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Lecture on Kotaro Yoshida - Part 3

by Richard Kim

Published Online

[The material presented below concerning Kotaro Yoshida, an important student of Sokaku Takeda, cannot be verified historically given the long time lapse since the reported events and the fact that none of the principals is still alive. However, we feel that it has great value as anecdotal evidence and may provide hints for further research into the life of Yoshida. -Editor]

I was a student of Sensei Richard Kim’s from 1968 till 2001 when he passed away. Presently I am writing a book about him and his background and in my digging I have found something that I thought you may want to use for your website as it is 6 lectures that he did back in early 1971 on Yoshida Kotaro… Sensei Kim used to lecture every Saturday morning after his classes on the philosophy and psychology of the martial arts much of which I believe came from Yoshida Kotaro. You are most welcome to use them how ever you like in your magazine or on your web site. - Excerpted from an email received from Don Warrener of Rising Sun Productions on Dec. 5, 2005

Lecture by Richard Kim on Kotaro Yoshida - Part 3

[Edited from a lecture given on March 13, 1971]

Richard Kim and Kotaro Yoshida

To answer the statement: You must be able to love in order to protect yourself.

Why is a man aggressive? Society made him aggressive when it taught him the relationships that exist between men in society. Without these set relationships there can be no aggression. Witness animals. They don’t kill except for food to eat. When they do fight, the loser usually runs away and without pursuit. Only man kills the loser. In modern society aggression is represented by keeping up and surpassing the “Joneses” or by being “top dog,” etc. Aggression provides the drive to win or to be the best.

There seems to be a paradox between a Buddhist’s professed passivism and his ability to kill. However this can be explained. The martial artist seeks truth. But what is the truth? Is a woman who is forty but who says she is thirty-two telling the truth? Yes! She is telling the truth because her reason for saying it is true - she doesn’t want to get older. What is true passivism? Is it the Quaker who tries to reason with a man who enters his house and starts breaking it up? No! The truly passive man is able to receive the energy exuding from the other and kill him with it - his own energy. It is passive because it is merciful.

You must know loss to know victory. You must be like water. If you pour water on the ground, it seeks the lowest level. If you can receive your opponent’s energy (his suki), he becomes the lower level and the energy goes back in a circle and kills him. Like water flowing back to the lowest level, the ki flows back to him.

When you do the push and pull exercise, stand firm (brace) with the back leg. Step back if you are overpowered (his seven units to your three). In stepping back one step you are able to do anything to him because you are receiving his energy (his seven units become yours so that you have ten units momentarily). So in the exercise stand firm. The harder your opponent pushes, the harder you push. Take one step back if you must, then stand firm again.

Yoshida’s philosophy at age thirty:

You have nine orifices: the eyes, nostrils, mouth, rectum, and the urethra. That is your physical relationship with the external world (not counting the mind). It’s sensory. These are called the external gates. To protect the external gates you use your appendages. Imagine a circle with a dot inside. The circle represents the body and the dot represents the mind (not the mind of thought but the original mind). The mind is the internal gate. This gate also has a protector - the intellect. The intellect is the protector that prevents you from knowing your original mind. The intellect identifies with the external gates. You must get through to the mind (samadhi). The mind is in internal turmoil except in samadhi when it is calm and the body is detached. In the sate of samadhi you see clearly, and everything as it is. That is detachment - seeing everything in its proper perspective without colouring by the intellect. The intellect has as its ally the deluded mind. One result of the deluded mind would be when you see three women walking down the street and give a value to the one in the middle by saying that she is the prettiest. The man in samadhi would just see three women.

If you are fighting a person because of an argument in a bar, or because you are jumped in an alley, you are not detached but are instead emotionally involved. In the gym you are detached because there is no animosity. You must fight as if you were in the gym.

A little later in his life (after thirty):

Everybody lives in his own world. In your own world you know best. Your world is for you. (When you love, you share your gain and beauty with another - you share your world.) You might have certain things in common with others - goals, hobbies, etc. However everybody has at least two things in common: the ultimate desire - which is happiness - and the fear of death. (Because of the fear of death religions were formed.)

The only exaltation a martial artist may find in life is that when he kills somebody who is trying to kill him.

Sometime between the ages of thirty and thirty-three Yoshida went to Manchuria where he developed these theories: there are many degrees (levels) of consciousness - sleep is a low level and being awake is a higher level.

While he was there, he was captured by Manchurian bandits. Accompanying him was another Japanese who worked for the Manchurian railway. He was a spy as were most of the workers. The bandits observed Yoshida’s stick and also his knife hidden in his waistband. In talking with one of his captors Yoshida mentioned that he wasn’t a spy. His captors said that that was too bad for unfortunately for him, they killed all their prisoners.

Yoshida, being familiar with the bandit’s customs, issued a challenge to them. If he won, he would be freed. The bandits accepted the challenge to them and agreed to a match to the death with one of their men. They kept him there for a week while they looked for their best men. Finally, after three weeks had gone by, their Chinese expert with the two broadswords arrived.

Yoshida had a week to prepare for the match in which they would only let him use the stick he had on him when he was captured. As he watched the expert practice whirling the two swords, he did his best to think of a defense to no avail. He tried everything he had ever heard of doing to prepare himself: ate the right food, no drinking or women, standing on his head, etc.

Finally he decided to practice what he preached and rely on his philosophy. He felt that it all came down to “sitting.” Sitting, meaning not the physical act but having no thoughts in the mind, is the true essence of meditation. No thought means the eyes, the ears, everything flows with the air. When you are breathing, you are flowing with your environment. You must enjoy everything to the limit as if you are going to die at any time. If you are doing everything to its fullest, you “receive.”

Seeing the expert practice, he decided that he must think of death as his friend (all your troubles and worries are over when you are dead) and he must not be worried about going inside the expert’s reach. So when the time for the match came, he stood with the stick in his left hand. He decided that he must strike at the solar plexus with all his might (total concentration - no fear of death, it was his friend). He tightened up his rectum, took a deep breath and let it out slowly, then took a step back with his right foot, still holding the stick in his left hand at his side. When the expert came within range (he was coming down at Yoshida’s head with one of the swords), he lunged stepped forward with his right foot and poked him in the solar plexus deep, then twisted the stick and came down and out into a gedan kamae. The expert was dead.


A woman can receive better than a man because she is more passive. That is why the Japanese don’t like to see women in the martial arts.

Through your breath and mind you can send your own vibration (using your thought waves) - everyone’s vibration is different. You must hit samadhi to do it.

If you can make your body vibrate, your blood vessels vibrate also and in so doing they clean themselves out (it takes about half an hour of vibration).

Yoshida’s saying: A mouth has no virtue. The tongue has no bones.

Click here to read part two of this series

Click here to read part one