Aikido Yoseikan – The School That Didn’t Know Doshu


The Yōseikan school asserts that it is necessary to know the past to understand the present. We need to know where and how the techniques were produced and, in making them useful for our contemporary times, we must not lose this awareness. Minoru Mochizuki sensei believed that Aikidō after Ō Sensei excessively idealized the techniques and disconnected them from the martial content of effectiveness

by ADRIANO AMARI

The Death of Morihei Ueshiba Sensei and Aikidō Yōseikan

With the death of the founder of Aikidō Morihei Ueshiba in 1969, divisions soon occurred between the central body of Aikikai, in which Morihei’s son Kisshomaru became “Dōshu”, the new head of the school, and other sections directed by some prestigious and well-known teachers, former direct students of the founder.

I am not going to address the temporal and historical detail of these rather complex events, but it should be noted that until 1969 all the above-mentioned sections were still part of the Aikikai, which they represented with their official branches detached in the various Japanese locations where they were situated. This situation is reported, for example, in an English edition of the 1960s This is Aikido, which featured the name of Ō Sensei on the cover as the author (later, in subsequent editions, replaced by that of his son). In the final part of this book, it was included a long interview with Ō Sensei, in which he listed his certified students and instructors and the places where their Dōjō was located; Ueshiba also stated that they were the Aikikai official representatives in their respective areas. Among these, I remember well the names of Minoru Mochizuki sensei, Gozo Shioda sensei and others.

Until then, Aikidō classes held in Mochizuki sensei’s Dōjō in Shizuoka were Aikidō classes organised under the Aikikai umbrella within the structure called Budō Yōseikan. After 1969, Mochizuki sensei broke away from the technical direction undertaken by the Dōshu and began to spread his teaching as “Aikidō Yōseikan”, precisely to differentiate himself from what Kisshomaru was developing with the other instructors his assistants.

Morihei Ueshiba and Minoru Mochizuki pictured together in 1951

Minoru Mochizuki Sensei and Ō Sensei

Of Minoru sensei, in the field of Aikido, it is known that he was Uchi Denshi of Ō Sensei in the early 1930s and that he had received the official proposal, always by Ō Sensei, to be adopted by him, marry his daughter, and become his successor in the school, according to Japanese custom. This proposal was not accepted due to Confucian ties of gratitude and respect as a student that Minoru sensei had with Kanō Shihan. Ueshiba sensei has informed us that Mochizuki received, also in that period, two “honourable certificates” in Daitō Ryū, which constituted the attestation of full transmission of the discipline. In 1949 Minoru Mochizuki was the first Japanese teacher to come to Europe to teach Aikido. Ō Sensei was extremely pleased with this and said that he had foreseen it in a dream and had hoped it would happen.

The above is a quick sketch of what is generally known about the relationship between the two teachers. Less known, or scarcely told, is the fact that, apart from Minoru Mochizuki’s cyclic visits to Iwama or the Honbu Dōjō, Morihei Ueshiba sensei visited Minoru Mochizuki sensei in Shizuoka several times a year and usually stayed with him as a guest in his Dōjō-home for a couple of weeks. On those occasions, Master and Student trained hard together, and Minoru Mochizuki sensei shared this practice with one or two of his more experienced assistants and instructors.

Mochizuki father and son in 1971

In the 1950s, Hiroo Mochizuki sensei, Minoru’s son, was sent to Iwama as Uchi Deshi for the summer school holidays. Consequently, Minoru sensei’s contact with his Aikidō Master was constant until the death of Ō Sensei. We can say that Mochizuki’s Aikidō line contains techniques and principles not influenced by the subsequent work of Dōshu Kissomaru.

Aikidō Yōseikan Elements

A teaching that Minoru Mochizuki received from Jigorō Kanō sensei at the time of the Kobudō Kenkyukai [1] can be reported to exemplify a fundamental principle that subsequently guided Minoru’s instruction and teaching: “Absorb from the techniques that are shown to you what you think is most suitable for you”, where “you” means both one’s personal characteristics and the specific environment, or reality, in which we operate.

The Yōseikan form of Aikidō brings together several elements:

