Morihei Ueshiba - Founder of Aikido (1882~1968)

As a young man, Morihei Ueshiba (born December 14, 1882) had an unusual interest in the martial arts, philosophy, and religion. The environment of his youth, one of religious discipline and tradition, had an enormous effect on the course of his later life.

In the year 1898, Ueshiba left his home village outside Osaka and traveled to Tokyo to set up a small stationary business. While in Tokyo, he sought instruction in the martial arts. He actively investigated dozens of arts, but was eventually drawn to specialize in three: the sword style known as Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, the staff style known as Hozoin Ryu, and Tenjin Shinyo Jujutsu.

The Russo-Japanese War (1904) provided Ueshiba with a real situation to develop himself in accordance with the principles he had learned during his martial arts training. Ueshiba the soldier spent most of the war years in the harsh climate of northern Manchuria and by the end of the war, his health had deteriorated considerably. With characteristic vigor, he regained his vitality by way of long hours spent in outdoor labor. Soon after, Ueshiba was engaged by the government to lead a group of immigrants to Hokkaido (the northern island of Japan).

Another adventurous young man, Takeda Sokaku, head of the Takeda family, also made the move to Hokkaido. Ueshiba and Takeda met in 1905, and Ueshiba began his study of Daito Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu under Takeda Sensei. In addition, he continued to practice the other arts he had learned in Tokyo, particularly Kenjutsu and Jujutsu.

Traveling home to visit his ailing father, Ueshiba met a man name Deguchi Onisaburo, leader of the Omoto religion. Ueshiba was very impressed with Deguchi, and subsequently became one of his disciples. Although this commitment led him to further develop his mind, his martial arts studies were not neglected. In 1925, Ueshiba organized his own style of Aiki-Jujutsu; one that was more in line with his own needs for spiritual and physical development.

During the next decade, Ueshiba's students (Shioda, Tomiki, Mochizuki, and others) were active in building a foundation for the present-day Aikido. Ueshiba, however, was interested in seeking the true martial way; the essential spirit of Budo. In his search he left the dojo to work at farming. Through his closeness with nature and continued training, he tried to unify his spiritual and physical being. In 1950, after the Second World War, Ueshiba returned to the Tokyo dojo to continue teaching Aikido.

Continuing the evolution of martial "arts" to "ways" - from Bugei to Budo - Ueshiba Sensei diligently applied himself to the reworking of the techniques he had been taught and synthesized them into a form that taught harmony rather than violence. In this way he was able to integrate his spiritual beliefs and his great technical proficiency in the Art.

Ueshiba proclaimed that the true Budo way (the way of the warrior) was the way of peaceful reconciliation. He dedicated himself to the design of an art that would teach technical prowess and strength and commitment to the self discipline needed for personal growth. He named the new art form "Aikido".

Ueshiba Sensei continued to instruct until his death in 1968; earning the respect and admiration of all who met him. Before his death, he received a government award as the designer of modern Aikido and general acclaim for his efforts to bring peace and enlightenment to all.

As his concern and energy touched the lives of the students he worked with, several Aikido schools have evolved. The most notable of these schools are the Yoshinkai, Tomiki-Ryu, Aikikai and the Shinsin Toitsu-Ryu, just to name a few. The founders of these schools were all dedicated men committed to the precepts set down by Ueshiba O'Sensei. Each developed certain elements of O-Sensei's teachings, so each school differs from the others while maintaining an essential sameness.

Gozo Shioda - Yoshinkan Aikido Soke (1915~1994)

One of Morihei Ueshiba's outstanding students was Gozo Shioda, who contributed much to bring about the increased popularity that Aikido has enjoyed since World War II. The second son of a well-known pediatrician, Seiichi Shioda, Gozo was born in Tokyo on September 9, 1915. A small, sickly child, Shioda credits his very survival through childhood to the medical skills of his physician-father. Young Gozo enjoyed a privileged up bringing while being subject to the directives of his strong-willed father.

His fateful meeting with Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, came about as follows. A Mr. Munetaka Abe, the headmaster of the middle school Shioda attended, was impressed by the outstanding mental attitude of a young woman, a Miss Takako Kunigoshi, who cleaned a nearby shrine every morning. When asked about her exemplary bearing, she gave credit to her teacher of "aikijujutsu" and suggested the schoolmaster observe a training session. Thoroughly impressed by what he saw at the nearby Ueshiba Dojo, Mr. Abe urged Gozo's father to enroll his son there. On May 23, 1932, the 17-year-old Gozo appeared at the Ueshiba dojo to witness a demonstration. Having had a strong background in both kendo and judo, the confident young Shioda was skeptical of the clean, controlled techniques he saw performed. Sensing the lad's unimpressed attitude, Ueshiba then invited him to attack and, in the blink of an eye, the young man found himself on his back rubbing his head after an unsuccessful kick attempt.

