporaries did with the NYA. Sensei Abrams’ class takes you back to the foundations of training at the NYA; he speaks of the ukemi that Sensei Yamada took for his sempai. You get a picture of it in your mind, while listening. In Sensei Abrams class, when he asks you to grab him, one may do so in a rather naïve, unsuspecting manner. One may wonder what is coming next, but as soon as he begins to move you become immediately clear that whatever happens will end with you on the mat, usually face down. Similarly, Harvey Konigsberg Shihan will point to the connection between his hand and his hip movement. He will then explain it to you, in his low gravely voice. He may then say, “Grab” and you do. Then what you thought you understood goes flying out of your head, as quickly as you land on the mat. His disarming warmth and spiritual connection lull you into a feeling of smooth quiet and security. That is of course, until you feel his hip move and his weight drop while you get tossed. You get up, smiling, because your body gets this “turning on the light bulb” moment of comprehension. And ultimately, when Shihan Yamada says, “grab”, undoubtedly, healthy concern goes through uke’s mind from inception. You know his movement is big, powerful and direct. Some uke have explained that when they take ukemi for Yamada Shihan, they feel like their bodies are going in separate directions at the same time. For example, during one class, Yamada Shihan seemed to be moving toward a particular irimi-nage opening, but it appeared that he changed his mind, so he picked the uke up, as though to do an aiki-otoshi. The entire class held it’s breath and watched with wide eyes, while the uke’s head turned from side to side, looking for the landing place (kind of like a fighter jet coming in for an emergency landing).

Then he let us all off the hook, as he said to the uke, with a chuckle, “don’t worry, I’m not going to do that.” Even as we enjoyed his humor in that moment, we were all taking ukemi, because we followed him intently. We were in sync with him and there was nothing between him and us. We released a collective sigh of relief for the uke, but more for ourselves, because for a moment, “things got real”. We felt the air swoosh, when he picked up and seemed to swing the uke around. We felt the distance between the uke high in the air, (with Sensei Yamada holding the uke underneath his arm pit), and the mat. We felt his joviality, but we simultaneously felt the seriousness of training, which I believe he wants us to understand. After class, in the locker rooms, we talked about that and kind of nodded at each other as if to acknowledge it in a single word, “Yeah”.

I suppose all of this is to reiterate, that is it has to be felt.


Dena Williams

New York Aikikai

Yamada Sensei and NYA Receive Letter From The Mayor

On Saturday, June 7th, the New York Aikikai hosted a large party to celebrate the 50th anniversary of  Yamada Sensei’s arrival in New York City. In acknowledgement of this historical event,  he was presented with a letter from William de Blasio, the Mayor of New York City.  A copy of the letter can be viewed by clicking here



Yamada Sensei Featured In Crain’s New York Business Magazine

On the eve of Yamada Sensei’s 50th anniversary of his arrival in New York City and the New York Aikikai, the June 2nd edition of Crain’s New York Business Magazine features a full-page interview with him entitled “Yamada Sensei is 76. What’s your excuse?” Written by one of Crain’s top reporters, Daniel Geiger, it features of full-color photo of Yamada Sensei and celebrates Yamada Sensei’s half-century of teaching throughout the United States and the world at large. You can access the full article here:

A Sad Loss of Albany Aikido

John Wright started his Aikido training in 1979. In addition to Faust Sensei his Aikido has been influenced by Yousef Mehter Sensei, Yamada Shihan, Kanai Shihan, Chiba Shihan and a host of other teachers to whom he is eternally grateful to for their encouraging him to try new ways of doing familiar techniques. John has also been involved in the Chinese martial arts Tai Chi, Bagua Chang and Hsing-i. His Aikido training has made him realize that conflict situations with others can generally best be handled by a non-confrontational approach – blending in Aikido parlance. Passing on this art has been a wonderful experience. John received his 4th Dan in 2006.

Special Project for NY Aikikai &Yamada Sensei’s 50th Anniversary

Dear Fellow Aikidoka

As you probably know, 2014 is a special year for the New York Aikikai and Yamada Sensei, celebrating the dojo’s 50th anniversary!

We are working on a special project for this celebration, and would like to ask for everybody’s help.

If you, or someone you know, visited the NYA dojo (or the anniversaries summer camps) along these years (1964-2014) and have interesting photos from your visit please email them to us in the highest quality you have. If you have many, you can send them in lower quality and we can ask for the ones we pick to be sent later at a higher resolution.

If you have older (none digital), printed photos and you are unable to scan them, let us know and we can help with that too.

Please send your photos to (or contact with any questions) Shai Golan

To be able to put this together in time for the summer celebrations we would appreciate it if you send us your photos ASAP or, by end of February at the latest.

Your help is greatly appreciated and we hope to see everybody at one of the many upcoming NYA 50th celebrations!


Shai Golan,

New York Aikikai

The Essence of Yamada Sensei

The Essence of Yamada Sensei is a short film of Yamada Sensei teaching at the 2013 USAF Winter Camp, November 8-9-10 in Fort Lauderdale, FL.  Filmed/Edited/Produced by Jonathan Weiner, 3rd Dan, Fukushidoin of Aikido of Charlotte.  To view, click here

To view similar videos produced by Jonathan Weiner,  click here

Aikido of Amarillo Conducts Its First Seminar

Aikido of Amarillo recently hosted its first seminar with T. K. Lee Sensei, 6th DAN from Aikido of Houston. The seminar allowed the students to gain instruction based on Lee Sensei’s 53 years of Aikido experience.

“We struggle with the same challenges every dojo has which operates out of a small, isolated community,” Scott Sensei explains. “Our dojo continues to build its core student base and this seminar offers the opportunity to see an instructor with over 50 years of training. For Lee Sensei to travel to Amarillo and teach us is a very special event.”