  • The main one, obviously, is the teaching received by Morihei Ueshiba sensei, first in its Daitō Ryū Aikibudō form, then with the updates received until the death of Ō Sensei;
  • The main one, obviously, is the teaching received by Morihei Ueshiba sensei, first in its Daitō Ryū Aikibudō form, then with the updates received until the death of Ō Sensei;
  • The part relative to weapons, the frequent use of which by Ō Sensei to explain principles or matrices of movement, or to strengthen the “body” of the discipline, is remembered by both Minoru and Hiroo Mochizuki sensei [2]. In Minoru Mochizuki’s Yōseikan, this element is entrusted to the techniques coming from Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō Ryū (Sword, Stick and Naginata, Iai) and Shindō Musō Ryū (Jō). There are also short stick techniques (Tanbō, Konbō) and knife (Tantō). Mochizuki sensei had a great knowledge of the Koryū and Gendai Budō sword techniques, which he handled well;
  • Minoru Mochizuki sensei has introduced techniques from Jūdō into Aikidō Yōseikan, including some obsolete in its modern sport version, and others from Koryū Jūjutsu schools, including Gyokushin Ryū, which we have already discussed in a previous article of ours [3];
  • Minoru sensei, remembering well Ō Sensei’s recommendations on the use of Atemi and its importance, expanded this area, developing principles of attack with arms and legs. He later entrusted his son Hiroo with this study, which Hiroo sensei faced by becoming a high-ranking Karate Wadō Ryū practitioner and completing his training with Boxing and, later, with French Boxing.
Kobukan inauguration (April 1931). Front row: Ueshiba Hatsu, Ueshiba Kisshomaru. Seated in the center: Ueshiba Morihei, Admiral Asano Seikyo, Admiral Takeshita Isamu, General Miura Makoto. Minoru Mochizuki is in the top row, the fourth from the right under the scroll

About Aikidō Yōseikan

In Minoru sensei’s “journey to the West”, the master saw himself as an ambassador and a demonstrator of the various disciplines of Japanese Budō beyond the already known Jūdō. He created an audience that then asked to be instructed, by him or by other experts, on these disciplines [4]. Aikido was one of the most requested.

Due to various circumstances, Minoru sensei also received teaching requests from the United States and Canada, where Aikidō Yōseikan branches were developed. The required “cut” for Martial Arts, both in Europe and America – where it spread through the military bases gyms – was aimed at self-defence, consequently, Minoru sensei created Nihon Jū Jutsu and some development lines in the Aikidō Yōseikan technical program to provide a trigger for the interest of Westerners.

Yōseikan didactic approach comes from Jigorō Kanō sensei idea of teaching the Reason of Science (understood in broad terms) through the physical, of educating the individual in the “best use of energy” to achieve environmental and social progress. This is why Minoru Mochizuki sensei devised a simple didactic path for Aikidō Yōseikan, which represented his study medium for the formation of a “Universal and Contemporary Budō”, in accordance with the directives that Kanō sensei had given to him. This educational path allowed the student effective training and a base from which to achieve further progression and master other martial techniques. This type of study was mediated in Europe by his son Hiroo, or directly at the Yōseikan Honbu Dōjō in Shizuoka, attended by American instructors Pack and Augé sensei and Europeans Hernaez and Floquet sensei.

We know that Morihei Ueshiba sensei did not create a real teaching system while he was alive, but we can assume that in the period in which Minoru Mochizuki sensei received his training in the early 30s, even if Ō Sensei had started detaching himself from his teacher Takeda, he still had a Daitō Ryū structure of teaching.

Minoru Mochizuki sensei was trained directly by Jigorō Kanō and fully shared his ideas on teaching and training. The lesson at Shizuoka’s Yōseikan Dōjō was based on the principle of “objectivity” of the technique: given the starting mechanical conditions, if these were respected in the execution, anyone had to be able to bring the technique to a successful end. Numerous types of Randori were then used to verify this execution under different conditions of attack and stress, to arrive at experimentation and recognition of the achieved “objectivity” in the technique.

Minoru Mochizuki and his son Hiroo at the Yoseikan Dojo in Shizuoka (Copyright AlexGrzeg)

Mochizuki sensei’s Teaching Experience

As a young man, Minoru Mochizuki sensei received very advanced teaching by great teachers and, within this teaching, was given oral instructions and told exemplary stories. In his career as a Teacher, he continuously studied not only the technique and the way of teaching it, but also the historical aspects of Budō and Japanese Bujutsu. In speaking to his students or in his writings, Mochizuki sensei synthesized the genesis of the many Japanese martial disciplines as coming from two original sources: one is the unarmed fight known in ancient times as Sumai, from which were derived the martial arts based on the “Jū” principles, the various schools of Jū Jutsu, Jūdō and the modern Sumō itself; the second is sword fencing, from which all Armed Martial Arts derive, based on the “Aiki” principle, which in turn is also contained in the empty-handed disciplines that refer to it. Daitō Ryū contains Aiki and it is its most famous example, but other schools relate to it.

Minoru Mochizuki arrived at the Ueshiba Dōjō as a young man, but he already had a huge martial career built under the tutelage of exceptional masters: Kanō, Sanbo and Mifune for Jūdō, Nakayama Hakudo for Iai and Kendō, Shimizu Takaji for Jō and other weapons, Shiina, Tamai, Itō and Kubota for Katori Shintō Ryū. The personality and strength of Morihei Ueshiba, then in his fifties, strongly impacted him. He efficiently drew on Ueshiba’s technique, arriving at perceiving its core, yet Minoru was always aware of Ō Sensei’s exceptional nature. His constant admonition to his younger colleagues and students was to study the movement or technique when Ueshiba sensei demonstrated it, but not to copy his almost surreal and unique peculiarities in the execution, which were not within everyone’s reach and that, if performed as pure external imitation, would have turned out to be empty choreographies.