In Aikido, "feeling is believing," and Shioda immediately decided to join the dojo. Since two guarantors were required to enter, his father and Mr. Abe provided introductions. At that time, there were about twenty uchi deshi in the Ueshiba Dojo and they followed a rigorous schedule with classes starting in the morning at five and ending at nine in the evening. It must have been most stimulating for young Shioda to become part of this dojo in which so many skilled young martial artists were training and where numerous persons of high-social standing appeared routinely. While at Ueshiba's dojo, Shioda practiced "Gyojuzaga", (the four cardinal behaviors (walking, stopping (standing), sitting and lying); daily life) and studied Ueshiba Sensei's daily behavior. He spent all of his time with Ueshiba Sensei, diligently studying Aikido (Then, also known as Aiki Budo).

Morihei Ueshiba was extremely active at this point of his career and taught not only at his Kobukan Dojo in Shinjuku but also the Nakano military institute, the Military Police School, and the Army Toyama School among other locations. For this reason, it was not necessary to solicit students from among the general public and the emphasis at the Kobukan was on the training and development of the uchi deshi. Technically speaking, the "Aiki Budo" of Ueshiba at this stage was in a transition phase and was somewhere between Daito-ryu aikijujutsu and modern Aikido. As a result, the techniques were much more numerous, linear in appearance and applied with great vigor. Also, many complex pinning techniques (osae waza) were still used.

Young Gozo was still a middle school student at the time and, in the beginning, attended only morning sessions having to arise at four A.M. Later, at his father's urging in mapping out his future, Gozo set his sights on an adventure-filled life participating in the "reconstruction" of Mongolia. As part of his preparations for the strenuous years ahead, he resolved to withdraw from school for a two-year period to devote himself full-time to Aikido training. Thereafter, he continued practicing Aikido while a student at Takushoku University until his departure for military service in March 1941.

Shioda spent most of the war years in China starting as a secretary of General Shunroku Hata in Beijing and had more than one close brush with death. Shioda's autobiography covers this period and makes for exciting reading. In around September of 1946 a few months after his discharge from the imperial army, Shioda spent several weeks of intensive training and farming at the home of Ueshiba who had withdrawn to Iwama in Ibaragi Prefecture during the early days of the war. Still a young man and with his master apparently in retirement, Shioda then returned to Tokyo and like most others struggled to make ends meet in poverty-stricken Japan.

In 1950, as luck would have it, Shioda was asked to guard the Tsurumi facility of the Nihon Kokan steel company in the wake of the "Red Purge" and gathered together some 55 of the strongest members of the kendo, judo and sumo clubs of his alma mater Takushoku University. This led to him being asked to teach Aikido on a regular basis at various plant locations starting in 1952. He also gave demonstrations at numerous police departments in the early 1950's.

A significant event proved to be a large Aikido demonstration held in Tokyo in 1954 sponsored by the Life Extension Association which was attended by some 15,000 persons. Shioda's performance received the best reception from the huge audience and little by little the nascent Yoshinkan Aikido organization began to achieve prominence. Also, around this time Shioda's activities became known to various members of the business world. In particular, a Mr. Kudo who headed the Tomin Bank came to the aid of the Yoshinkan and backed the construction of a dojo. The Tsukudo Hachiman facility was opened to the general public in 1955. From that modest beginning, Yoshinkan Aikido gradually spread all over Japan and to foreign countries, mainly in the U.S. and Europe. It is presently the second largest Aikido organization with hundreds of members dojo's in its world-wide network.

At this point it would be useful to make a clarification. The subject of how Yoshinkan Aikido became separate from the Aikikai is little understood. When Shioda started his Aikido activities in earnest after the war, Morihei Ueshiba was still in retirement in Iwama and classes at the Aikikai dojo (formerly the Kobukan) were irregular and sparsely attended. In fact, several families left homeless due to the bombing of Tokyo lived in the dojo. At one point, it was even used as a dance hall!

