The Origins of Aikido and the AYC

A brief history of Aikido through its founding instructors

Sokaku Takeda

Sokaku Takeda (1859-1943) was the martial artist responsible for spreading Daito-Ryu and impacting the development of modern Aikido. He was born into the Takeda Clan, the second son of Sokichi Takeda. He grew up in the Aizu domain (present day Fukushima Prefecture) during the Boshin War. He is frequently referred to as the founder of Daito-Ryu Aiki Jujutsu although he more technically the “reviver” of this art.
It is believed that Sokaku received his first martial arts training from his father who had a dojo on their property. Sokichi was apparently expert in the use of both sword and spear, and had once been a sumo wrestler of Ozeki rank. It seems that Sokaku Takeda was exposed to the teachings of Hōzōin-ryū Takada-ha and Ono-ha Ittō-ryū, schools of spear and swordsmanship.


History of Aikido - Sokaku Takeda - Aiki Jiu Jitsu Grandmaster

Sokaku was captivated by the idea of musha-shugyo and left to go on a period of austere training. During this time he travelled, fought and trained at many schools, a common practise of the time. Apparently, during this period, Sokaku spent some time as a live-in student of Kenkichi Sakakibara, headmaster of the Jikishinkage-ryū. He was considered to have been one of the most famous and skilled swordsmen of the era. In fact, Sokaku’s sword skills were so extraordinary and fearsome that he was referred to as “the little demon of Aizu.”
He was less than 150 centimeters tall, but is said to have had piercing eyes, skills that reached a level that seemed almost divine, and an ability to know a person’s past, present and future even before meeting him.
When the Samurai class was outlawed and the carrying of swords was prohibited, Sokaku seems to have decided to emphasize the empty-handed jujutsu techniques of his ancestral art. These were oshiki-uchi (“inside the palace”), or secret teachings of the Aizu clan. He combined these with the other skills he had acquired and created an art which he called Daito-Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu.
Sokaku lived the life of an itinerant, travelling throughout the country and giving seminars to military officers, police officers and martial arts enthusiasts. He left extensive records of those he taught and we know from these that during his lifetime he taught about 30,000 students, including many famous martial artists as well as a wide array of politicians, military officers, judges, policemen, and other persons of high social standing from all over Japan.
Some of his most important students included Yukiyoshi Sagawa, who some believe was the most talented of his early students, Kodo Horikawa, whose students established the Kodokai and the Roppokai, Kotaro Yoshida, Hosaku Matsuda and Tomekichi Yamamoto.
His most famous student, however, was the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba. In fact, the resurgence of interest in Daito-Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu today is largely thanks to the popularity of Aikido.

History of Aikido - Ueshiba

Morihei Ueshiba

Morihei Ueshiba (1883 – 1969) was a Japanese martial artist and founder of the martial art of Aikido. He is often referred to as “Kaiso” (The Founder) or “O-Sensei” (Great Teacher). He was born into a farming family in an area of the Wakayama Prefecture now known as Tanabe. As a young man Morihei Ueshiba gained experience with various forms of jujutsu but it was only after 1912 that his martial arts training began to take on real depth and significance. From the perspective of the history of Aikido… this is where it began.

Japan was eagerly recruiting people to colonize the northern islands that had been at the center of the war with Russia. Morihei Ueshiba assembled a group of veterans and other volunteers and moved to northern Hokkaido to colonize an area called Shiratake in Mombetsu Prefecture in 1912. The first years were difficult and the climate was harsh, but they set up logging operations that cleared land and started farming the area. Morihei became an influencial figure in local government and was instrumental in bringing the first rail line to the area.
In late February of 1915 Morihei had a chance meeting with Sokaku Takeda. Takeda Sensei was the reviver of Daito-Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu and at the time was perhaps the most influential martial artist in Japan. Ueshiba immediately began studying with him intensively. Ueshiba continued to practice with Takeda Sensei regularly and became a top student in the study of Daito Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu. Despite the fact that Morihei and Sokaku were the same size, Morihei was never able to get the better of Sokaku and he realized there was more than strength and skill involved.
When he left Hokkaido, Moriehei Ueshiba further came under the influence of Onisaburo Deguchi, the spiritual leader of the Omoto-kyo religion in Ayabe. While this connection had an immense effect on his spiritual development, it also introduced Ueshiba to elite political and social circles as a prominent martial artist.
Although Ueshiba eventually distanced himself from both of these teachers, their effect on him and his art cannot be overstated. 
Morihei Ueshiba moved to Tokyo in 1926, where he set up what would become the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. By now he was quite famous in martial arts circles, and taught at this dojo and others around Japan, including in several military academies. In the aftermath of World War II the Hombu dojo was temporarily closed, but Ueshiba had by this point left Tokyo and retired to Iwama, and he continued training at the dojo he had set up there. From the end of the war until the 1960s, he worked to promote aikido throughout Japan and abroad producing such noted students as Gozo Shioda of the Yoshinkan. He died from liver cancer in 1969.

