Archives for 2019

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.


Y. Yamada



Summary Letter from the USAF Board of Directors

November 25, 2019

Dear USAF Dojo Cho and Instructors,

The Board of Directors met in Ft. Lauderdale for its annual meeting on November 7-9. Here is a summary of the main outcomes of that meeting.

The most important task for the annual meeting is the USAF budget. The discussion focused on where we are to date and developing a balanced budget for Fiscal year 2020. We will vote and approve the 2020 budget by the end of January.

A second issue of importance for our annual meeting is the election of board members and officers. I am pleased to announce that we elected a new member to the board. Sylvie Firestone, 5th Dan and co-founder of Aikido of Westchester, will join the board in 2020. As well as being an accomplished Aikidoist, Sylvie is an excellent graphic designer with great media savvy. The Board is excited that she will bring this skill set to the USAF to help us grow and strengthen the organization going forward. Julia Freedgood was re-elected Treasurer and Peter Bernath was also re-elected as Technical Committee representative.

Since Summer Camp, we have examined several recommendations from the ad-hoc Marketing and Growth committee. It was decided that, since each dojo is a separate entity with its own organizational structure, a blanket approach to internet marketing is not feasible at this time. However, we are making the committee a formal committee of the Board and will continue to work with the ad-hoc members to strengthen the USAF’s presence and offer suggestions to member dojos on ways they can better promote themselves locally. Meanwhile, both the USAF Youtube channel and Instagram accounts are up and running, promoting our summer camp classes and other USAF events.

The Board has created a “Working Group” to explore issues of gender, diversity and inclusion in our organization. To start, the group consists of Board representatives Julia Freedgood and Sylvie Firestone along with USAF members Chris Wong and Arturo Peal. It will be chaired by Sharon Dominguez. The working Group has already met and is moving forward to determine goals, structure and composition of the group and to decide on next steps.

The Board updated the Code of Conduct, clarified the Grievance Process, and will be making the entire package more easily accessible on the USAF website. This document is linked to our DDC instructor’s page, our newsletter –, and our website’s Membership Benefit’s page at We encourage you to post the Code of Conduct in your dojo so your members are aware of and have access to the updated policy.

In addition to the Board meetings at Winter Camp, it is also the place for one of the Technical Committee’s bi-annual meetings. As TC membership is based on 4 year terms, the following members’ terms were renewed for another 4 years: Peter Bernath, Claude Berthiaume, Harvey Konigsberg, Donovan Waite.

You will be receiving information regarding 2020 renewals in the next few weeks. Please do not proceed with your renewals until then.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving and a joyous holiday season,

George Kennedy
Chair, USAF Board of Directors

Dan Promotion Applications Mailed to Aikikai October 2nd, 2019

Test applications mailed to Aikikai Hombu Dojo on October 2nd, 2019 for registration of  dan rank




  • Michael Villacin – Aikido North Jersey
  • Joseph Cayea – Aikido of Central New York
  • Stuart Plymesser – Aikido of Central New York
  • Jason Neumann – Aikido of Cincinnati
  • Geoffrey Yee – Aikido of Ramapo Valley
  • Susannah Wolk Rodriguez – Albany Aikido
  • Richard Chong – Albany Aikido
  • Tamera Bowcutt – Heaven and Earth Aikido
  • John Hite – Hoboken Aikikai
  • Svetlena Medvedeva – Midwest Aikido Center
  • Michael Paus – New York Eastside Aikikai
  • Rodney Landis – Old City Aikido
  • Robert Gilbride – Old City Aikido
  • John Wes Green – Old City Aikido
  • Gregory Barton – Plano Aikido Center
  • Audrey Therese Uy – Skylands Aikikai
  • David Szyszka – Woodstock Aikido
  • Adam Montan – Twin Cities Aikido Center


  • Adonis Villarosa – Aikido North Jersey
  • Michael Hanson – Aikido of Cincinnati
  • Dmitry Shimelfarb – Aikido of Ramapo Valley
  • Ken Sato – Aikido of Westchester


  • Ramin Miri – Aikido de la Montagne
  • John Graham – Aikido of Fairfield County
  • Sau Yan Yee – Aikido of Ramapo Valley
  • Yoshikazu Hirano – Aikido of Westchester
  • Mario De Marco – Lake County Aikikai
  • Herman Rodriguez – Lake County Aikikai
  • Andrew Benioff – Old City Aikido
  • Mark Ahlquist – Vineland Aikikai


  • Kim Johnston – New York Eastside Aikikai
  • Mike Cipra – Twin Cities Aikido Center

