Video: Rinjiro Shirata — Prewar “Aiki Ken,” Part 1, 1981 Documentary

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“The Evolution of the Sword in Aikido!”

Duration: 34:07 minutes
Access: Paid subscribers

This video is a very important historical document in that Rinjiro Shirata demonstrates a lengthy series of Aiki Ken suburi and kata based on the prewar swordwork of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. The sword content in this video program follows Morihei Ueshiba’s sword in the1935 Asahi News film. There is no other source of similar material as many of the uchideshi of the prewar era ceased training following World War II. This video was recorded in 1981 when Shirata Sensei was 69 years of age in Yamagata Prefecture in northern Japan. The sounds of all of his movements and breathing are clearly audible and this is an indispensable document for those interested in the evolution of the sword in aikido.

Born on March 29, 1912 in Yamagata Prefecture to a family of Omoto believers, Rinjiro Shirata was accepted into the Kobukan Dojo of aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba as an uchideshi in 1932. Known for his modest character and great physical strength, he quickly became one of the star pupils of the “Hell Dojo,” as the founder’s early school was called. Shirata later spent a short period teaching aiki budo in Osaka before being drafted into the Japanese Imperial Army. He spent the war years stationed in Burma until his repatriation.

Shirata’s training was interrupted for several years due to the war, but he began actively teaching again in Aomori in 1959. In 1962, he received the 8th dan rank from the founder. At this time, his teaching activities were concentrated in his native Yamagata. Shirata was awarded 9th dan in 1972 by Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba and is one of only a handful of people ever to have achieved this rank. Shirata was also active in the International Aikido Federation following its establishment in 1976. He occupied several high posts and served on the technical council. He traveled to Honolulu in 1978 in connection with the IAF and to Chicago in 1984 at the invitation of Akira Tohei Sensei. On both occasions, foreign practitioners responded enthusiastically to his skillful, yet gentle approach to teaching.

Devoted to the spread of aikido and one of the staunchest supporters of the Ueshiba family, Shirata was a regular participant over the years in major Aikikai-sponsored events such as the All-Japan Aikido Demonstration, the Iwama Taisai, and the Kagami Biraki New Year Celebration at the Tokyo Hombu Dojo.


  1. Frederic Veer says:

    Hi Stan,

    Great film, shows all the movements of aikido excepting koshi nage.

    Great solo practice method and tanren form.

    Are you planning to make a shirata dvd or put these films on i-tunes ?


    • We have received a number of requests to create products of these historical film materials. This will happen in the not to distant future. We have more work to do on the website setup and need to develop a shopping cart designed to handle digital purchases. This is coming very soon.

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