Yamada Sensei’s Article for Honbu Dojo Newsletter

Yamada Sensei was asked by Honbu Dojo to write an article for their newsletter. Yamada Sensei wrote the article in Japanese and also provided a copy translated into English. Sensei asked that this article be shared with USAF members and his students around the world:

To the Members with Gratitude

Yoshimitsu Yamada
US Aikido Federation

I am writing this at a small park in front of my apartment.  It’s 7 am.  Beside me, some ten doves are pecking at bread crumbs.  Every now and then, a brave sparrow couple dares to intrude.  What a heart-warming sight!  Were I given a cup of Italian espresso and a Cuban cigar, it would be beyond my bliss!  But, under the current circumstances …   When the birds retreat to their nap, the park may find a lonesome man dancing in a frenzy to his smart-phone music while, away on a bench young lovers, sitting 6 feet apart, may still affirm their love.

To our generation who never knew the Spanish flu of 100 years ago, the “Corona attack” was a horror no one had experienced to date.  Saying this in the past tense sounds as if the issue has come to an end, but unfortunately, we must still fear and be ready for a second and third wave.  Bearing this firmly in mind, let me tell you how we have faced and coped with this catastrophe.

Please allow me to begin with a personal experience.  In February every year, I go to Japan to take care of both personal and official business.  It was the same this February.  At that time, I had heard about the corona virus, but I was not aware that we were in any immediate danger.  However, when I checked in at my usual hotel, I noticed something was amiss.  February is China’s New Year, but the Chinese tourist groups that normally fill the hotels were strangely absent.  Then, having learned the news of infections on a cruise ship, I immediately decided to return to the US.  Alas, the corona virus traveled faster than me, and upon return I found New York under an emergency order.  In March, we were told to stay home and close our Dojo.  Frankly, at this point, I felt that this would be like a vacation, but for more than two months now I have been inundated with phone calls and letters that required my attention (never mind vacation).  Then my thoughts were full of “negatives” – declining Aikido membership, financial problems with the dojo, disappointing cancelation of domestic and international summer camps as well as more than a dozen training sessions, etc. that I look forward to and enjoy.  Most painfully, I learned about the passing of our members and their loved ones due to Covid-19.  

When I felt the most despair, it was the very people whose future I worried about that helped lift my spirit.  Nearly every day I received phone calls of encouragement from members around the US and the world.  Hearing their words, I was happy they felt a part of the Dojo, that Dojo is theirs; further, I was touched by the passion they have for Aikido and the affection they feel for Dojo and Sensei, i.e., me.  As time went on, they came together which led to their developing an on-line class program.  This act by Aikido members reaffirmed for me how important Aikido, Dojo and students are to me.  All this made me very proud of them.  They are my treasures.  The corona episode, which initially made me feel so negative, has in the end made me appreciate the positives. 

Thank you all!  Let us persevere together!  You and I have Aikido!!

A Message From Yamada Sensei 2020_05_10

Dear USAF members:
It’s hard to believe that almost 2 months have gone by since we were in our dojos on the mat together. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday, and sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago.  I am still receiving so many messages from my students around the world, and it brings me much happiness to hear from you and know you are doing okay.  As for me, I am healthy and well, but missing my old life very much. I am just waiting for the day when I can be in my office speaking with people face-to-face, and being on the mat with everyone again. I never realized how much I would miss all the noise and commotion from the construction outside my NY Aikikai office window!
Well, we all must be patient and do what is best of our health and each other.  This is my busy seminar season, and unfortunately I will not be traveling for many months. It is also with a sad heart that I must announce that the USAF summer camp is now officially canceled.  The hotel is in complete agreement and understanding about the situation, and the they are not even open for business yet. As I’m sure you can imagine, it will not be possible to keep everyone safe and enjoy our time doing aikido.  This is very hard for me, there are so many of you I see each summer and it brings me great joy to have the USAF host this camp. It is one of my favorite weeks each year.  The good news however is that we already have our contract to return to the hotel in 2021, and will extend our invitation to Osawa Sensei and Jikou Sugano Sensei to join us next year.
Please stay healthy and take care. I will be in touch again soon, hopefully it will be with good news with a positive forecast for dojos and the aikido world.
Sincerely,
Y. Yamada

