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Lecture on Kotaro Yoshida - Part 4

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 4

[Edited from a lecture given on March 20, 1971]

Richard Kim and Kotaro Yoshida

Lecture by Richard Kim

After winning the match with the bandit’s champion, Yoshida was released. It was at this time that he started to form his theory of the “cosmic circle” (whirling). It took him seventeen years to perfect it. During the Russo-Japanese war, he had either 105 or 111 matches to the death and he won them all. He felt that he was getting the whirl. Then he trained while working on the cosmic circle and got the message.

Yoshida went back to Japan for a short time and while there, he saw his mother. When he told her about his discovery of the cosmic circle, she remarked that he had really seen life during his travels and that she was glad he had finally discovered the secret of whirling. She picked up a six foot naginata and told him to go out into the garden with her so that she could test him. They faced each other and she said, “Let’s see what you can do.” She attacked with a downward blow to the head which he blocked. When the sticks met, she stepped back, switching hands as she did, and went into a left hasso kamae from which she immediately stepped forward with her rear leg and struck at his knee with all her might (a technique which no one had ever been able to block). He blocked it. His mother said to him, “Just a little more. You must perfect your cosmic circle!”

Yoshida went back to Manchuria. The Black Dragon Society found out about it and decided that they didn’t want a magician to be there at this time (they considered Yoshida to be a magician) so they got the best man they could find, a champion, and sent him to Manchuria to challenge Yoshida to an old-fashioned duel with the sword. The match took place in autumn near the Korean border. When the two faced each other, Yoshida felt the ki and knew what he had to do. In his mind’s eye he saw how the challenger would die. The challenger was standing in a right hasso position when suddenly he stepped forward and gave a blow to Yoshida’s head. By the time the blow was completed, he was dead. Yoshida had stepped forward and to the side of the downward directed blow, deflecting the sword arm with his right hand (which was holding a small knife) and pressing it further down as he kept going around to the rear of the challenger by stepping with his rear leg. As he did so, he brought up his right hand to the neck of the challenger and cut his throat as he circled behind him. This easy defeat of so good an opponent shocked Toyotoma who had watched the match (and was connected with the EDS), so he had Yoshida sent back to Japan where he then met with his most terrifying experience.

Yoshida was walking through a forest just outside of Tokyo to practice the sword when he heard the sound of a fast approaching horse. When the horse was close to him, although he felt that it was crowding him (forcing him off the road), he didn’t look back. He felt nothing from the rider (no ki). He didn’t want to look behind, though he thought that Toyotoma had possibly sent him. The horse was almost on him and still he felt no force from the rider. As the horse passed him and nothing happened, Yoshida noticed that the rider was riding Mongolian style (no saddle) so he grabbed the rider’s leg and pushed up to see what he would do. The rider jumped up as soon as his leg was touched, leaping over Yoshida and drawing his sword as he did, cutting Yoshida on the shoulder. Without thinking Yoshida also drew his sword and cut the rider on the hip while he was still in the air. When the rider landed, he immediately ran into the forest, limping as he did. Throughout the incident Yoshida hadn’t felt anything from the man. He told his mother about it and she said that it could have been either an Igo or Koga man and that he must have met a magician. (Yoshida hadn’t reached satori yet.)

Years later Yoshida found his own cosmic circle. He had forgotten Shuzen Kakagami. There was a revival in martial arts after the invasion of China and the government was sending its men, including Yoshida, around the countryside to encourage its growth (they were twisting its philosophy in order to get people to fight China). Yoshida came across a village one day while on this mission at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. He was broke so he went to the tea shop to ask if there were any martial artists in the village (it was the custom for one martial artist to “entertain” another who was on the road - and between meals). The proprietor of the shop told Yoshida that the greatest martial artist of them all was living there, that he was better than even the famous Yoshida Kotaro and that his name was Kashiwagi Tenta of Shinkage-ryu.

So Yoshida went to pay a visit to Tenta’s home and when Tenta answered the door, he introduced himself. Tenta said that he had heard of Yoshida (although he hadn’t met him) and invited him in. After they were seated and drinking saki, with the formalities over, Yoshida asked Tenta why he wasn’t teaching. Tenta told him that he had had a terrifying experience one day while riding through the forest, and went on to tell about a magician, who without any warning, grabbed his leg and pushed as he was riding by. Yoshida said that it was him and showed Tenta the scar, telling him that he thought it was somebody sent to assassinate him. They both had a good laugh over the incident and then got drunk together. (Tenta experienced a small satori as a result of the incident.)

Yoshida’s philosophy

- Religion is based on two main things: The desire for happiness and the fear of death. Religions fall into two main groups: The first will give you happiness, but in a different world (heaven). (It is escapist. Why go to another world? Why not have it here?) The second says that happiness is a state of mind.

- Martial arts philosophy says that it is bad to do good. It hurts both you and the person you are doing it for. Mr. Kim then gave an example of what happened when he had helped somebody.

- When the martial artist feels pain, that is his hell; when he feels great in doing something well (ie. killing somebody who is trying to take your life), that is his heaven.

- An act of aggression is when you make somebody feel inferior, not killing someone who is trying to kill you.

- A man who is enlightened lives in a different world, not on the plane of normal man.

- If you believe in a beginning to the universe, you will stay in the finite world and will never reach satori. The martial artist does not believe in a soul per se. Life and death are two sides of a coin, you must live life now or you are the loser.

Click here to read part three of this series

Click here to read part two of this series

Click here to read part one