Yoseikan Budo

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Yoseikan Budo (?????) may be classified as a sogo budo form (lit. “composite” or “comprehensive” martial art), but is used here to indicate a martial art into which various martial ways have been integrated. It is probably most widely known for its connection to a pre-war style of aikido; however, it has important connections to judo, karate, western boxing and a traditional form of Japanese armed combat known as Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu.

The name of the art yo-sei-kan is derived from three Japanese characters, yo meaning ‘teaching’, sei meaning ‘truth’, kan meaning ‘place’, which may be translated roughly into English as ‘the place where the truth is taught’ or alternately ‘place for practising what is right’. The intent of the name was not to assert an exclusive possession of the truth regarding the martial arts but rather to describe how the comprehensive nature of the yoseikan training environment allows an individual to discover their own sense of “truth” by studying a wide range of differing martial techniques, philosophies and principles.

Yoseikan Budo originated in 1931 as the style created by its founder Minoru Mochizuki (1907-2003), a high ranking student and assistant to Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo and Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido, in the pre-World War II period. In addition to the very high ranks he held in these arts he was student of one of the oldest styles of traditional Japanese koryu budo, the Katori Shinto Ryu, and studied with various karate teachers including Gichin Funakoshi, the man who brought karate from the Okinawan islands of mainland Japan.[1]

The old Yoseikan style included mainly jujutsu, aikijujutsu and kobudo techniques – foot throws (ashi waza), standing throws (nage waza) and groundwork (ne waza); punches, kicking and blocking techniques (kihon te waza, kihon uke waza, kihon geri waza); escapes (te hodoki), joints locks, bending or twisting (kansetsu waza), variation techniques (henka waza); sword, sticks and knife techniques; counter techniques (ura waza), chokes (shime waza) and exclusive sacrifice techniques (sutemi waza) as well as katas with and without weapons.

A curious characteristic of the old style is that it did not support much of the esoteric ways that evolved with post-World War II traditional Aikido. At one point Kisshomaru Ueshiba, the headmaster and son of the aikido founder, reputedly asked Mochizuki to refrain from using the name aikido to refer to the aiki portion of his system. The system although still employing the term aikido is also known to use the term aiki budo to refer to this part of the art. Interestingly Minoru Mochizuki’s 1932 license from Morihei was in Daito-ryu aikijujutsu as the art had not yet evolved into what would come to be known as aikido. Still Mochizuki continued to enjoy a warm relationship with Morihei Ueshiba even in his later years.[2]

Although perhaps philosophically most influenced by Ueshiba, Minoru’s method of teaching and systematizing his art seems to show a larger debt to the teachings of Jigoro Kano. His method of developing kata and use of a scientific approach to explain the finer parts of his art seems to show the imprint of Kano’s early teaching method. Indeed, it was Kano who originally sent Mochizuki, along with other judo teachers, to study aikido with Ueshiba for the purpose of bringing back the techniques for use in the Kodokan’s self defense program. Many of these aikido inspired techniques can be seen preserved in Kodokan Goshin Jutsu kata or forms of self defense which were most likely introduced by Kenji Tomiki, another senior judo teacher, who trained with Mochizuki at Ueshiba’s dojo. In Mochizuki’s case perhaps Kano’s plan to have judo players learn aikido worked too well, resulting in Minoru becoming a live-in student under Ueshiba and even once being asked to inherit the leadership of the art should Kisshomaru be unable to.

Mochizuki’s inclination toward eclecticism can also be seen as part of the influence imparted to him from Kano’s teachings.[3] As Kano had fused the two forms of traditional jujutsu he had learned, the Kito Ryu and Tenjin Shinyo Ryu, with elements as different as ground work from the Fusen ryu and Western wrestling tactics so too did Mochizuki strive to learn many different arts in order to expand his over all understanding of fighting methods. Indeed many of his early explorations in arts such as iaido, jodo and classical forms of jujutsu were at the suggestion of Kano during his time at the Kodokan. He expanded this to include an investigation of Western boxing, karate and classical Japanese swordsmanship. Conversely when he made the suggestion to Ueshiba that aikidoka might benefit from a knowledge of the skilled striking techniques of karate practitioners employed his suggestion met with no enthusiasm.

On a technical level the influence of judo great Kyuzo Mifune and classical jujutsu practitioner Sanjuro Oshima of the Gyokushin-ryu cannot be overstated.[3] One of the specialties of the Yoseikan Budo system under Minoru Mochizuki came to be the use of sutemi-waza or sacrifice techniques, in which these two teachers excelled. Although the far greater influence was undoubtedly Mifune in whose lessons the youthful Mochizuki found much greater enthusiasm, the teaching of the Gyokushin theory of ‘spherical spirit’ stayed with Mochizuki over the years, inspiring him to invent new techniques with this art’s principles in mind. Mochizuki also credited his quick mastery of aikido with having learned this style which held many techniques in common with Ueshiba’s art.[3]

In the context of contemporary aikido Minoru Mochizuki’s art seems much jujutsu and judo based. Indeed many strong judoka came to visit and train with the master throughout his life. One such person was Frenchman Patric Auge who still maintains his own North American based organization. The type of budo practised by Auge represents very well the practises of Mochizuki Minoru from the 1970s and 1980s when Auge was a live-in student under Minoru at Yoseikan headquarters in Shizuoka.[4] The senior teachers from the headquarters have now re-christened their school the Seifukan and seek to preserve the original style that they learned under Mochizuki-senior.

Yoseikan practitioners under Mochizuki Minoru were required to do a considerable amount of cross training in order to gain teaching credentials. This included gaining a minimum of a blackbelt in judo in addition to training in aikido, karate and Katori Shinto Ryu. Techniques found in jojutsu and iaido were also included.

The following a sampling of some the techniques practised in Mochizuki’s original basic curriculum:

Randori or ‘free practise’ in both single and multi-opponent situations was also a part of everyday dojo training

Minoru Mochizuki’s son (b. 1936), Hiroo Mochizuki, studied martial arts under his father from a very young age. He studied widely, in the eclectic system of his father, but whereas his father had perhaps a particular talent for judo, his son had a greater affinity for karate. Studying in France from 1957-58 as a university student, he returned to the country after the death of one of his father’s students Jim Alcheik and took over the large following that was growing for the art in that country. He introduced new kata of his own invention, employing both Western and Eastern inspired techniques and introduced a form of point sparring for karate and kobudo tournament styles.[5]