Greetings from Yamada Sensei

Dear USAF Members,

All of us in the aikido community have been affected by COVID-19. It seems like almost all dojos have closed either voluntarily or by government orders. It is hard for me to have the NY Aikikai closed but we must do our part to help and make sure our students stay safe. Many of you have been kind to call or write to see how I am. I want to assure you all that I am in good health – but very bored – and I am looking forward to the time we will all be able to train again. Hopefully we will be able to do so at summer camp. We are in touch with the hotel  but we must wait a little longer until our final decision.

Y. Yamada

Happy Holidays from Yamada Sensei

Dear USAF Members:

As I sit at my desk in my office I can’t believe it is already time for Christmas and the New Year. I don’t know where the time went, especially when I look at my 2019 calendar and see how many places I visited around the world. Again in 2020, I am traveling from as far away as Australia and Russia, to as close as Brooklyn and New Jersey. These seminars and each stop in between is a chance for me to see you all on the mat, and it is what keeps me young and eager to remain your teacher for as long as possible.

We just finished New York Aikikai’s Christmas seminar, and once again the mat was overflowing with visitors. People were even practicing on the wooden floor in our entry way because there was no room on the mat! This of course made me very happy. So many wonderful tests, so many friendly faces I have known through the years, and so many new and young faces that are the future of aikido.

I encourage you all to continue practicing in a harmonious, joyful and friendly way. I think this is what makes the difference in our lives on and off the mat.

Thank you for your support, and I wish you a happy holiday and peaceful New Year.

Sincerely,

Y. Yamada

 

 

CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM YAMADA SENSEI

Our Christmas Seminar and Christmas are just around the corner. So that means it is a time to think about gifts; what should I get? who should I give to?

Well, as far as I’m concerned, I don’t want to be greeted by Santa. I only need to be given a big hug and kiss. I’m more than happy to see you on the mat at the Christmas Seminar.

That will be the only and best gift for me for Christmas.

Y. Yamada

A Message From Yamada Sensei

Dear Teachers and Members,
We just finished our annual summer camp 2018 with great success. It was a great summer camp and I am sure everybody had a wonderful time creating new friendships and new love.
Our summer camp is very unique and one of the best summer camps in the world. I can say this proudly because we offer so many varieties of the best instruction. Well- organized by the staff with lots of explanation and knowledge. Greeted at the desk by intelligent and charming ladies. What else can you ask for?
During summer camp, there were a couple of meetings by the Technical Committee and Board of Directors.  I am very happy with the result of both meetings.
Before I finish this letter, I’d like to say that I hope you have a wonderful rest of the 2018 year, creating deeper friendships with one another. And I’d like to encourage all the dojos to have seminars inviting our talented T. C. members.
Y. Yamada

Wishing You A Happy New Year

Once again, as I take a moment to look back at the year, I feel so lucky to be in good health and have the support of so many people in the USAF and around the world.  I have traveled to so many seminars and continue to receive such a warm welcome.  This of course inspires me to give as much as I possibly can to everyone on the mat, to show my appreciation for everyone who makes an effort to come and practice at these seminars.

I also know there are many people who can not attend seminars that often, but who show their dedication to their home dojo and their instructor.  I hope everyone will continue to focus on their practice in a sincere way, and that we all look to grow in our aikido techniques, our budo principals, and our kindness towards each other as human beings in the year ahead.

All my best wishes for a wonderful new year.

Y. Yamada

Just Saying Hello….

It has been many months since I wrote an article to the Aikido community, and that is actually good news because I have been back to my busy schedule traveling and teaching all over the world. I am happy to be taking these few days at my own dojo because right after USAF summer camp I traveled immediately to camp in Germany, and I leave soon for a trip to Brazil, Argentina and Chile.  So it’s always nice to be home, no matter how short! I would like to thank everyone who came to camp this year, both Osawa Sensei and I had wonderful week.

