Neil Yamamoto is the current chief instructor for Icho Ryu. Neil’s first introduction to Aikido began at the Seattle Ki Society with his cousins, but he began his formal training in 1973 at the Washington AikiKai with Bernie Lau and Andy Dale as his primary teachers. Other teachers at Washington AikiKai in those early days included Douglas Tsuboi, John Kanetomi, Nat Steiger, and Chuck Livingstone. He was awarded his Aikido shodan through the Aikikai in 1980. Neil was also active in varsity wresting in high school, and casually studied (no rank was ever earned) Judo, Kendo, Hapkido, American Kenpo, and varied Chinese martial arts.
When Bernie Lau formally developed Icho Ryu, Neil departed from Washington Aikikai and Aikido.
As part of the development of Icho Ryu, Bernie trained with other teachers of martial arts and introduced Neil to these other instructors to further his range of knowledge. Don Angier, headmaster of the Yanagi Shidare Ryu, is a significant influence on Neil’s teaching methods and understanding of how various methodologies connect. Neil was also awarded yudansha rank (6th dan) from Jon Bluming, in the International Budokaikan in the all around fighting division.
In 2002 Bernie appointed Neil as the senior instructor to ensure the continuity of Icho Ryu and establish new teaching standards. In 2004 Bernie retired from teaching and appointed Neil as the chief instructor. Neil occasionally writes about his teaching and martial arts experiences at his blog.