USAF Board of Directors

USAF Board of Directors (effective 6/10/2015)


 PresidentYoshimitsu Yamada Shihan, Hachidan, 8th dan

New York Aikikai

In 1955, at the age of 18, Yamada Sensei was accepted in the Hombu Dojo uchi-deshi program (live-in apprentice) to study directly with O-Sensei, the founder of Aikido. In addition to O-Sensei, he also studied under such Aikido masters as Kissomaru Ueshiba, Koichi Tohei, Kisaburo Osawa, Kenji Tomiki, Hiroshi Tada and Seigo Yamaguchi, among others.

An invitation to demonstrate Aikido at the 1964 World’s Fair brought Yamada Sensei to New York City. He stayed on to become Chief Instructor at the New York Aikikai. By 1972 he already assumed his role as Aikido ambassador to the world at large, introducing his vigorous, inspiring and joyful teaching style to thousands of appreciative students on practically every continent.



Vice President: Andy Demko Shihan, Nanadan, 7th dan

Aikido of New Castle

Demko Sensei started Aikido in 1966 in Youngstown, Ohio with Peter Takach and Charles Cycyk. They were pioneers of the art in the 60’s and learned Aikido from a book. Demko Sensei met Yamada Sensei in 1966 and became his student. He established New Castle Aikikai in 1971. Through Yamada Sensei, Demko Sensei has met and trained with many of O-sensei’s direct students including Koichi Tohei Sensei, the second and third Doshu, Saito Sensei, Kanai Sensei, Chiba Sensei, and Sugano Sensei. Demko Sensei has been a member of the USAF since it its beginning and served as a member of the Board of Governors until he was appointed to the Technical Committee. He teaches actively throughout the East Coast and Midwest and conducts seminars within the USAF.


ChairmanJoseph Nemeth Shihan, Rokudan, 6th dan

Aikido of Nassau County

Joe Nemeth Sensei began his study of Aikido and Judo in 1960. He trained in Judo at the Kodokan in Tokyo Japan and achieved the rank of 3rd dan before focusing exclusively on Aikido in 1974. Nemeth Sensei has also trained in Aikido at Hombu Dojo in Japan. With more than 40 years of martial arts experience, he continues to train actively with many of the top Aikido instructors in the United States, especially Yamada Sensei.


Paul Forhan Shidoin, Yondan, 4th dan 

Aikido of El Paso

Paul Forhan Sensei began studying marital arts in 1965 and training in Aikido in 1990. Paul’s close association with New York Aikikai began in 1990, where he lived at the dojo part time and regularly regularly under Yamada Sensei. Paul travels worldwide to attend numerous seminars with various Shihan.




Honorary Member: Michael Abrams Shihan, Nanadan, 7th dan

New York Aikikai

Mike Abrams Sensei played a major role in the development of the New York Aikikai. He started training in New York City in 1964 and has trained, traveled and taught seminars around the world and has been fortunate enough to have attended classes taught by O -Sensei. Abrams Sensei is Chairman Emeritus of the United States Aikido Federation and remains a trusted Advisor.


Peter Bernath Shihan, Nanadan, 7th dan

Florida Aikikai

Chief instructor of Florida Aikikai, Bernath Sensei also holds a Shodan in Iaido. Bernath Sensei started his Aikido career in 1972 under the direction of Yamada Sensei, and was an instructor at New York Aikikai prior to being sent by Yamada Sensei to open Florida Aikikai in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Bernath Sensei has traveled extensively throughout the world including Europe and Japan, and has been fortunate to study under many of O-sensei’s most famous disciples, including Kisshomaru and Moriteru Ueshiba, the second and third Doshu (leader of Aikido). Bernath Sensei is one of the most highly respected Aikido instructors in the United States and regularly teaches seminars throughout the USAF, Canada, Latin America and Europe; he is also a member of the USAF Technical Committee.


