Roots of Aikido
The art of Aikido evolved from a variety of classical Japanese combative arts. Many forms and movements in Aikido stem from sword, knife, stick, spear, or archery movements. However, the majority of Aikido comes from an extremely effective open-hand fighting art called Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu.
The development of Aikido from a purely combative art to a study of the way of harmony can be followed from the founding of the roots of Aikido in the ninth century to the teachings of Kushida-sensei today.
The very early history is not completely clear, but the roots of this art are found in the ninth century in a fighting style developed by Prince Sadazumi, the sixth son of Emperor Seiwa. This art, still in simple form, was passed down in their family, the Minamoto, to Shinra Saburo Minamoto no Yoshimitsu, who developed and organized the fundamental principles of Daito-ryu. Yoshimitsu allegedly gained insight by watching spiders subdue their prey. To develop more effective techniques, he also studied the anatomy of joints and tissues by dissecting cadavers.
Yoshimitsu’s second son, Yoshikiyo, moved to the Kai region of Japan and established the Takeda family and clan. The family’s very sophisticated fighting art was passed down through the Takeda group in secrecy. Eventually this art took on the name of Daito-ryu (or Daito-style). The title "Daito" is said to come from the name of Yoshimitsu’s Daito mansion. It is also attributed to a twenty-fifth generation Takeda retainer, Daito Kyunosuke. Throughout the history of the clan, only a select few were allowed to study Daito-ryu.
In 1574, after the Takeda clan was defeated in a war, Takeda Kunitsugu fled to the Aizu region, bringing the art of Daito-ryu with him. The art was still only practiced by a chosen few and was one of the secret Aizu Otome-waza, a group of secret martial arts in Aizu. Eventually called Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, it was to remain completely unknown to the general public until three centuries later.
In the late nineteenth century, as Japan was evolving from a feudal Samurai culture to a more Westernized modern society, a descendent of the Takeda family, Takeda Sokaku, brought Daito-ryu to the public for the first time in nearly a thousand years.
Takeda Sokaku traveled through Japan demonstrating Daito-ryu and refining his techniques through actual combat by challenging other martial artists—or anyone willing to fight. He finally settled in Hokkaido to teach his secret techniques. Takeda Sokaku’s descendants still follow his example and continue to teach Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu today at their Daitokan Dojo in Abashiri, Hokkaido.
Ueshiba-sensei (1883-1969): Modern Aikido
One of Takeda Sokaku's most gifted students was Ueshiba Morihei. Ueshiba began the study of Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu under Takeda-sensei in Hokkaido. Later, he took this art through a tremendous change based on his hard training and study of many years and on his previous studies of other martial arts and religions.
Ueshiba-sensei completely changed this combative art to a way to study harmony with nature. The principle of Aikido was transformed from a fighting technique for the select few to a study of harmony for all. Due to his great contribution, Aikido became an internationally known and respected art.
Shioda-sensei (1915-1994): Yoshinkai Aikido
One of the earliest of Ueshiba Morihei's students was Shioda Gozo (born September 9, 1915). Shioda-sensei began studying under Ueshiba-sensei in May of 1932. It is said that Shioda-sensei had the opportunity to study under Ueshiba-sensei during the period when Ueshiba-sensei's techniques were the most active and clear. He continued his training until he was forced to go to Formosa in World War II.
Shioda-sensei returned to war-torn Japan and found everything, including all martial arts, nearly destroyed. Despite the prospect of years of hardship, Shioda-sensei was determined to re-introduce Aikido in Japan. Teaching first at private institutions, he was eventually able to open the Yoshinkan Dojo in Tokyo. The re-flourishing of Aikido and other Budo can be partly attributed to Shioda-sensei’s efforts to popularize Aikido during those difficult years in postwar Japan.
In his teachings at the Yoshinkan Dojo, Shioda-sensei strictly cut off any religious aspects to teach Aikido purely, basing his teachings on Ueshiba-sensei’s sharp and clear techniques.
Shioda-sensei passed away on July 15, 1994, at the age of 78.