During the seminar Lee Sensei described the importance of dynamic body movement. He took the students through each movement step-by-step to emphasize a proper foundation. Points of teaching were to start a waza with strong beginning stance, execute large body movements leading to the application of the waza and then finish with solid stance. Lee Sensei’s teachings of a strong foundation relate to the Founder’s statement, ”In extreme situations, the entire universe becomes our foe; at such critical times, unity of mind and technique is essential – do not let your heart waver!”

Aikido of Amarillo has been in existence since 2005. This year’s Aikido seminar marks the initiation for future dojo events. Dojo-cho, Scott DeJesse, 3rd DAN is a direct student of Lee Sensei. Scott described the seminar as a proud moment for the dojo. The dojo was also happy to have the Midwest Aikido Federation affiliated dojo of Lubbock Aikido participate the Amarillo’s first seminar.

Scott states, “Without the support of T. K. Lee Sensei, the USAF and Amarillo College, there wouldn’t be an opportunity for the Amarillo community to train in the traditional style of Aikido. The Art is a true gift with many benefits for one’s mind, body and spirit. We look forward to the future and will continue to grow the dojo.”

Technical Committee Dan Testing Workshop at Winter Camp

During the November 2013 Florida Aikikai Winter Seminar, the USAF Technical Committee presented a workshop on dan testing. Anyone who is preparing for a dan test should find this video a valuable resource. Florida Aikikai is happy to share what we have learned. Thank you. See you next year! Penny Bernath

Heaven and Earth Dojo News

Heaven and Earth dojo supported a 5K race to assist wounded warriors on October 5th in McLean.  ”Since 2003, thousands of young men and women have been wounded in the line of duty. After discharge from inpatient treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, they continue on active duty while going through a very thorough evaluation period.  At this point in their recovery, many wounded warriors seek housing which is suited to their rehabilitation needs. All proceeds from the McLean 5K Run with the Warriors will be used for the Wounded Warrior Transitional Housing at Vinson Hall.” (

The dojo received almost 200 dollars in donations for the Hand-to-Hand program. The dojo had been looking for a worthy charity and the Run with the Warriors was a good one.  The dojo made a 500 dollar donation toward the event.  If anyone would like to make donations toward covering the 300 dollars the dojo is giving please feel free.

In addition Heaven and Earth dojo held the stretching for the runners before the race. There were about 1500 runners and about 5-10,000 spectators and it was carried on local and national TV.

Hand-to-Hand: Heaven and Earth dojo was constructed to continue the legacy of Yamada and Sugano Sensei’s Aikido as was taught by O Sensei.  That legacy is realized by taking the philosophy of Aikido from the mat and putting it into practice in life.  Sugano Sensei taught that Aikido must be a positive force for change in the world, and to make that real he asked his students to contribute to charitable causes. The Monday night Hand-to-Hand course was set up for this purpose.  Originally it was done to assist wounded veterans but it was opened up to anyone who has a disability or is in need. Currently, the dojo is working with a Marine Corps veteran who was wounded in Afghanistan.  Anyone who might possibly have someone with a limitation who wants to try Aikido, please consider this class.

Non Profit:  Heaven and Earth is in the process of becoming a non-profit organization.  This will assist with the Hand-to-Hand class, and other charitable efforts.  The not-for-profit status will make it a community that fits with the spirit and intention of the dojo.  Thanks to Kyle Cormack for setting this up.



Albany Aikido Celebrates Irvin Faust Sensei’s Shihan Certification

Albany Aikido was pleased to have Shihan David Halprin conduct a one day seminar in celebration of Sensei Irvin Faust being promoted to Shihan. David Sensei taught wonderful and inspiring classes. A good time was had by all. Students came from  Long Island, New Jersey,  Boston, Vermont, Brasher Falls and Montreal. Thanks to all and a special thank you to the wonderful dojo members.

In addition to the seminar, R. Vincente Rubio prepared the following statement to commemorate Irv Faust’s Shihan certification:

“I started aikido in 1977 with Sensei Luqman at Long Island University. I took all my exams from 5th kyu to San-dan under Yamada Sensei. I moved to Albany in 1985 and started my own dojo.” – Humbly and simply put by Irv Faust Sensei of the Albany Aikido of Albany, NY.

Recently, with a selected group of USAF senior teachers, Sensei Faust was promoted to the teaching level of Shihan. With this promotion to Shihan, Sensei Faust became the first Afro-American aikidoka to reach this level of teaching expertise. His many years in aikido, as well as, holding rank in two other martial arts, provides a deeply rich, honest and well thought out teaching perspective in all his classes. Sensei Faust is also a US Air Force Vietnam War veteran.

For me personally, I met Sensei Faust, when we were both performing with Sensei Henry Smith of Aikido of Philadelphia, who 1984 was the director of Solaris Dance Theater of NYC, NY. While waiting off-stage to perform, I watched Sensei Faust go through his bokken suburi for his warm-up. Hooked, I started aikido soon after at the NY Aikikai.

As a ‘newbie’ aikidoka, I would watch, experience by being thrown around, and would be excitedly inspired during the 6:45am morning class at the NY Aikikai. I watched Sensei Faust’s vigorous and joyful training, and safely from the sidelines the after the class all- out free practice he engaged in with the other black belts of equal vitality and ferocity.

To say that I was awe struck by what I witnessed at these after morning class trainings would be an understatement.

Through my mere 28 years of aikido training, Sensei Faust has continued to be an inspiration to me, as well as offering his valuable mentorship whenever we are together on the mat at seminars, or on the phone exchanging our mutual birthdays greetings on March 10th. So to you Sensei Faust, my older brother and honored sempai, CONGRATULATIONS on your promotion to Shihan!