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An Aikido Life (06)

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by Gozo Shioda

Aiki News #77 (April 1988)

The following translation from the Japanese-language autobiography entitled “Aikido Jinsei” (An Aikido Life) by Gozo Shioda Sensei of Yoshinkan Aikido is published with the kind permission of the author and the publisher, Takeuchi Shoten Shinsha. This series of instalments began with AIKI NEWS No. 72.

The Path I Have Walked

What I have written here is a true account of my life beginning with my childhood. I feel embarrassed at how directionless and naive I was especially before and during the war. However, I thought that by painting a true picture of myself this would enable the reader to appreciate to what extent my father and Munetaka Abe Sensei, the headmaster of the 6th Middle School, understood my character at such an early stage and encouraged me to enter the world of Aikido.

Chapter 1: My Childhood

A Sickly Child

I was born on September 9, 1915 at 29 Oban-cho, Yotsuya Ward, Tokyo (present Daikyo-cho 18-4, Shinjuku) as the second son of Seiichi Shioda, a pediatrician. I was brought up in a happy family under the protection of gentle parents. However, I was very sickly as an infant and I think I survived only because my father was a doctor. I caught pneumonia five times and fell ill with such diseases as scarlet fever, diptheria and probably everything else but the plague and cholera. I apparently spent a lot of time in bed.

Nonetheless, starting from around the time I was in the fifth grade I became quite healthy. Gradually I gained stamina and ended up becoming quite strong. You might say that this was because I had been the victim of all sorts of illnesses and had had enough of them.

I was an early riser getting up at four every morning. I liked dogs very much and at one point had 21 of them. There were about 11 male servants in our employ and, indulging my selfish wish, I and the servants would take the dogs out and run one lap around Yoyogi no hara (present-day NHK, Yoyogi Park) and return home about two hours later. After I led the dogs back to the dog house and fed them, I had breakfast and went to my elementary school (the 6th Yotsuya Elementary School). It is located near Keio Hospital near Shinanomachi.

Practice In My Father’s Dojo

My father was interested from an early stage in educating young people and remodeled one corner of the house into a dojo since his idea was that martial arts were the only means to achieve this purpose. He called the dojo the “Yoshinkan”. This was the predecessor of the Yoshinkan we have today. He hired teachers of Judo and Kendo to come to the dojo. Onuma Sensei, a Judo Instructor of the Yotsuya Police Station and Shiina Sensei, a Kendo instructor of the Hisamatsu Police Station were invited to teach Judo and Kendo respectively. Mr. Shiina later became a Kendo instructor in Taiwan. My father welcomed not only his students but also his patients and children from the neighborhood to practice Judo and Kendo at his dojo. He, of course, didn’t receive money for this. When I was an elementary school student my father told me to practice Kendo and so I devoted myself to training in this art. When I reached a higher grade of elementary school I decided to enter the 6th Prefectural Middle School (present-day Shinjuku High School) and began studying seriously. I had two home tutors with me who helped me with my studies day and night. It was thanks to them I was able to enter this school.

The headmaster of the high school at that time was Munetaka Abe Sensei, a man of noble character and a patriot. He always used to say: “Studies are certainly important but a young man should always have a dream and try to become useful to others.” There was a “national bell” which used to be placed atop the mast of the Battleship Mikasa at the time of the Russo-Japanese War and which was presented as a gift to the school yard. Abe Sensei would strike this bell in the morning gathering of students and repeat the emperor’s “tanka” poem three times. His most favorite poem read: “How I wish to have the brilliance of this clear blue sky in my own mind.” He loved to recite this poem in a loud voice. All of the students of the school respected Abe Sensei.

Entrance Examination For Military Preparatory School

Parenthetically, although the percentage of students entering the First High School from my school at that time was less than that of the Itchu (former 1st Middle School) and Yonchu (former 4th Middle School) schools, the percentage of students entering the Army and Navy Military School was the highest in Japan. Having entered such a middle school I felt full of energy both mentally and physically. One day my father called me and said: “Gozo, you are going to study hard from now on and enter the Military Preparatory School.” In those days it was very difficult to get into this school. Only about 50 out of one thousand applicants were allowed to enter. Unless you were quite outstanding it was impossible to gain entry. I personally disliked studying and so having to prepare for the entry examination was a very severe and painful experience. I think it was probably during this period when I studied the most in my life. You had to enter this Military Preparatory School when you were in the first or second year of middle school.

When I became a second year student, I submitted a one-year notice of absence to my school. During that time, two private tutors sat with me. One of them helped me with mathematics and the other with the Japanese language and other subjects. I studied about 12 or 13 hours a day. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was placed on a waiting list after having taken the examination.

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