Message from the USAF Board of Directors

Dear USAF Instructors:
This past weekend the USAF Board of Directors held its annual meeting at Florida Aikikai’s winter camp. During our meeting we discussed a petition on gender equity which had been posted on Facebook and otherwise circulated by a Coalition of women in Aikido. We also discussed a related proposal from another group interested in advancing diversity and equity and ways to grow and strengthen the USAF.
The Board is fully committed to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in the USAF. Based on our own deliberations and several constructive recommendations we have received, we will be implementing a series of changes, starting with the creation of a Working Group to explore gender and equity issues. This Working Group will include one or more Board members and one or more Technical Committee members, along with other USAF members. We will be providing greater detail in the forthcoming letter from the Board Chair sharing the outcomes of the Board meeting.
According to our Code of Conduct, “all members are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that reflects positively on the USAF and Aikido.” While we are excited about the actions we will be taking to advance equity and inclusion, we are disappointed by the Coalition’s divisive behaviors, especially on social media, which have included public attacks on the USAF, its Board and Yamada Sensei. As such, we have notified the coalition that we will only work with USAF members in good standing who share our goals of promoting gender equity in an honorable, transparent and mutually respectful manner.
We want all USAF members to know we are grateful to Yamada Sensei for the organization he has created and built. Furthermore, the Board fully supports Yamada Sensei and has complete confidence in his leadership now and going forward.
The USAF Board of Directors

Dan Promotion Applications Mailed to Aikikai June 28th, 2019

Test applications mailed to Aikikai Hombu Dojo on June 28th, 2019 for registration of  dan rank




  • Daniel Sinnott – Aikido Institute of Newfoundland
  • Martha Cox – Aikido of Austin
  • James Woodruff – Aikido of Austin
  • Laura Domitz – Aikido of Austin
  • Denman Netherland – Aikido of Austin
  • Fernando de Castro Granato – Aikido of Central New York
  • Danielle Pecor – Aikido of Champlain Valley
  • Ellen Wallin – Aikido of Northampton
  • Corey Zorn – Aikido of Scottsdale
  • Bradley Walstron – Aikido of Scottsdale
  • Kenton McCarthy – Aikido of Scottsdale
  • Dan Burman – Aikido of Scottsdale
  • Jeffrey Padilla – Aikido of Westchester
  • Reginald Williams – Fairfield Iowa Aikikai
  • Agnes Kamasi – Harvard Aikikai
  • Alexsandr Pushnin – Kentuckiana Aikikai
  • Alexander Martyn – Lake County Aikikai
  • Joanne Balkaran – Lake County Aikikai
  • Louise Potvin – McGill Aikido
  • Raymond Yuan – McGill Aikido
  • Florent Ongenae – McGill Aikido
  • David Perra – Monadnock Aikikai
  • Ileana Patti – Northern Virginia Aikikai
  • Alexander Gil – Ottawa Aikido Center
  • Sean Lent – Portland Aikido
  • Lawrence Trutter – Sangamon Aikikai
  • Veronica Schmiedeskamp – Seattle Aikikai
  • Ryan Mueller – Shodokan
  • Patricio Jeraldo – Twin Cities Aikido Center
  • Svetlana Drobyshevskaya – Newport Beach Aikikai
  • Farah Marasigan – Aikikai of Philadelphia
  • Barbara Craig – Aikikai of Philadelphia


  • Rodolfo Rojas – Aikido de la Montagne
  • Mahmoud Belkacemi – Aikido de la Montagne
  • Mark McDonald – Aikido Institute of Newfoundland
  • John Wozniewski – Aikido of Dallas
  • Paul Michael Jones – Aikido of Scottsdale
  • Jen Guerra – Aikido of Westchester
  • John Trawa – Boston Aikikai
  • Aaron Hunter – Kentuckiana Aikikai
  • Vernon Williams – Lake County Aikikai
  • Amy Hyatt – Monadnock Aikikai
  • John Powers – Lunenburg Aikikai


  • Karim Rholem – Aikido de la Montagne
  • Chris Farnham – Aikido of Champlain Valley
  • Mark Heuer – Aikido of Dallas
  • Iver Christopher – Iowa City Aikikai
  • Bryan Coffie – Aikido Aruba
  • Marilene Gelinas – Monteregie Aikikai
  • Marianne Kobbe – Aikido of Nassau County
  • Aberlardo Cuevas – Aikido of Nassau County


  • Jack Tran – Greater Hartford Aikikai
  • Leonard Scott Brown – Aikido of Dallas
  • Antonio Terrone – Evanston Aikido

A Statement from the USAF Board of Directors 10-3-2019

On September 14th, a petition titled “Support Women in the United States Aikido Federation” was posted on Facebook by the USAF Women’s Coalition, now renamed Independent Coalition of USAF Women (Coalition). This is an independent group not sanctioned by the USAF. The petition has also been circulated through various social media platforms, emails, texts, private contacts, etc. The Board first learned of this petition through Facebook and was not given the opportunity to speak to the Coalition prior to the petition being circulated through social media. To this date, the Board has not received the formal petition from the Coalition.