Claude Berthiaume Shihan, Nanadan, 7th dan

Aikido de la Montagne

Berthiaume Sensei began practicing Aikido at the age of 17 under the direction of René Gauvin. When Gauvin Sensei retired in 1972, Berthiaume Sensei joined the Montreal Aikikai, directed by Massimo Di Villadorata. In 1974, he obtained his black belt and became the first Aikido instructor of the Service Des Sports at Université du Québec à Montréal, where he was finishing his Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education. As a student he was a close disciple of the late Kanai Sensei and a student of Yamada Sensei. He has traveled extensively in Canada, the United States, the Caribbean, South America and various European countries, attending over twenty seminars every year. In 1988, Berthiaume Sensei became the chief instructor of Aikido de la Montagne. He continues to lead seminars regularly throughout the US, Canada and Europe. In addition, Sensei Berthiaume holds the rank of 6th dan in Iaido and is Technical Director of the Kiyoikaze Association and is a member of the USAF Technical Committee.


Julia Freedgood Shidoin, Godan, 5th dan

Valley Aikido

Freedgood sensei began Aikido in 1982 at Amherst Aikikai, under P. Sylvain and L. Dianne, direct students of Chiba Sensei. She studied under Kanai Sensei from 1984 – 1988 and, thanks to the USAF, over the years has had the opportunity to meet and learn from many of O-sensei’s direct students including Chiba Sensei, Shibata Sensei, Sugano Sensei, Tohei Sensei, and the second and third Doshu. She helped Sylvain Sensei found Valley Aikido in 1985 and assumed its leadership upon his death in 1996. Now a student of Yamada Sensei, she serves as Dojo Cho of Valley Aikido in Northampton MA.


George Kennedy Shihan, Rokudan, 6th dan

Aikido Center of Atlanta

George Kennedy Sensei began his aikido training in 1972 at the Aikido Center of Atlanta and became Chief Instructor and Dojo-cho in 1989. Kennedy Sensei is chair of the Dispute Resolution Committee and is the main author of the USAF Student Guide. In addition to being a professional artist, Kennedy Sensei has developed Aikido-based defensive tactics courses for Law Enforcement and continues to be a contributing member of the Georgia Association of Defensive Tactics Instructors. His background reflects his belief that Aikido is both an effective method of self-defense and a path of peace and reconciliation.


Edward Peteroy Shihan, Rokudan, 6th dan

USAF Academy Aikido Club

Ed Peteroy Sensei started his training in 1970 under Yamada Sensei in New York City. He received his shodan in 1973. Peteroy Sensei has started and been the Chief Instructor of Aikido clubs in Indiana and Missouri while attending graduate school. Since 1985, Peteroy Sensei has been the Chief Instructor at the United States Air Force Academy where he instructs cadets and policemen. He also studied Aikido in Japan at Hombu Dojo and with Kobayashi Sensei in Kodaira, Japan from 1987-1990. Presently, he continues his studies with Yamada Sensei.


Blue Spruell Shidoin,  Godan, 5th dan

Peachtree Aikikai Atlanta

Blue Spruell Sensei is Chief Instructor of Peachtree Aikikai Atlanta.  He began his Aikido training under Masahiro Okada Shihan and Katsuya Nakamura Shihan in 1988 in Japan, where he lived and trained for five years before returning to Atlanta to co-found his first dojo, Dogwood Aikikai.  He has traveled extensively to train under Mitsunari Kanai Shihan and continues to train under Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan.  He also holds 5th dan rank in Kyudo as well as Iaido and is a board member of Kiyoikaze Iaido Federation.  Off the mat, Spruell Sensei is a trial lawyer and certified mediator, specializing in civil and domestic litigation:  He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two children.


Christine Wong Shidoin, Godan, 5th dan

Aikido of Santa Barbara

Christine Wong Sensei is Chief Instructor of Aikido of Santa Barbara. She started Aikido in 1985 under the late Kensho Furuya in Los Angeles, California. After moving to Santa Barbara in 1998, she studied with the founders of Aikido of Santa Barbara, Geraldine Tremblay Sensei and Bill Staub Sensei until they moved to Hawaii. She has studied extensively with the late Mitsunari Kanai and continues to study with Yamada Shihan.

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