Gozo Shioda

Gozo Shioda Sensei was the founder of Yoshinkan Aikido. Known as Aikido’s “Little Giant,” he is credited for spreading the art during the years after WWII.
He was born in Tokyo in 1915. His father, Seiichi Shioda, was a prominent pediatrician and well known patriot. It was Seiichi who encouraged his son to take up various forms of exercise. As a result, Gozo Shioda practiced Kendo, gymnastics and Judo as a young man. He excelled in Judo and reached the level of third dan by this mid-teens.


A turning point in his life came at age 18, when his father sent him to the Kobukan dojo to study under Morihei Ueshiba Sensei, a man many considered to be invincible. On his very first visit to the Kobukan dojo, Gozo Shioda was invited by Ueshiba Sensei to attack him in any way he liked. The young Shioda was skeptical of the older man’s abilities and launched his attack with full force. Shioda found himself flying through the air. He hit the ground hard and had no idea how Ueshiba had thrown him so easily.
The young Shioda joined the Kobukan dojo immediately and began his Aikido career under the direct supervision of the art’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba Sensei. He eventually spent 8 eyars as a live-in student and left the Kobukan in 1941 when he had finished his university studies. The advent of the Second World War prevented the practice of Aikido and Shioda Sensei served his country.
After the war, in 1954, Shioda Gozo gave a demonstration of Aikido during the first open public martial arts demonstration. He was awarded the grand prize for best demonstration and within a year of his demonstration, Gozo Shioda was heading his own Aikido dojo — the Yoshinkan.

History of Aikido - Gozo Shioda

Gozo Shioda was awarded his 9th dan by Morihei Ueshiba Sensei in 1961. His outstanding contribution to the promotion of Japanese Martial arts in general and Aikido in particular was further acknowledged by the honorary award of 10th dan by the International Martial arts Federation in 1984, along with the title of Meijin or Grand master. Solidifying him as a key figure in the history of aikido.
Gozo Shioda passed away in 1994, leaving an organisation which had expanded throughout Japan and all over the world. He was convinced that through the practice of Aikido, the differences between peoples and cultures could disappear, making peace and a harmonious co-existence a reality rather than an ideal.


Takeshi Kimeda

Takeshi Kimeda, 9th dan, is the Chief Instructor of Aikido Yoshinkai Canada. He is the most senior teacher of Yoshinkan Aikido in the world.
Takeshi Kimeda Sensei was born in 1941 in Tokyo, Japan, and began his study of Aikido at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo. He initially wanted to join the karate club but it had been shut down due to an incident the previous year. So it was that he ended up joining the aikido club which was, at that time, affiliated with the Yoshinkan Hombu Dojo through Kushida Takashi Sensei. It was Kushida Sensei who initially took the young Kimeda under his wing and groomed him within the Yoshinkan. It was not long before Kimeda Sensei caught the eye of Gozo Shioda Kancho. By the time he graduated from university with a degree in Business Administration, he was the captain of the university aikido club and had been awarded 3rd Dan (1963-1964).

Shortly thereafter, in 1964, Kimeda Sensei left Tokyo, venturing out to North America where he would begin to lay the foundations for Yoshinkan Aikido. He first arrived in California, but spent only a short time there. He then moved on to Michigan, opening the first Yoshinkai Dojo in Dearborn. From Dearborn, he decided to come to Canada, opening the first Yoshinkan Aikido school here.
After returning to Tokyo and living and training at the Hombu Dojo in the mid-1960s, he came back to North America again, this time finally settling in Toronto, starting a family and beginning the process of building Aikido Yoshinkai Canada. It was after this point that he was also instrumental in bringing both Kushida Sensei and Karasawa Sensei to North America. All critical steps in the context of the history of aikido in Canada.


Almost 60 years later, Kimeda Sensei is still teaching and sharing his insights as the Chief Instructor of Aikido Yoshinkai Canada. He has been instrumental in bringing virtually every top instructor to Canada to share their own experiences with his students and continues to grow and learn as a martial artist. He holds the rank of 9th Dan and has brought literally hundreds of students to the black belt level — a number of whom are now some of the most senior instructors throughout North America.

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