Thus, his Aikidō teaching provided a “step by step” system that allowed the execution of the technique in a simple, mechanically flawless way, with an objectively verifiable result, resulting in the student being aware of this effectiveness. In his subsequent martial career and studies, the student, according to his talents, would have managed to arrive at a more refined subjective technique. The basic concept was the achievement of the Katsu Hayai or “Instant Victory”.

Hiroo Mochizuki sensei (Copyright http://www.yoseikanbudo.ca/)

Aikidō Yōseikan As “Kenkyukai”

Aikidō Yōseikan and all the Yōseikan school itself, including all the disciplines that derive from it and refer to it, are intended to be a “Laboratory”, a condition that is found in the constantly evolving formulation of Ō Sensei’s technique and which was a firm point in Kanō Sihan’s educational path.

Besides Tai Sabaki, the basis of the study is Te Hodoki, the system of freeing oneself from a grip. This is the initial stage of Aikidō Yōseikan: freeing yourself from the attacker’s grip and, in doing so, unbalancing him. Often the action is underlined by an Atemi. The technique is consequently applied in the simplest form according to the circumstances. Like all bases, Te Hodoki is repeated indefinitely throughout one’s study time. From the principle of Te Hodoki and Tai Sabaki students develop technique against attacks with any type of Atemi and weapon. Advanced students develop sensitivity and skills that enable them to apply counterattacks by letting the opponent maintain his grip, a system known as Te no Uchi or Te no Michibiki.

Furthermore, Randori was (and is) not only a test of the students’ capabilities but also of the technique itself, which is constantly updated and tested in the “Uke reaction” component, studying any possible improvement and adaptation of it, in addition to finding the most suitable combinations to associate it with. This work makes use of any physical peculiarities or of other experiences in Martial Arts or combat sports contributed by the students that came to study with Mochizuki sensei as new “inputs” in the past, or now in the various Dōjō of the Yōseikan school scattered around the world.

The more “esoteric”, “subjective” techniques were practised only by those who managed to perform them without being blocked by an opponent. Put simply, the “subjective” techniques could only be done by those who managed to make them work and eventually taught to a Kohai at his request, if he gave the impression of being able to perform them effectively as well.

Yesterday and Today

The Yōseikan school asserts that it is necessary to know the past to understand the present. We need to know where and how the techniques were produced and, in making them useful The Yōseikan school asserts that it is necessary to know the past to understand the present. We need to know where and how the techniques were produced and, in making them useful for our contemporary times, we must not lose this awareness. Minoru Mochizuki sensei believed that Aikidō after Ō Sensei excessively idealized the techniques and disconnected them from the martial content of effectiveness. It is necessary to have a knowledge of the martial aspect to give the art context, otherwise it might be preferable to refer only to the eubiotic aspects of it and admit to being practising a different discipline. Aikidō Yōseikan today is like a large Banyan tree: a mighty stem, broad foliage and meandering roots that run by drawing spirals and curves on the ground. Roots that connect and support the expansion of the branches with the columns of the aerial roots, a true temple in continuous expansion.

Aikidō Yōseikan today is widespread all over the world, directly or in Alain Floquet sensei’s Aikibudō form, or within Hiroo Mochizuki sensei’s Yōseikan Budō, where there is also a dedicated and independent sector [5].

Notes

[1] The Kobudō Kenkyukai, “Institute Research of Ancient Martial Arts” was an institution commissioned by Jigorō Kanō sensei, where a group of selected Kōdōkan students received complete training in some Koryū Martial Arts schools. Minoru Mochizuki sensei was a prominent member of this group and was selected to be sent as Uchi Deshi to Morihei Ueshiba. It will be the theme of my next article.

[2] In the Kobukan times, Ō Sensei told Minoru that “Aikidō finds its essence in the Japanese sword fencing thrust technique.” The use of the “tip” in Morihei Ueshiba sensei’s sword demonstrations can be seen in several videos.

[3] Amari Adriano, Il Gyokushin Ryu e Minoru Mochizuki Sensei, Aikido Italia Network, 2020 https://simonechierchini.com/2020/05/20/il-gyokushin-ryu-e-minoru-mochizuki-sensei/

[4] Minoru Mochizuki sensei’s “journey to the West” lasted from 1951 to 1953. Beyond Jūdō, Mochizuki sensei taught Aikidō, Jū Jutsu, Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō Ryū, Iai, Jō, Kendō.

[5] Other in-depth articles on Aikibudō and Yōseikan Budō to follow.

Copyright Adriano Amari ©2020
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