As stated on the USAF’s website: “The USAF does not advocate, support, or practice unlawful discrimination based on age, ethnicity, gender, national origin, disability, race, size, religion, sexual orientation, or socio-economic background.”

The USAF is a rank-based organization with a structure that supports teacher-student relationships, longevity, and seniority. However, equality is expected in our behavior with one another as human beings, both on and off the mat.

Due to the nature of social media, we are aware there are many rumors and inaccurate statements being circulated. The Board feels it is important at this time to clarify some USAF policies and procedures and to address the actions the petition seeks from the USAF, as outlined below.

          A. Recognition that gender equity is a valid issue that needs exploration in the USAF through a Gender Equity Task Force.

The USAF takes violations of the USAF Code of Conduct (CoC), including acts of discrimination, very seriously. The CoC and Membership Regulations are posted on in the USAF newsletter Recognition and acceptance of the CoC and all USAF Policies are requirements for the annual renewal process of Chief Instructors and their dojos. The CoC sets forth a notification process for grievances or concerns that take place within one’s dojo, or in the USAF community at large.

          B. Representation in USAF structures as well as USAF activities/seminars at least proportional to member population.

With respect to structure, governance of the USAF is through its Board of Directors, the Technical Committee and Yamada Sensei as USAF Technical Advisor. Day-to-day operations are handled by the Director of Operations. The USAF is a not-for-profit corporation made up of member dojos. Membership in the USAF is voluntary and in accordance with the USAF Membership Regulations and other USAF policies. The USAF, among other things:

  • (i) provides its membership a pathway to attain Aikikai dan ranks;
  • (ii) preserves our lineage to our teachers; and
  • (iii) encourages excellence in its standards of instruction, practice and promotions

In addition, the Board and the Director of Operations have been diligently working over the past few years to provide transparency through various communications and at instructors’ meetings (e.g., at Summer Camp). The USAF also offers administrative support to Chief Instructors and dojo administrators, including platforms for information and communication.

Most importantly, the Board would like to emphasize that at its essence the USAF is a community of long-standing friends, teachers and students who love the art of aikido and spending time together, both on and off the mat.

Regarding gender equity as it pertains to USAF structure, please note:

  • The Director of Operations and Assistant to the Director are women.
  • The only event organized by the USAF, the USAF Summer Camp, is run solely by women.
  • The Treasurer of the Board of Directors is a woman, and a woman has mostly held that position for over a decade.
  • Prior to the current Secretary, the Secretary of the Board was held by women for many years.
  • An advisor to the Board is a woman who also had previously been a Board member for many years.
  • There have always been 1-3 women on the Board.
  • Other than Yamada Sensei, the only people with direct relationships with Hombu Dojo for all USAF official business are women.
  • Technical Committee will be addressed below.


USAF CAMP: USAF Summer Camp is the only seminar/camp organized and run but the USAF. We are privileged to have Yamada Sensei and Osawa Sensei teach throughout the week in addition to classes taught by the Technical Committee. There are very few classes available beyond these Shihans’ classes in proportion to the number of Chief Instructors and higher ranked instructors who attend camp. Yamada Sensei tries his best to distribute the remaining classes in a fair way from year to year. 

Here is a breakdown of classes from 2019 Summer Camp:

# TOTAL CLASSES REMAINING After Yamada Sensei, Osawa Sensei, TC      19
# TAUGHT BY MEN      14    73.68%
# TAUGHT BY WOMEN      5    26.32%

50% of 6th dan women and 25% of 6th dan men attending camp were given classes. (Note – Approximately 14% of all USAF dojos are run by women.)

Seminars: In the same way that the USAF does not interfere with the internal running of a dojo, it does not participate in a dojo’s decision to host a seminar or special class. An invitation to teach is at the sole discretion of the host dojo. This is often decided based on friendships, student-teacher relationships, convenience, budgetary considerations, or any number of factors, all of which are at the sole purview of the host dojo. The USAF only involves itself in seminars when the host dojo or invited instructors are not USAF members. The USAF does its best to notify dojos when there may be a scheduling conflict due to dates or proximity.

