Yoriyuki Yamamoto 29/10/1933 – 24/07/2011
Yamamoto Sensei was born in the province of Kagoshima Japan on October 29 1933, and he passed away on the 24th of July 2011 in the city of Buenos Aires, Agentina, succumbing finally to a protracted illness of cancer he is survived by his Wife and one Son.
He immigrated to Argentina by ship at the age of twenty-two in 1955 taking up residence in the Capital City of Buenos Aires and successfully applied for citizenship.
As a Kodokan 3rd Dan he quickly made an impact on the National Judo scene and there being a fairly large community of Japanese extraction in Argentina it follows that Judo was an activity that garnered a lot of support from that section of the population. In an interview with a National Martial Art magazine in April 2003, Pedro Fukuma a highly respected instructor of the times recounts that in 1955 a compatriot of his, also a Judo exponent, called him to the telephone during a class of Judo. The person on the telephone, Senor Omurasaki, excitedly told him to abandon his class forthwith saying ‘come running to my dojo to see this little Japanese recently arrived in this country who is a phenomenal combatant; I have never seen such technical expertise since Kotani Sensei of the Kodakan!’, thus began the
legend of Yamamoto Sensei!
This was Yamamoto’s introduction to South American Judo; at a little under 60 kilos he dominated Argentine Judo for a number of years as a competitor in the days when there were no weight categories. His success was spectacular in that he took the open Dan title five times in succession and I can assure you that there were and still are to this day, some big boys knocking about the Argentine pampas! Its all the beef they eat. During this time he acquired the ‘sobre nombre’ of El Pequeno Gran Hombre’. (‘nick-name’ of ‘The Little Big Man’), little because of his diminutive size, big because of his depth of personality, charisma and effectiveness as a Judo exponent.
I met him in 1958 in Buenos Aires as a result of taking along to his club two members of the crew of the Motor Vessel Shaftesbury; one a 5th Kyu and the other a 4th Kyu, both being members of the BJA. My sitting on the sidelines and watching for two and half hours gave me a strong desire to take up this past time and resulted in my joining up two weeks later after a trip up the River Plate to Rosario, the principle city of the Province of Santa Fe. As well as the beginning of my involvement with Judo it was the start of a strong friendship with Yamamoto, which has endured to this present day. Yamamoto’s club was called ‘The Argentine Institute of Judo’; and when I gave up my sea faring career in 1966 and settled ashore I started a club and named it ‘The Yamamoto Institute of Judo’ as
a token of my respect and admiration for the Sensei who guided me through my formative years of the study of Judo.
You should be aware that in different parts of the globe there are a number clubs dedicated to Yamamoto Sensei bearing his name, such was the influence he had on many of his students after 50 years of teaching.
If by chance you have viewed the video of Yamamoto’s life on a Judo Forum you will see one photograph of which you should take note. It shows Mr. Yamamoto speaking to a girl/lady in a tracksuit bearing the name, ‘Yamamoto Institute of Judo’. That girl was a member of the institute and the photo taken in Southport.
Yamamoto Sensei was a world wide respected teacher in the art of Judo; he had many, many friends in almost every corner of the world, including the United Kingdom; particularly Southport Lancashire, where he was not only known and respected for his expertise, but admired and loved for his humanity in dealing with students, some of whom became more than students, they became his friends and in many cases family. His patience and forbearing with students of all ages was legend; children loved his attention to them, but being the man/teacher he was that attention was evenly spread.
His first visit to Southport was in 1975 and he used the town (as he did on all his subsequent visits to Great Britain) as a base, for his forays around the country on his mission to teach Kodokan Judo. Further visits were in the years 1978; 1988; 1993; 1997, 2003 and 2008.
He taught not just the physical and technical aspect, but also the deeper philosophy of respect for humanity in general. This was not done in a cymbal banging way; it was simple, bourn out by his quite self-effacing demeanour. Respect, he always told, must always be reciprocal and not just one way. As a Judo Master he was in the top echelon, as a teacher he was patient and deeply regarded, as an instructor he was meticulous, precise, admired by all. Lastly as a human being and friend, he was loyal, dedicated, humorous and loved by those who are proud to acknowledge that he touched their lives. He will be sorely missed. Rest in peace secure in the knowledge that you will not be forgotten.