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Soke Gozo Shioda Sensei (1915-1994) - founder of Yoshinkan Aikido

"Please do your best to train with all your soul, with energy that comes from a love of aikido. Do not train just as an exercise, train with all you have. Like what you are doing and do it as if it were the most important thing in your life. When you train, you should forget everything and spend the hour training with all your strength and soul, and only then will you be able to find the beauty of aikido." - Gozo Shioda

Gozo Shioda was born in Shinjuku, Tokyo in 1915. His father, Seiichi Shioda, was a medical academic who, having an interest for martial arts, had constructed a dojo, known as the Yoshinkan, at his home in Yosuya, Tokyo.

Various teachers were invited to demonstrate and instruct there and Shioda was soon taken with the prowess of the newly emerging judo. He enthusiastically began to practice, showing the determination and superabundance of energy that were to characterise his entire approach to life.

He was naturally talented and made rapid progress, quickly advancing to third dan, and while in his early teens liked nothing so much as to challenge police judo teachers to test his technique and push himself to the limit.

A turning point in his life came at the age of seventeen, when his father sent him to watch a class led by Morihei Ueshiba, whose dojo, the Kobukan, was located a couple miles away at Ushigome. Ueshiba's school was then somewhat exclusive and was said to offer a powerful martial art to those who could provide suitable guarantors of good character and stand the disciplined atmosphere.

On his initial visit, watching Ueshiba threw his opponents so easily and without any apparent effort, Shioda felt sure he was witnessing a fraud, but was invited to try his judo skills against Ueshiba to see for himself. On launching an attack he found himself flying through the air, hitting the ground head first, without understanding what had happened.

He was immediately convinced that this was the real thing and the very next day, the 24th May 1932, joined the Kobukan Dojo and commenced his aikido career as an uchi-deshi or "resident disciple".

After eight years at the Kobukan dojo, he officially created the Yoshinkan School in 1955. The name 'Yoshinkan’ is composed of three characters, meaning 'House for Cultivating Spirit'. Yoshinkan Aikido was first taught in the Tsukudo Hachiman area of Tokyo and from there spread to Yoyogi, Koganei, and eventually Kamiochiai, Shinjuku where the present Honbu Dojo now stands.

The style of Yoshinkan Aikido is occasionally called the hard style of Aikido because the training methods are a product of the gruelling period Soke Shioda spent as a student of Ueshiba. Yoshinkan Aikido has some 150 basic techniques which are practiced repeatedly; these enable the student to master the remaining ones, which total some 3000 overall.

Yoshinkan Aikido is not a sport. Aikido is the development and strengthening of the body and mind, and the practical side of Aikido must never be forgotten. However, Aikido is for all, irrespective of age, sex, race or culture.

Primary to this method are the Kihon Dosa. These six basic movements can be described as the physical components of movement required to move in concert with a training partner or opponent.

Based on strict form, these movements will manifest in reflex action of an efficient manner. Using a cooperative and repetitive role exchange where each training partner in turn takes the role of an aggressor, these kihon dosa build a neuro-muscular circuit that we use without thinking.

An example of this type of motor-neuro development is when you enter your bedroom and reach for the light switch. For the most part we do this entirely without thinking. Responding to our partners push or pull with this same level of response is true aikido. Efficient, effortless and in harmony with the forces around us.

Since his early judo experiences Gozo Shioda maintained frequent contact with police martial arts instructors. During the 1950's he travelled all over Japan demonstrating the effectiveness of his aikido to local police forces. This gradually led to a number of police aikido courses, culminating in the compulsory Yoshinkan aikido training of the Metropolitan Women's Police Force and the annual training of an elite group of Kidotai or Riot Police and international aikidoka to become aikido instructors at the Yoshinkan Headquarters dojo and throughout the world.

Shioda's complete mastery of aikido was confirmed in 1961 when Morihei Ueshiba awarded him the degree of ninth dan and his outstanding contribution to the promotion of Japanese martial arts in general and aikido in particular was further acknowledged by the honorary award of tenth dan by the International Martial Arts Federation in 1984, along with the title Meijin or Grand Master.

During the forty years since it was established, the Yoshinkan has expanded all over Japan, in the Americas, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia. The reputation of Gozo Shioda, described by Black Belt Magazine as "Aikido's Little Giant", attract a long line of distinguished visitors to his dojo, all eager to observe the diminutive Shioda subdue opponents a third of his age and in some cases more than twice his weight. Members of the Japanese and the British Royal families, including the Crown Prince Hironomiya, observed Shioda demonstrating, as did Robert Kennedy in 1962.

Towards the end of his life, Gozo Shioda travelled widely overseas to practically demonstrate his vision of aikido as a means to promote meaningful interaction between cultures. In 1990, he established the International Yoshinkan Aikido Federation (IYAF) to follow up on this and to coordinate the extraordinary growth in interest worldwide in Yoshinkan Aikido. He was convinced that through the silent language of aikido, all differences between peoples, between cultures, disappear, rendering peace and harmonious coexistence a reality, rather than a pipe dream.

Gozo Shioda, an outstanding martial artist, author, teacher and Founder of the Yoshinkan school of Aikido, died in Tokyo, Sunday 17th July 1994, after a protracted illness. He was 78 and left a wife - Nobuko and three sons, Tetsutaro, Takahisa and Yasuhisa. His autobiography published in 1985 summarised his outlook in its title, Aikido Jinsei - "Aikido is My Life", as Shioda dedicated his life to transmitting the aikido he learned from the modern art's founder, Morihei Ueshiba.

Timeline

1915 Born on September 5th Tokyo, Yotsuya

1932 Began training under Morihei Ueshiba Sensei

1941 Graduated from university. Assigned an administrative position during WW2. Was posted to China, Taiwan and Borneo.

1946 Returned to Japan

1950 Began teaching Aikido

1955 Entered the All Japan Kobudo demonstration and won prize for most outstanding demonstration. Established Aikido Yoshinkan

1957 Developed Senshusei program for Tokyo Metropolitan Police.

1961 Received 9th dan from Morihei Ueshiba sensei.

1983 Received the rank of Hanshi from the International Budo Federation

1985 Received 10th dan from the International Budo Federation

1988 Was recognized for service to aikido by the International Budo Federation

1994 Passed away on July 17th

Malik Thahid, 7 March 2021

 

   
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