March 1st, 2023
Dear USAF Members,
I hope this finds you well. On behalf of the Board of Directors and the Technical Committee (TC), I am writing to share some updates since my last communication about a month ago. The Memorial Service for Yamada Sensei last weekend was extraordinary. Organized by the Yamada family and New York Aikikai, it brought together hundreds of people to honor Yamada Sensei. We are incredibly grateful for all the time and energy that went into the planning, and thank the Yamada family and NYA for this opportunity to come together to mourn our collective loss and share memories and tears with friends from around the world.
Below are a few items of importance regarding the USAF moving forward:
1 –Yamada Sensei was the leader of the USAF. His official title was “Chief Instructor and Technical Advisor.” This position was created specifically for Yamada Sensei, and with his passing, has been terminated. No one can replace Yamada Sensei. Recognizing the difficulties that would ensue in naming someone to take on that role, Sensei’s stated wishes were that the Technical Committee, the Board of Directors, and the Administration work together as the formal structure of the USAF.
Yamada Sensei was also the Chairman of the Technical Committee. This position must be filled as per the USAF bylaws and Aikikai requirements. The TC has unanimously appointed Peter Bernath as Chairperson with the Board’s full support. A letter was sent to Doshu with this information and a letter of acknowledgement from Doshu has been received.
Similar to the Chair of the Board of Directors, the TC Chair is an administrative position and does not elevate one TC member over any of the others. For example, the TC chairperson is kept up-to-date on administrative issues and helps oversee the running of the TC meetings. In addition, the Aikikai International Department requires the TC Chair’s signature for all USAF dan applications and yudansha books.
2 – On Sunday morning, February 26th, following the Memorial Service, a meeting was held at the New York Aikikai. In attendance were Osawa Sensei, TC members Claude Berthiaume, Steve Pimsler, Peter Bernath, Penny Bernath, USAF Board officers Joe Nemeth and Ray Farinato, myself, and Noriko Oba, Blue Spruell and Junya Nakatsugawa, assisting with translation.
The primary topic of conversation focused on the close relationship between the USAF and Hombu Dojo, and both Aikikai and Osawa Sensei’s desire to help the USAF during this time of transition. We discussed methods and procedures for working with Aikikai under a variety of scenarios, and Osawa Sensei guided us through the best ways to communicate with Doshu and the International Department. Osawa Sensei acknowledged that Hombu Dojo warmly received the news that Peter Bernath has been chosen to be Chairperson of the TC. Aikikai will begin accepting Peter’s signature on all dan applications and in yudansha books, effective immediately, including promotions that took place prior to Yamada Sensei’s passing, but which have not yet been stamped.
Osawa Sensei reiterated that individuals should not reach out personally to communicate with Aikikai or invite Hombu Dojo instructors. He explained that any communication with Aikikai should go through the USAF office as the official channel.
Other topics discussed were Osawa Sensei’s wishes to continue supporting the USAF in whatever ways possible, including joining us at our summer camps. A long discussion was also held about how the USAF can assist and support Yamada Sensei’s organization, Sansuikai, moving forward.
3 – Karen and I are in contract negotiations with the Seaview Hotel for Summer Camp 2023. While details have not been finalized, the camp dates would be Monday, July 31st, through Thursday August 3rd. Please save the dates as we hope to see many of you there. We will share more information in the coming weeks!
Please trust that everything is in place for the USAF to continue to run smoothly, and we are extremely grateful for all your kindness and support. I will continue to keep you posted as updates arise.
With warm regards,
Director of Operations