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Evolution of Yoseikan Budo

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by Godfrey Zwygart

Published Online

Three generations of Mochizukis

Yoseikan Budo, created by Minoru Mochizuki in his Shizuoka dojo in 1931 has gone through decades of changes, modernization and improvement. Minoru Sensei never wanted to “freeze” budo in an academic form and pursued a search for constant evolution and improvement, well represented by his own words, “Never teach only what you have been taught”.

Minoru Sensei is now 93 and in frail health, living as tradition wants it with his eldest son Hiroo and his grandsons in the south of France. Aware of his fragility, he thought the time had come for retirement and he transferred his non-hereditary Soke (headmaster) title to Hiroo Sensei in July 1999.

Hiroo Sensei, 65, is to be regarded as a pioneer and genius in the 20th century’s martial arts world. Besides his formal training with his father he also studied with Masters Hyogo, Ostuka and Michihara, therefore reaching a much higher level in atemi forms than his father did. When moving to Europe, he got involved in western arts and practiced boxing and kickboxing at the highest level. He also studied Chinese martial arts. He discovered that many interesting techniques could be learnt from all these arts and could enrich the more academic forms from Japan for a higher efficiency. (In recent years, through the promotion of sports and UFC fights, it has become obvious that an adept of a single martial art cannot win a real-fight situation, and that combatants have to be very complete and have a broad technical knowledge in order to win).

Being a veterinarian doctor, Hiroo Sensei also very soon discovered that many techniques were detrimental to the health and body and he subsequently changed the forms of certain kicks, punches and ukes to make them more suitable to human morphology and physiology.

However, his greatest attainment was to discover that the “vibration” or “undulation” produced by the hara—and called qi by the Chinese—could be used in every technique (atemis, throws, locks, weapons, etc.) while allowing the user to increase his power tremendously while remaining very lithe and supple in all situations. He proved on machines (at the Sports Institute in Paris) that the use of this wave could increase the power by 50%. He analyzed the technique and made it clear to explain and understand (something the Chinese never were able to do). Then he ingeniously linked all the techniques to the undulation wave and made it a starting point of study for all the techniques.

Although he was the national French karate team coach—world champions under his coaching in 1970—, for many years, Hiroo Sensei had refused to organize budo competitions to avoid removing dangerous techniques and impoverishing the art. Only after many years of mounting pressure from his students did he decide to organize tournaments. Over the years the system has been refined, and it is probably the only budo in the world that offers so many possibilities competition wise.

The standard competition involves three kinds of sparring:

  • Sude Randori (atemi/throws/osae)
  • Emono Randori (with foam padded weapons)
  • Emono Sude Randori (combo —or padded tanto— against bare hands)

The rules for this form of randori include only very few prohibitions, but it is practiced with complete protective equipment to avoid injuries. Almost all techniques are used. (The forbidden techniques are basically kicks to the knees, head grab or twist, and locks).

Additionally, there are also some specialized competitions:

  • Kata
  • Aiki (with one or several opponents)
  • Kyoe Randori (the supreme form of randori)
  • Kenjustu
  • Bajutsu (on horse back)
  • Kempo

Note: The Kyoe Randori involves all techniques (atemis/aiki/jujitsu) and no protective gear, but combatants must keep perfect control over all the techniques.

In other words, Yoseikan Budo now offers an unlimited array of techniques to the adept of serious martial arts. Competition over the years has greatly enhanced the efficiency of techniques and boosted the level of martial artists. Attacks and defenses are fast, real and powerful, and do not give room to any imprecise or careless behavior.

It is now at the same time a very traditional martial art and a modern sport all rolled into one. The belt system has remained the same with all students wearing the same blue and white belt without any distinctive rank marks.

Hiroo Sensei emphasizes the value of men more than the value of belts, and keeps on modifying and improving Yoseikan Budo for Yoseikan Budo to remain a living martial art, against the pessimism of traditionalists…

Presently, thousands of people practice Yoseikan Budo worldwide (there are 140 clubs in France alone). For more information visit the YWF website.

The above reflects the opinions of the writer only and does not engage the responsibility of the YWF and/or the Mochizuki family in any way.

G. Zwygart is a freelance writer based in Taiwan.