Yoshinkan (養神館 Yōshinkan lit. “Hall of Spirit Cultivation”)
Yoshinkan Aikido is a style of aikido that developed after World War II in the Yoshinkan Dojo of Gozo Shioda (1915–1994). Yoshinkan Aikido is often called the “hard” style of aikido because the training methods are a product of Shioda’s grueling life before the war. Shioda named his dojo “Yoshinkan” after a dojo of the same name that was built by his father, a physician, who wanted to improve both physical and spiritual health. The Yoshinkan style is currently the second largest aikido organization worldwide.
The name ‘Yoshinkan’ is composed of three characters, meaning ‘Hall for Fostering Spirit’.
Soke Shioda Gozo Sensei was born in Shinjuku, Tokyo, in 1915. His father, Shioda Seiichi was a prominent pediatrician and medical academic. It was Shioda Seiichi who encouraged his son to take up various forms of exercise. As a consequence, Shioda Gozo practiced kendo, gymnastics and then Judo as a youth. It was in the art of judo where Soke Shioda Gozo excelled, having reached the level of third dan by the time he had reached his mid-teens.
A turning point in his life came at age 18, when his father sent him to the Kobukan to study under Ueshiba Sensei, a man rumoured to be ‘invincible’. On his first visit to the Kobukan, Soke Gozo Shioda was invited by O’Sensei to use his Judo skills to try and throw him. Launching an attack, sceptical of his opponent’s ability, Shioda Gozo found himself flying through the air, hitting the ground, head first, having no idea how he got there.
The very next day, May 24, 1932, the young Shioda joined the Kobukan and commenced his aikido career under Ueshiba Sensei. He left the Kobukan in 1941 when he had finished his university studies. The advent of the second World war prevented any practice of aikido.
After the war, Shioda Gozo peformed his first public demonstration in 1954. In front of an audience of 15,000, he was awarded the grand prize for best demonstration. Within a year after the demonstration, Soke Shioda Gozo was heading his own aikido dojo, the Yoshinkan, named after his father’s original dojo.
Soke Shioda Gozo was awarded his 9th dan by Ueshiba Morihei 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 tenth dan by the International Martial arts Federation in 1984, along with the title of Meijin or Grand master.
Yoshinkan Aikido has a reputation as a strong style, concerned with the practicality of its techniques. As a consequence, Yoshinkan Aikido is taught to the Tokyo women’s police force and is taught also to an elite group of riot police. The riot police course is now in it 34th year. Yoshinkan Aikido, or the house of cultivating the spirit, is made up of three words – yo meaning ‘to cultivate’ or ‘to foster’, shin meaning spirit, and kan meaning hall.
Soke Shioda Gozo died in 1994, leaving an organisation which has expanded all over Japan, the America’s, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia. Soke Shioda Gozo was convinced that through the silent language of Aikido, all differences between peoples and between cultures disappear, making peace and a harmonious co-existence a reality rather than an ideal.