An Aikido Life (01) by Gozo Shioda

“It is important for those who wish to become experts or
perfect their aikido to acquire a total mastery of basics.”

From Aiki News #72 (September 1986)

Book One: Yoshinkan Aikido

Chapter 1: The Basics of Yoshinkan Practice

Gozo Shioda (1915-1994)

The name of my dojo, “Yoshinkan,” is the same one my father, who loved budo, used when he built a dojo on his property. I have continued using that name ever since in his memory. Mr. Todo Kato, my grandfather on my mother’s side, took this name from the characters contained in the phrase “Gu o mamori kokorozashi o utsusazu mokumoku toshite sono kami o yashinau” (Cultivate your spirit silently never forgetting that you are but a fool) of the poem entitled Saikontan. That is the origin of the name.

I often hear people say that the Yoshinkan dojo is a rough school. I believe there is a misunderstanding concerning this point. Among those who practice aikido there are those who wish to master the art, or to develop their minds and bodies through aikido, and also those who want to practice just to improve their health. There are young men and women, children and also elderly people. But in all cases, students of the Yoshinkan have to practice repeatedly in order to master the basics of aikido. They may use muscles they have not used for a long time or discover body movements they have never done before. Such people may experience a little pain until they get used to all these things. However, aikido without correct basics is not aikido. If you practice haphazardly just because it seems easier that way, you will not succeed in improving your techniques or your health. Since it is impossible to exaggerate the point that basics are what aikido is all about, we are strict in our instruction even of beginners in order to allow them to acquire basic technique from the outset.

It is important for those who wish to become experts or perfect their aikido to acquire a total mastery of basics. When you take a stance against an opponent, apply techniques or maintain your focus of attention after a technique (zanshin), these skills are all built on an understanding of basics and are necessary in order to defeat a strong opponent. I will explain later what aikido basics are, but for now suffice it to say that as you become experienced, you will be able to produce surprising force even in quick movements if you have naturally mastered basics.

Ueshiba O-Sensei said, “In aikido winners and losers are decided in a flash.” It is indeed so. Unless you overcome your opponent with a single blow, you cannot call your art a “budo.” Only when you adhere to basics can you defeat your opponent with a single blow.

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