It was against this backdrop that Shioda achieved several early successes as the Yoshinkan grew steadily. Somewhat later, the Aikikai gradually began to regain momentum under the direction of Ueshiba's son Kisshomaru and the founder himself spent increasingly more time in Tokyo. Thus, there never occurred a formal split between the two organizations despite their rather different approaches to Aikido. The two groups simply evolved independently while maintaining more or less cordial ties. Up until his death, Shioda and Kisshomaru made regular appearances on formal occasions at each other activities.

Shioda trained under Ueshiba when the latter was at his peak while in his vigorous 50's. Therefore, the techniques he learned from the founder of Aikido were rather different from those taught by Ueshiba during the post-war years. Not surprisingly, Yoshinkan Aikido is clearly distinguishable from that practiced in the Aikikai system under the leadership of Ueshiba's son, the second Aikido Doshu. The discussion of when the technique of Morihei Ueshiba was at its peak--before or after the war--continues unabated and in the end, any conclusion reached must be a subjective one. Regardless of where one stands on this issue, many will certainly agree with the opinion voiced by Shioda in an interview appearing in "Aiki News" several years ago: "Today's Aikido is so dimension less. It's hollow, empty on the inside. People try to reach the highest levels without even paying their dues. That's why it seems so much like a dance these days. You have to master the very basics solidly, with your body, and then proceed to develop to the higher levels.... Now we see nothing but copying or imitation without any grasp of the real thing...."

In 1989, with the assistance of Dr. Fred Haynes, Jacques Payet, Mark Baker, Chida Sensei, Shioda Yasuhisa Sensei and Nakano Sensei, Shioda began to work towards the creation of the International Yoshinkai Aikido Federation (IYAF). There was a direct need for a federation as the hierarchical structure of Yoshinkan in each country was causing a stagnation. Through the creation of the federation, the Honbu dojo could designate instructors directly. These instructors would have a direct link to the Honbu dojo, strengthening the relationship between individuals and the Honbu dojo and thus freeing the information flow.

By 1990, the IYAF was fully established by Shioda. Mr. Kuranari, the Foreign Minister of Japan, became the president of the IYAF. In June 1990, a steering committee meeting was held in Canada. The highest dan ranked instructors from various countries were represented at this meeting. The meeting played the role of a forum where everyone could come together and exchange ideas and work on a cohesive philosophy for the IYAF under Shioda. The first year was designated as a time of needs analysis and feedback from all Yoshinkan practitioners internationally. Through this process the IYAF bylaws were created. In 1991 the steering committee was dissolved. Mr. Kuranari held the only official post and the IYAF is a federation in name and in action. Today, the President of the International Yoshinkai Aikido Federation is Kiyoko Ono.

On July 17, 1994, after 60+ years of devotion to Aikido and it's promotion, Shioda Gozo Soke passed away, leaving behind his legacy in a system of Aikido;a Honbu dojo; and a International organization; that is still thriving to this very day across the world.

(Note: The above biography is provide in part by Aikido Journal. and Yoshinkan Aikido "RYU". Many thanks to Mr. Stanley Pranin for allowing us to use his biography of Shioda Gozo Soke. Information on the IYAF provided by Aikido Yoshinkan honbu dojo.)

Kiyoyuki Terada - Yoshinkan Aikido co-founder (1922~2009)

Terada Sensei was born in Nagasaki, Kyushu, Japan. His martial arts life began in April 1934 at Kaisei Junior High School where he took up his first martial art of Kendo. At age 15, he received an award for the best Judo player of the year after winning a Judo championship that same year. Upon his entry into Takushoku University at age 18, he began his karate training. It was there that in 1941 he met Gozo Shioda, the future head of the Yoshinkan Aikido dojo. During the period between 1940 and 1943, Terada learned Sumo from Akutsugawa Sensei, Judo from Sone Sensei, and Kashimaryu Jujitsu from Osugi Sensei.

At age 21 in 1943, Terada joined the Imperial Japanese Army due to the ongoing war. In March 1944 he was ordered to the Japanese Airforce Academy and became an aircraft mechanic. From 1944 to 1945 he worked in aircraft maintenance at Kumamoto Airfield. It was here where he learned that the war had ended and two days later on August 17, he returned home to Nagasaki.

After the war, Terada Sensei moved to Tokyo in 1948 and worked for the Miyakoshi Company. In 1950 he went to work for the military police in Yokohama. This same year he joined the Aikikai Honbu dojo. His primary teacher was Kisshomaru Ueshiba and also took lessons from aikido founder, Morihei Ueshiba.