Kushida-sensei (1935-2012): Yoshokai Aikido
Kushida Takashi (born May 2, 1935) began his Aikido study at the time Yoshinkai Aikido was founded. In the first several months after he joined Aikido, Kushida-sensei commuted to the dojo as a regular class member. Soon after, upon Shioda-sensei's instruction and request, Kushida-sensei became one of the first uchideshi (live-in student) at the Yoshinakan Dojo. For ten years, Kushida-sensei lived in the dojo as an uchideshi and became a certified instructor in 1964. After his marriage to Hisako Kono, Kushida-sensei became Shihan (a senior instructor of 6th Dan or above) and commuted from his home in Tokyo to the dojo every day. Even as a senior instructor, Kushida-sensei continued to focus on his own training while he devoted his energy to teaching junior students. The students who studied under Kushida-sensei during the latter period of his stay in Japan are now the main Yoshinkai instructors.
For twenty years, Kushida-sensei focused both his professional and private life on following Shioda-sensei. During this time, Kushida-sensei was Shioda-sensei’s number one Uke for demonstrations and in class. In addition, Kushida-sensei handled Shioda-sensei’s administrative duties and worked to create the Yoshinkai organization and to develop good relationships between Yoshinkai Aikido and other martial arts.
In 1973, a request for an instructor was sent from Mr. Edward Moore of the Detroit Budokan and from Takeshi Kimeda-sensei, who currently teaches in Toronto, Canada. Kushida-sensei left his position as chief instructor of Yoshinkai and came to North America in response to the request.
In 1976, Kushida-sensei started the Aikido Yoshinkai Association of North America (AYANA) as a foundation for the study and teaching of correct Aikido. Mr. Fukashi Hori was asked to be the chairman of this organization.
In 1991, Yoshinkai Aikido in Japan established a group called the International Yoshinkai Aikido Federation (IYAF). Their representatives discussed the mission, policies, and activities of IYAF with Kushida-sensei. However, Kushida-sensei did not wish to change AYANA’s standards to conform with those of the IYAF.
In December 1991, Shioda-sensei dismissed Kushida-sensei from Yoshinkai Aikido. From that point Kushida-sensei changed AYANA’s name to the Aikido Yoshokai Association of North America and began operating as an independent organization, completely separate from Yoshinkai Aikido in Japan.
Yoshokai Aikido has been developed by Kushida-sensei through years of hard training and teaching experience and through his continuous study and deep knowledge of the principles and philosophy of Budo. Yoshokai Aikido became solidified with Kushida-sensei’s teachings of the underlying philosophy of Aikido, the scientific principles behind Aikido, and the importance of the relationship between Shite and Uke to study harmony.
Aikido in Jackson
The history of Aikido in Jackson dates back to the early 70's. At that time, the club was somewhat loosely organized and had various instructors from the area. In these early days, Jerome Helton-sensei commuted to the Jackson area to teach from time to time. Helton-sensei (meiyo rokudan - honorary 6th degree) also played a large role in bringing Kushida-sensei to the United States and helped set up clubs throughout Michigan.
The club began meeting on a continuous basis in the early 1980's when Tony Scott (1st Degree) began teaching classes twice a week and was later assisted by Renee Rutz. When Renee received 2nd degree in 1990 she left to start teaching a youth program at the Ann Arbor YMCA.
In 1997, John Weaver (3rd degree) began sharing teaching responsibilities with Tony Scott and they both continued to teach until 2002. Near the end of 2002, Mark Reitmeier was asked to assist Tony Scott and John Weaver. After a few months, Mark began teaching full time for Tony Scott and a few months following for John Weaver.
Mark Reitmeier began training in Aikido in 1997 while attending college in Minnesota. He is a graduate of Kenshu, a 20-month long instructor training course, and a certified instructor of the Aikido Yoshokai Association of North America. In 2004, he received 3rd degree and is a member of the Shidobu comprised of AYANA's senior instructors. Mark continues to train at Genyokan Dojo, our headquarters Dojo, as a student under Akira Kushida-sensei (7th degree) in Ann Arbor, Michigan.