There are many instructors connected with New York Aikikai in the tri-state area who have been running their own dojos for a long time, even decades. It was an unusually busy spring for me as well because in addition to my international seminars, several of these nearby dojos had anniversary seminars. So while I was absent from even more of my usual Saturday classes at NYA, I was  happy to be included in these celebration seminars and see so many instructors in their own dojos surrounded by wonderful students.  

So, this is all to say that I am doing well, and I look look forward to seeing you soon, somewhere, on the mat.

Have a wonderful fall season,

Y. Yamada

Eddie Hagihara : Congratulations And An Introduction

The year of 2017 started with good news for the aikido community in the USA. This good news was announced in January during Aikikai’s annual kagami biraki celebration. Four Americans were promoted to 8th dan for the first time in aikido history. Needless to say I know all of them very well so it makes me very happy.

One particular person among the four is Mr. Eddie Hagihara from the USAF. I’m especially happy for him for many reasons. The recommendation for his promotion was made by me and the USAF for his exemplary aikido life for many years and his long-time support of the aikido community. That is the congratulations part of this story. Now for the introduction.

 It is unfortunate that Mr. Hagihara is not well-known to the new generation of aikidoists in the USA. The main reason for this is due to the wonderful qualities of his personality. Hagihara Shihan is a very quiet, shy and humble person. (Except when he has a few glasses of beer!) I know these qualities very well because we’ve known each other for 55 years. He was born in 1935 and promoted to shodan in 1962 by the late Koichi Tohei Sensei. Right after he received his shodan he went to study at Aikikai in Japan. I was already an uchi deshi there and that was the first time we met. And we became friends. At that time there were very few foreigners training at Aikikai, not like the present.

By the way, Mr. Bob Nadeau, who has also been promoted to 8th dan, was also in Japan for the same reason as Hagihara Shihan. The three of us hung out together on and off the mat because I spoke English. Both Eddie and Bob traveled with me when I went to teach regularly at a US military camp. They were especially helpful when I taught Americans. However, I still wonder whether they were really accompanying me in order to drink the good scotch and beer available in the military camp.

 Now I must tell you a serious story that shows Eddie’s true nature. By 1962 I had already decided to accept the invitation to be the main teacher at the newly formed New York Aikikai. In contrast to the present, the dojo was very small in membership and most of the students came from judo. Eddie was an original member of the dojo and was the main teacher even thought he had limited knowledge at the time. That’s why he was sent to Japan; to improve his skills and become the main teacher in New York. At that time communications were not as easy and sophisticated as they are today and there was plenty of confusion. Eddie found out about my assignment in New York while he was in Japan and I’m sure he was very surprised and confused about it. The reason I respect Eddie and owe him so much is that his attitude toward me after this confusion was great – he was gracious and humble to me as if nothing bothered him. He gave full support to my goals and efforts at the New York Aikikai. I came to New York in 1964 to be chief instructor and Eddie came back at the same time. I felt bad about the situation but there was nothing I could do but apologize to him.

After his return to New York, Eddie got married and opened a dojo on Long Island. He still displays the qualities of quiet strength and humility that are the foundation of his nature and that have made my aikido mission here even easier. I have great respect for him because of that and that’s why I feel so happy about his promotion. He’s still very attached to the New York Aikikai and I think he loves it more than anybody else.

My congratulations to Eddie Hagihara and my best wishes for even a longer life in aikido.

Happy New Year 2017

Dear USAF members:

I wish all of you a happy, happy new year.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your support and the wonderful moments you have given me throughout the year.

I imagine that every one of you will make a new year’s resolution.  My resolution is to have another healthy, positive year in order to meet your expectations.  I hope you also have a good year and go back to your “Shoshin,” that translates roughly to “Back to the original motivation or pure motivation.”

I imagine that you were so happy only to practice Aikido when you started an Aikido life.  Please always carry that pure mind with you.

Looking forward to seeing you again in 2017 whenever and wherever it may be.  I love you all.

Y. Yamada

 

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