When it comes to showing aikido to the general public in a way both attractive and easy to understand, Gozo Shioda stands alone. He combines a lucid analysis of aikido theory with crisp technique and a liberal dash of humor. The observer of a Shioda aikido demonstration is almost invariably caught up in the mood of the experience and is ready to join an aikido dojo without the least bit of coaxing. Moreover, Shioda never fails to acknowledge his teacher Morihei Ueshiba and the fact that aikido evolved from the techniques of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu. In part seven of this series, Aikido Journal’s own editor-in-chief, Stanley Pranin, relates some of the highlights of Shioda’s fascinating career.
Gozo Shioda (1915-1994)
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 to the medical skills of his physician-father. Young Gozo enjoyed a privileged upbringing, but at the same time was subject to the directives of his strong-willed father.
His fateful meeting with Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido, came about in a rather unusual way. Mr. Munetaka Abe, Gozo’s middle school headmaster, was struck by the outstanding mental attitude of a young woman, Miss Takako Kunigoshi, who cleaned a nearby shrine every morning. When asked about her exemplary bearing, she gave credit to her aikijutsu teacher 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 seventeen-year-old Gozo appeared at the Ueshiba dojo to witness a demonstration. Having 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 attitude, Ueshiba invited him to attack and, in the blink of an eye, Shioda found himself flat on his back, rubbing his head, after an unsuccessful attempt to kick.
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 live-in students at the Ueshiba dojo and they followed a rigorous schedule, with classes starting at five in the morning and ending at nine in the evening. It must have been most stimulating for Shioda to become part of this dojo where so many skilled young martial artists trained and where numerous persons of high-social standing routinely appeared.
Morihei Ueshiba was extremely active at this point in his career and taught not only at his Kobukan Dojo in Shinjuku but also at the Nakano Military Institute, the Military Police School, the Army’s Toyama School, as well as at other locations. For this reason, he did not need to solicit students from among the general public and the emphasis at the Kobukan was on the training and development of the live-in students. Technically speaking, Ueshiba’s “aiki budo” at this stage was in transition between Daito-ryu aikijujutsu and modern aikido. There were many more techniques; they were generally linear in appearance and were applied with great vigor. Also, many complex pinning techniques (osaewaza) were still practiced.
Young Gozo was still an intermediate school student when he enrolled and at first he attended only morning sessions, waking up four a.m. to arrive on time. Later, at his father’s urging, Gozo set his sights on an adventure-filled life, working for the “reconstruction” of Mongolia. As part of his preparations for the strenuous years ahead, he decided to withdraw from school for two years and devote himself fully to aikido training. He continued practicing aikido as a student at Takushoku University, until his departure for military service in March 1941.
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