In 1952, Terada conducted an aikido training seminar for the NKK Company and at 85 different police stations with Gozo Shioda Sensei. In 1955 he conducted aikido training for the Police Department in Yokohama and at the US Army base, Camp Drake in Saitama.

In 1955, along with Gozo Shioda Sensei, he co-founded Yoshinkan Aikido. In 1957, the Yoshinkan was visited by US Senator Robert Kennedy and Prime Minister Nakasone. Terada served as chief instructor of the Yoshinkan honbu until 1961 when he left Tokyo to teach aikido at US Naval Base in Yokosuka. It was here that his most senior student, Amos Lee Parker began his aikido life.

From 1967 to 2009, Terada made trips around the world to teach aikido. Such destinations include Australia, Russia, England, Canada and the United States. He received his 9th degree black belt from Gozo Shioda Kancho in 1990. At this time he also received the title of Saiko Shihan (Chief or Head Shihan). He served as the president of the National Yoshinkan Renmei and the president of Aikido Yoshinkan Seiseikai. Terada held the title of Yoshinkan Aikido Saiko Komon. (Yoshinkan Aikido Supreme Advisor). It was announced in January 2008 that Terada had been awarded 10th dan by the Yoshinkan Foundation making him the first to receive such an honor by the Yoshinkan. On Monday, July 13, 2009, Terada died at the age of 87.

Amos Lee Parker - Aikido Yoshinkan Yoseikai founder (1936~2013)

Amos Lee Parker Sensei was born in 1936, in Houston TX. After graduating high school at the age of 18, he entered the United States Navy. This would eventually lead to his training in Yoshinkan Aikido in 1962, under the guidance of Yukio Noguchi Sensei. Shortly after this training began, Noguchi Sensei left for Hawaii and Parker Sensei would then continue his training under Yoshinkan co-founder, Kiyoyuki Terada Hanshi, 9th dan and most senior Yoshinkan practitioner in the world. He met both Noguchi Sensei and Terada Hanshi while stationed in Yokohama, Japan.

On his trip across the Pacific Ocean, Parker Sensei had met a fellow sailor, who was demonstrating a few techniques that he referred to as Aikido. As it turns out, this gentleman had trained in Aikido and dared anyone to see if they could hold him in place. Parker Sensei tried and tried to no avail and once he learned the name of the martial art, he planned on joining a dojo upon his arrival in Japan.

He arrived at his duty station in Yokohama on a Saturday afternoon and the following Monday, he visited a local dojo, whereupon he started his Yoshinkan Aikido training. The instructor at the dojo was Yukio Noguchi Sensei, until his departure; and then Kiyoyuki Terada Sensei, who is today, still the chief instructor. Parker Sensei continued his training for the next 35 years under Terada Hanshi, attaining his present rank of Haichidan (8th degree black belt) in Yoshinkan Aikido, which he received in 1995, and was awarded the title of Shihan, in 1986, by Terada Hanshi and authorized by the late Gozo Shioda Soke. In 2009, he was awarded 9th dan by Yasuhisa Shioda Soke and the Aikido Yoshinkai Foundation.

While training in Yokohama, Parker Sensei taught at several dojo's in the city, where he established dojo's and promoted students to various dan levels. Upon retiring from the Navy, Parker Sensei had planned to return to the United States. However, before doing so, he wanted to make sure that everything he had learned and was teaching was correct. So he returned to his home dojo. Parker Sensei watched the techniques which Terada Hanshi was teaching and realized that he had not been doing the techniques as correctly as they could be done. So Parker Sensei decided to stay and make sure that all his techniques were correct and stayed in Yokohama, Japan for another 20 years.

Parker Sensei is the highest ranking non-Japanese Yoshinkan Aikido instructor in the world and is senior to a large number of Japanese instructors as well. He is a humble, soft-spoken, gentleman, who demonstrates tremendous technique. Parker Sensei epitomizes the term "Sensei", he leads by example and shares everything he knows about our art.

Parker Sensei currently resides in Texas and is actively traveling the Americas, promoting instructors and teaching Yoshinkan Aikido clinics. As the highest ranking yudansha in the United States, Parker Sensei has been actively working on the advancement of Yoshinkan Aikido throughout all of the Americas. Parker Sensei's travels also includes Yoshinkan Aikido clinics in England and Brazil. He has also been the featured instructor in several non-Yoshinkan Aikido events.