Gozo Shioda and The Yoshinkan
Founder of Yoshinkan Aikido
Soke Shioda Gozo Sensei was born in Shinjuku, Tokyo, in 1915. Shioda Seiichi, his father, was a prominent paediatrician and medical academic. It was young Gozo’s father who encouraged his son to take up many forms of exercise. As a result of his father’s support, Shioda Gozo practiced kendo, gymnastics and then Judo as a youth. It was in the art of judo where Soke Shioda Gozo excelled, having reached the level of 3rd dan by the time he had reached his mid-teens. A turning point in his life came at age 18, when his father sent him to the Kobukan to study under Ueshiba Sensei, a man rumoured to be ‘invincible’. On his first visit to the Kobukan, Soke Gozo Shioda was invited by O’Sensei to use his Judo skills to try and throw him. Launching an attack, sceptical of his opponent’s ability, Shioda Gozo found himself flying through the air, hitting the ground, head first, having no idea how he got there. The very next day, May 24, 1932, the young Shioda joined the Kobukan and commenced his Aikido career under Ueshiba Sensei. He left the Kobukan in 1941 when he had finished his university studies. The advent of the second World war prevented any practice of Aikido. After the war Shioda Gozo performed his first public demonstration in 1954. In front of an audience of 15,000, he was awarded the grand prize for best demonstration. Within a year after the demonstration, Soke Shioda Gozo was heading his own Aikido dojo, the Yoshinkan, named after his father’s original dojo. The literal meaning of Yoshinkan is the Hall to Cultivate Spirit. Soke Shioda Gozo was awarded his 9th dan by Ueshiba Morihei Sensei in 1961. 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 of Meijin or Grand master. Soke Shioda Gozo died in 1994, leaving an organisation which has expanded all over Japan, the America’s, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia. Soke Shioda Gozo was convinced that through the silent language of Aikido, all differences between peoples and between cultures disappear, making peace and a harmonious co-existence a reality rather than an ideal.
When Shioda became a student of Ueshiba Sensei, Aikido was still in its formative stages and was then called Aiki Budo. The character of the techniques and the manner of their execution still bore the marks of the Daito Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu curriculum, which O Sensei had learned. This was a forceful, martial style of aiki jujutsu, concerned primarily with the efficiency and effectiveness of technique in combat.
Practice at that time reflected this spirit and was hard, fast and relentless. Shioda Sensei revelled in this form of practice and it undoubtedly influenced the nature of the training methods he put into place at his own school.
Gozo Shioda created a structured method in which beginning students would learn the foundation techniques. Techniques are made up of elements such as the initiating attack, the applicable control and whether it is a pin or throw. They are further divided into two groups called ichi (first) and ni (second) techniques. Ichi techniques have a feeling of the energy moving away from shite, often with uke, pulling or blocking a strike. Ni techniques have a feeling of the energy coming towards shite. In an ichi technique, the Yoshinkan practitioner goes with the pull; and for a ni technique he diverts or pivots away from the push.
The current method of breaking the techniques into steps and the kihon dosa were developed in order to facilitate teaching beginners in a group. To remove stiffness from techniques taught in this way, practitioners over the rank of shodan also practice timing and flow called jiyu-waza.