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Morihei Ueshiba and Minoru Mochizuki

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by Stanley Pranin

From Japanese Wushu Magazine

The budo career of Minoru Mochizuki has been unique in many respects. He began judo training as a child and is still active today at the age of 81 [now 93]. As a young man he had close relationships with some of the towering figures of budo of the day including Jigoro Kano, Kyuzo Mifune and Morihei Ueshiba. In addition, he is a man of high intellect whose thinking has been greatly influenced by Kano and Ueshiba as well as numerous writers and philosophers. Let us touch upon the highlights of this exceptional man’s career in this fourth article on aikido history.

Minoru Mochizuki at 60th
anniversary party of
Yoseikan Dojo in 1992

Early Career in judo

Minoru Mochizuki was born in 1907 and embarked upon his budo career at the tender age of 5 when he began his practice of judo. As a boy his training also included kendo and a kobudo called Gyokushin-ryu Jujutsu, his eclectic approach to budo already being apparent. In 1926 at age 19, he enrolled at the Kododan and within the brief span of less than two years was promoted to sandan, an outstanding achievement for that time.

Mochizuki relates an amusing story of how he came to the attention of the famous Kyuzo Mifune Sensei while attending “kangeiko” (winter training). It seems that that he was living in Tsurumi at that time and in order to attend the early morning keiko had to set out at 12 midnight. One morning outside the Kodokan, failing to find the bucket he was accustomed to using to wipe off the sweat worked up during the vigorous all-night walk, he jumped into a well breaking the ice which had formed on the surface. When young Mochizuki started to emerge from the well, an unknown hand began pulling him out. It was none other than Mifune Sensei who was peering at the drenched boy incredulously. “What are you doing splashing yourself with cold water? You fool, you’ll ruin your health that way.” Mifune ordered him to stay at his house that evening. He continued to stay on at Mifune’s house thereafter as an uchideshi and learned first-hand the importance of being at the side of one’s master on a 24-hour basis.

Singled Out by Jigoro Kano

Even though a young man in his prime and full of competitive spirit, Mochizuki also felt a need to engage in spiritual training. A “Classical Martial Arts Research Group” had been established at the Kodokan by Kano and Mochizuki joined. As a result of his involvement in the study of several classical traditions including Katori Shinto-ryu and his unusual ability, Mochizuki was singled out by judo Founder Jigoro Kano. “You have the makings of a leader… In the future you will be a top teacher here at the Kodokan,” were the words of encouragement of the famous Kano. Mochizuki was to report to Kano on a monthly basis on his training progress. This led to a series of meetings where the philosophically-oriented creator of judo attempted to stimulate the mind of young Mochizuki who, at that time, could only think of winning tournaments. Nonetheless, Kano’s observations concerning the true purpose of judo and the pitfalls of sports would later greatly contribute to the theoretical basis of Mochizuki’s own Yoseikan Budo.

Kano, at the invitation of Admiral Isamu Takeshita (the subject of an earlier last article), witnessed a demonstration of the jujutsu form of Morihei Ueshiba in Mejiro in October 1930). Highly impressed, the judo leader arranged for two of his top judo students, one of them being Minoru Mochizuki, to study under Ueshiba.

Learning Daito-ryu under Morihei Ueshiba

Mochizuki began learning Daito-ryu aikijujutsu from Ueshiba a few months before the opening of the Kobukan Dojo in Ushigome in Shinjuku in April 1931. 24 years old at the time, Mochizuki made rapid progress given his broad-based budo experience and innate talent. Ueshiba soon asked him to act as the supervisor of his uchideshi and Mochizuku also served as a teaching assistant. It was even suggested that he marry Ueshiba’s daughter thereby becoming his adopted son and successor. Mochizuki declined and, as fate would have it, fell ill shortly thereafter with pleurisy and pulmonary tuberculosis. He was taken back home to Shizuoka City to recover. After a three-month hospital stay, he slowly began to teach in a dojo in the center of town built by his brother and some friends. The official dojo opening was held in November 1931 and many dignitaries from Tokyo including Ueshiba, Admiral Takeshita and a General Miura attended.

Although Mochizuki spent only a few months training with Ueshiba in Tokyo before his illness, he received him regularly as the latter would stop on his way to and from Kyoto where he taught budo seminars within the scope of the Omoto-kyo-sponsored Dai Nihon Budo Sen’yokai. It was during this period that Ueshiba presented two Daito-ryu scrolls to Mochizuki. Both are dated June 1932. The title of the first is “Daito-ryu Aiki Bujutsu” and its content is identical to the “Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu Hiden Mokuroku” given out by Sokaku Takeda as the first level of proficiency in Daito-ryu. The second is titled “Hiden Ogi,” the makimono awarded for the next highest level in the Daito-ryu tradition. Both makimono bear the signature of “Moritaka Ueshiba, student of Sokaku Takeda” and a seal which reads “Aikijujutsu.” These documents provide additional proof of the importance of the Daito-ryu tradition in the historical development of aikido technique.

Shortly thereafter, Mochizuki relocated to Mongolia where he spent a total of eight years before returning to Japan after the war ended. He had an opportunity to observe the lifestyles of the agricultural and hunting peoples of that region. This experience gave him a further understanding of the historical roots of budo in China. Back in Shizuoka City after the war, he renewed contact with Morihei Ueshiba who requested Mochizuki’s assistance concerning management of the Tokyo Aikikai Hombu Dojo.

Travel to France

In 1951, Mochizuki traveled to France mainly to teach judo, but he also found time to give instruction in aikido and is therefore credited with being the first to disseminate Ueshiba’s art abroad.

Minoru Mochizuki demonstrating
sword at around age 50

He spent a total of two-and-one-half years in France and his efforts sowed the seeds for the development of the largest aikido population outside of Japan. It is said that there are approximately 50,000 active practitioners in France today!

In the years following the war as his thinking matured, Mochizuki gradually formulated a composite (sogo) budo system of his own which included elements of judo, jujutsu, aikido, karate, Katori Shinto-ryu and other arts. This style came to be known as “Yoseikan Budo.” His thinking bears the indelible imprint of the philosophies of Jigoro Kano and Morihei Ueshiba, his two beloved teachers. Kano, the rational thinker and Ueshiba, possessor of great spiritual sensitivity, in their own ways both taught Mochizuki the futility of thinking only of winning and how the true purpose of budo lies in the development of the character of the individual.

Mochizuki maintained periodic contact with the aikido founder until the latter’s death in 1969 although he remains organizationally independent of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. He also continues to travel abroad on a regular basis to such countries as France, Australia and Taiwan. While in Japan, Mochizuki keeps himself busy giving instruction in Yoseikan Budo at his dojo in Shizuoka and writing on a variety of budo-related subjects.