Aikido, the Yoshinkan way

2008-03-31

Aikido, the Yoshinkan way
Aikido, the Yoshinkan way

From 50 years of teaching aikido to some of Tokyo police's finest, to the popular 1997 book "Angry White Pajamas," Aikido Yoshinkan is known globally for its no-nonsense approach to this sometimes romanticized martial art. For 8th degree black belt Tsutomu Chida, nothing beats practical self-defense and self-improvement, and nothing better represents both than aikido - Yoshinkan style.

Chida has practiced this grappling art for nearly 40 years. As the former head instructor of International Yoshinkai Aikido Federation, he taught aikido for 36 years at its hombu dojo headquarters, at seminars in North America, Europe and Asia, and to Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department members who chose aikido for mandatory martial arts training. He retired last year but still teaches here and abroad. Chida is pragmatic, but he admits that what attracted him to aikido as a teen wasn't.

"In the beginning it was a mistake," laughs Chida, whose reserved yet affable demeanor and youthful appearance mask 57 years of age. Like others, he had heard miraculous stories about aikido. "I thought it was about using "ki-ai" (voice-, breath- and/or life-force) to send a guying flying backwards." His views have since changed.

In aikido, he says, "Many people have misconceptions about high-level metaphysics such as 'ki power.' I don't focus on that. I teach in the physical realm. It's a kind of introduction to the higher level, and it's just like my teacher (Gozo) Shioda taught. - Many teachers talked about using ki, but Shioda taught in a physical way."

Aikido Yoshinkan was founded in 1955 by Gozo Shioda (1915 to 1994) in Tokyo's Shinjuku where its hombu dojo is today. At age 18, Shioda began an 8-year study of aikido under the martial art's founder, Morihei Ueshiba (1883 to 1969), whose Aikikai hombu dojo is also in Shinjuku. Shioda and Yoshinkan's renown spread; in1957, he developed Yoshinkan's aikido senshusei, (intensive training) program for Tokyo Police. He later earned the rank of 9th dan (degree black belt) from Ueshiba, 10th dan from the International Budo Federation and other awards, according to Yoshinkan publications.

Chida says there are generally two approaches to aikido: "one is to find the opponent's weak point; the other is to find your own strongest point. Yoshinkan is the second approach." The reason why, he explains, is practical. "If you have a really strong person and a really weak person doing aikido together it doesn't matter; but without aikido it does. The point is to be strong - but not just physically strong." Such strength can include good posture, mental focus and inner calm.

As a comparatively new Japanese martial art formulated in the 1920s, aikido has its roots in aiki-jujutsu, one of several disciplines that Ueshiba mastered in his formative years. Often translated as "the way of harmony," it uses techniques to throw or subdue that capitalize on the force of an opponent's attack. Aikido firmly rooted in budo, the traditional Japanese "Way of the Warrior," which is as much about inner refinement as it is victory in battle. Ueshiba is known as Osensei, or great teacher, in the aikido world. He was deeply philosophical and spiritual, if not an enigma to many, as well as an exceptional martial artist. Like most martial arts, there are different "styles" of aikido. Of them, Yoshinkan, which emphasizes a "practical" approach, is often referred to as "hard-style" aikido.

According to Chida, while other styles or schools focus more on finding an opponent's weakness or blending with his or her movements to make a technique work, Yoshinkan focuses more on a relaxed yet alert mental and physical state prepared for anything. But he adds the caveat that eventually in the advanced stages of either focus "they both meet at the top."

"In the beginning, Yoshinkan is sort of hard and stiff; because of this, it looks like guys are really attacking (each other)," he says of the school's "hard-style" reputation. "But it is just the first level." He adds that Yoshinkan follows the teachings of Ueshiba in his use of an analogy of the progression from solid ice (physical), to water's ethereal fluidity and eventually to air, whose near intangibility transcends the baser elements. But there are no short cuts. Ice cannot evaporate into air without first melting into water, as it where, via a trial by fire. So then, practically speaking, what exactly is aikido?

"Aikido is life," Chida says with an incredulous laugh. "Aikido is a way. Regardless of whether it is broad or narrow you keep going. In the beginning it looks really daunting, big and vast but as you get close to the end it is not so large. You dead-end at the edge of a square. In the beginning you don't get much out of it but you keep going; step by step you advance.

"When you talk about budo, the image people get is that of fighting - but really the fight is about you now, and you tomorrow. Of course, there is also you yesterday. Everyday you turn into a new person.

To learn more about aikido classes taught by Tsutomu Chida, visit: http://www.renshinkai.com. More information about Aikido Yoshinkan and the International Yoshinkai Aikido Federation check out: http://www.yoshinkan.net/indexE.html.



Discuss this Article

» Replica Rolex Ladies Collection - Lady Oyster Perpetual 176210 w
» Replica Rolex Ladies Collection - Lady Oyster Perpetual 176210 w
» Replica Rolex Ladies Collection - Lady Oyster Perpetual 176210 w
» Return to Tiffany™ heart tag charm in 18k gold, small. - $49.00
» Return to Tiffany™ heart tag charm in 18k gold, small. - $49.00
You have to be logged in to participate in the article discussions