          C.  Removal of barriers to the advancement of women, at all levels of practice.

With respect to advancement, all USAF dojos are run autonomously and independently. Membership in the USAF requires compliance with our guidelines, including testing requirements, code of conduct, membership regulations etc.

Yamada Sensei oversees New Year’s promotions for Chief Instructors. Neither the USAF nor Yamada Sensei reviews the rank status of members within a dojo; it is the sole responsibility of the Chief Instructors to promote their students in their own dojo.

          D. A change in the Technical Committee structure to include women on the Technical Committee.

The Technical Committee is a Committee of the USAF and is required for Aikikai affiliation. As the USAF founding Shihan were contemporaries who came to the United States to spread aikido, our current TC was formed on the same premise. These are the close students of the Shihan who arrived from Japan, those who followed them and learned from them for decades and therefore bring technical and personal maturity to the USAF. The were chosen by Yamada Sensei. Their history and experience are important for maintaining the lineage of those who came before us.

TC members must be 7th dan. However, this does not mean that all 7th dans will be considered for the TC.

Promotion to 7th dan requires the following:

7th dan: Aikikai regulations require a minimum of 12 years from 6th dan to qualify for 7th dan. Yamada Sensei must travel to Japan to meet with Doshu personally to present 7th dan candidates. This rank is not given freely, and may not be granted immediately after 12 years.

At this time, there are no women who are active members of the USAF who are 7th dan.

          E. Transparency, including publication of statistics about gender in the USAF.

The USAF administration does its best to provide information to Chief Instructors. The Board does not have statistics to share, nor do we feel that gender specific information helps create a full understanding of the diverse population of our community. We do not know who is active, who has joined, or who has left a dojo on any given day. As an organization of independent dojos with different demographics, locations, schedules, fees, etc., the composition of a dojo is based on a number of variables.

While positive exchanges are encouraged amongst members regarding their experiences practicing and teaching aikido, the USAF does not have, does not collect, nor does it intend to collect information regarding members within each individual USAF dojo. We appreciate our diverse membership and all they bring to our community.

We thank those who commit their time and energy to the practice of aikido.








Aikido In The Rain

During a rainy weekend while sitting in thought about my time in aikido, I was distracted by the individual rain drops falling on the ubiquitous asphalt and mineral shingle roof keeping me dry; glad to be dry, and a thought began to form. I thought, how much like the flow of water, the perfection of ki in aikido practice must be. I envisioned the drumming drops striking in their chaotic pattern, making their meandering journey down the rough surface of the shingles. During their journey, the drops begin to coalesce into small rivulets picking up mass and slowly picking speed as they flowed to the edge of the roof. At the edge of the roof, dictated by the water’s surface tension and the pull of gravity, bulges into a pool. Ultimately gravity wins and the almost magical water both drips and streams off the roof. It was not until another recent rainy weekend day while reading a book on martial arts at a coffee shop, that the thought of rain and the roof returned, and began to develop in my minds eye and determined once home, I would sit down and develop the thought.

What I ultimately realized was that something was missing from the magical water and the forces of nature, a critical piece; people. I then realized the roof I was under, it self, stood as the symbol of humanity. The roof was developed in antiquity by our ancestor’s as a response to the chaotic state of nature. The roof is and was a means of co-existence with nature. The roof does not destroy the rain that falls upon it, for we cannot live without water. The roof does not throw the rain back where it cam from; water is also a friend and useful. Rather, the roof during a downpour, allows the rain to go somewhere non-threatening to the inhabitant. The roof was not likely developed in a flash of genius by some pre-historical ancestor. More than likely the roof evolved over time into what many of us now take for granted; until we don’t have one. I began to see the interaction of forces between the rain and the roof like the interactions of people of the martial arts and aikido in particular.

Like the rain, humanity is a product of nature, and yet unlike rain we are conscious. Like nature and the rain, humanity can be chaotic. It is therefore the chaotic nature between humans in nature that must be balanced. I believe that people choose the martial arts, even if to a small degree, to learn to defend themselves from other people. Regardless of what they say when they first enter the dojo door, self-defense against other people must be a reason; or why not painting or music or any other myriad of choices. People that choose the martial arts over, lets say guns, seem to understand inherently that our fellow humans can at times be either a competitor or a compatriot (chaotic?) and killing them is an extreme option. Like water, we need other people, and on occasion, a means of dealing with them when their chaotic nature becomes violent.

I have found aikido as a great means to practice self-defense while making new and lasting friendships. Aikido is specifically none competitive and many of the techniques were modified by O-sensei for safety from several very deadly Japanese fighting systems. Many of the people that really need self-defense skills are turned away by the apparent violence of martial arts. Some of our new members were attracted to aikido because it is non-competitive and “softer” which provides a safe place to practice a proven martial art without the excess of baggage of competition or on average, more aggressive practitioners.

