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Aikido Shugyo: Harmony in Confrontation

Book Summary:

Aikido Shugyo, by Gozo Shioda, was originally released in Japanese in 1991. Throughout this important and insightful work, Shioda Sensei relates many stories about the time he spent training directly with the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba Sensei, about his war-time experiences and about his years as the Headmaster of the Yoshinkan. He also uses countless anecdotes to convey important insights into the functioning and application of Aikido techniques. Aikido Shugyo will inspire anyone interested in traditional martial arts with its lessons, its history, and its straight-forward approach to the application of Aikido techniques. Aikido Shugyo is a rare insight from one of the leading and most well-known martial artists of his time. Already a “classic” in Japanese, it is a required text for every martial arts library. This first ever English publication is a faithful and complete presentation of the original Japanese text and includes a Forward by Kyoichi Inoue Sensei, 9th Dan, Dojo-cho of the Yoshinkan Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. An early edition, in green leatherette with gilded corners, does exist.

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Review by: Clark Bateman

Literally translated, “shugyo” means “intensive training”. This is a book compiled from many interviews with Shioda Sensei, who was alive and involved with the original Japanese-language publication of the book. The English translation was done, separately at first, and then in collaboration, by two distinguished students of Yoshinkan, and then approved by Kyoichi Inoue Sensei, who was at that time the leader of the Yoshinkan organization. Inoue Sensei wrote the forward for this book. It is noted in the book that this is not an entirely literal translation, but has additional passages and wording changes that make the meaning clearer to Westerners.

Unlike another popular book by Shioda Sensei, “Total Aikido: The Master Course”, this book is not about technique, but about his fundamental interpretations and philosophies in Aikido. Always quick with a story, Shioda Sensei tells several for this book, exploring such subjects as atemi-waza, fundamental principles and misunderstandings about Aikido, kokyo power, O’Sensei, competition, and even Mike Tyson.

The book is very anecdotal, and provides considerable insight into this man who, in my humble opinion, is one of the pillars of the art. The book is personal and introspective, and puts a personality to Shioda Sensei for those of us who, until now, had not been given the opportunity to know him beyond his reputation and technical excellence.

The book is illustrated (black and white), though not profusely. It is not about the pictures here, but the stories. It is thought provoking, a good read, and a good addition to even a modest collection, even if you are not a Yoshinkan devotee. The text is double-spaced and easy on the eyes, although, oddly enough, not too easy on the NOSE. Mine is several months old, but still has a chemical odor that makes me sneeze… repeatedly. It is too new for used copies to be found, and at the time of this writing, can only be ordered new from the publisher at Cost is $23.95 US, plus shipping. Not the easiest one to get, but well worth the effort.

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Review by: John Boswell

I concur... this is an excellent read. What makes it that is flow of the book. I had a hard time putting it down at night. So many stories and anicdotes are given. There is also a confusion in the world of aikido about "Aikido is X% atemi" that this book has finally given me the answer. Much confusion on what percentage of atemi is in aikido, Shioda Shihan answer that question once and for all.

No, it is not technical in nature, but it does give a good look back at the world that O'Sensei lived and trained in. Were I teaching, I'd make sure each of my students read this book. It is well worth the time and energy. Now... if I could only get my copy back from my Sensei! ;)

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Review by: Tom Militello

In recent years, the efficacy of Aikido, as a martial art, has been seriously brought into question. This topic has been hotly debated in media print, internet bulletin boards and forums, as well as, in serious extemporaneous discussions within the general community of martial artists. After reading Shioda sensei’s work (“Aikido Shugyo”), finely translated by the authors, Jacques Payet and Christopher Johnston, one certainly retains the impression that not only is Aikido a martial art; it is a most effective one.

The relative effectiveness of Aikido can be traced to which of O-sensei’s uchi deshi studied with him and when that period of study was. Those that studied with the Founder of Aikido, before the Second World War, tend to have come away with a harder style of Aikido, more closely related to Aikido’s predecessor art of Aikijutsu, than the later more spiritual Aikido of O-sensei’s later years. Gozo Shioda sensei, was among the early uchi deshi, who came away from Morihei Ueshiba’s Budo, early on, and with a harder more effective sense of the art. This is evident in the thoughts of Shioda sensei, contained in this work.

Shioda sensei, a firm believer in the use of Atemi (attacks on the body’s nerve centers {vital points} and are distinct from simple punches. [translator’s note]), boldly states: “…you cannot defend yourself without atemi”. He follows up this statement, with the following thoughts on the subject of Atemi:

“Many of you are likely surprised at how often I use atemi. This is only natural since when we talk about Aikido, every one is caught up in images of wrist grabs and flashy throws. However, Ueshiba Morihei Sensei, himself, who was my master at one point, expressed himself in the following manner. He said, ‘In a real fight, Aikido is 70 percent atemi and 30 percent throwing’. Based on my own experience, I can say that this is precisely the case. Clearly, part of what makes Aikido an effective art, according to Shioda sensei is Atemi. Shioda sensei sounds almost like a karateka as he discusses projection of all the body’s power into the fist for a burst of tremendous power. This concentration of power and other factors involved in delivering Atemi, from timing, to distance between opponents, is instrumental in providing the focused power of Aikido.

In describing the use of force in defense, Shioda sensei believes the opponents force is repelled, by blending with the opponent. One must move first and use one’s own body movements to pre-empt that of the adversary. Sensei contends that one must abandon their own ego and to become a completely blank state so that truly free body movements become possible. Once this has been achieved, Aikido can be effective in a real fight.

Stories and tales of both Shioda sensei’s own training and that of the Founder’s are shared in a manner of the Master telling the student. These tales are intriguing, amusing and oft-times balance on the realm of the unbelievable, but the more we are told, the more we want to hear. The stories of Ueshiba sensei and his marvelous and amazing powers, especially regarding firearms are most interesting. The tales are set almost as in a point/counterpoint style balancing Shioda sensei’s teachings with stories of Ueshiba sensei.

I feel that this work is an eye-opener for those who view this martial art as a martial dance or a movement system based on out-dated martial techniques that can project one to a higher state of being, or worse, a system that allows one to throw their opponents without touching them. Shioda sensei makes clear that his art is an effective martial system, but one whose goal is to use the principles underlying technique to further the cause of harmony in the world, especially with the contact of atemi.

For me, seeing the effort Shioda sensei took to put his thoughts together and to reflect on his art and his relationship to Ueshiba sensei is well worth the price of this finely translated book. I believe the authors have been faithful to the vision of Shioda sensei and have succeeded in preserving his legacy of his version of this martial art as an effective one. I am sure that those who purchase this work will not be disappointed in the words of the author and/or his translators. I recommend this book highly, especially in light of recent discussions on the effectiveness of Aikido as a martial art.

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