The foundation of aikido is learning about and mastering Aiki. Aiki is the blending and harmonizing of positive and negative ki toward a single end. In aikido we refer to the practicing pair as uke and nage; uke is the attacker (negative ki) and nage (positive ki) performs the technique being practiced. Note; uke attacks, but I did not use the word defender. Nage is proactive and does not receive the attack; rather, nage moves to a safer position in which to initiate Aiki and thereby harmonize with the attack and add their ki to uke’s ki, and both with the power of nature (gravity).

Be forewarned, the practice of aikido is in intimate interaction between two or more people of which you are physically attached to one another during the execution of technique. As such, the time required to attain practical success with aikido techniques is generally longer than striking arts where contact is primarily limited to delivering and deflecting strikes. Rather than deflect a strike and then counter strike; you must now move uke’s entire mass, along with you own, into a position where they can be safely controlled; again, we call this process Aiki.

Be patient in your practice, aikido takes time but is worth the wait to become proficient. In the mean time you may make new friends that are more than willing to assist you in your new journey. You may also find your own negative ki diminishing within your spirit. Once proficient, should the need arise, and an attack rains down upon you; you can become that old and enduring roof that safely and efficiently channels the rain to a place where it becomes non-threatening; and maybe even discover a future friend.


Joe Heim

Kenosha Aikikai

Yamada Sensei Honored By Borough of Manhattan

We are delighted to announce that Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has graciously honored Yamada Sensei on his 55 years of aikido service, teaching and inspiration by proclaiming July 10, 2019 Sensei Yoshimitsu Yamada Appreciation Day. 

Congratulations to Yamada Sensei for this amazing accomplishment. We can’t begin to express our gratitude and appreciation for all he has done to help spread aikido throughout the world, and for his continued teachings and guidance as Technical Director of the USAF!

To view the full Proclamation, click here.

Harvey Konigsberg Sensei – A New Documentary

Dear Aikido friends,

We are delighted to announce that the documentary about Harvey Konigsberg Shihan’s subtle understanding of the nuances of Aikido is now complete. Aikido, Life, Art and Harmony: An Interview with Harvey Konigsberg Sensei can be purchased through his website,

The running time is a little over an hour. You can see a preview here:


Kali Hewitt-Blackie

Regent Park Community Aikido

Dan Promotion Applications Mailed to Aikikai April 15th, 2019

Test applications mailed to Aikikai Hombu Dojo on April 15th, 2019 for registration of  dan rank




  • Daniiar Akmatov – Open Sky Aikikai
  • Lori Basiewicz – Sangamon
  • Derrick Doose – Aikido Center of Atlanta
  • Alice Fairfield – Greater Hartford Aikikai
  • Matthew Ladenheim – Aikido of Charlotte
  • Roberto Montemayor – Aikido of Houston
  • Brian Nicholson – Lunenburg Aikikai
  • Douglas Pickard – Greater Hartford Aikikai
  • Matthew Weldin – Seattle Aikikai
  • Benjamin Wood – Open Sky Aikikai


  • Judith Csiky – Peachtree Aikikai Atlanta
  • Stephanie Curnoe – Aikido Institute of Newfoundland
  • Paolo Andrea Dalla Fina – Notting Hill Aikikai
  • Sean Gallagher – Open Sky Aikikai
  • Fatima Hayes – Chushin Aikikai
  • Danielle Hyatt – Seattle Aikikai
  • Francisco Ibarra – Aikido of Houston
  • May Lane – Woodstock Aikido
  • Thomas Lee – Seattle Aikikai
  • Chad Lindsay – Chushin Aikikai
  • Gary Miller – Finger Lakes Aikido
  • David Oskardmay – Open Sky Aikikai
  • Amanda Page – Seattle Aikikai
  • Colleen Pattillo – Seattle Aikikai
  • Colette Phillips – Aikido Institute of Newfoundland
  • Mahika Rangnekar – Seattle Aikikai
  • Matthew Unger – Skylands Aikikai
  • Charlie Wilson – Lunenburg Aikikai
  • Tom Worsnopp – Aikido of Park Slope


  • Stanley Mitchell – Peachtree Aikikai Atlanta


  • Peter Aldrich – Bermuda Aikikai
  • David Becker – Seattle Aikikai
  • Andrew DePippo – Aikido of Nassau County
  • Rejean Gauthier – Aikikai de L’Universite Laval
  • John Manderson – Bermuda Aikikai
  • David Pena – Albany Aikido
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