History of Yoshinkan (UK)
Written by Sensei David Eayrs
It is very unfortunate that in modern times many students seem completely unaware of the local history of the martial art they are practising. There are many students practising Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK today, who are totally unaware as to the origins of Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK. It would be a shame and a dishonour to so easily forget the people who have made it possible for us to be practising Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK today, and yet many students and some senior instructors do not even know the names of the people who were fundamental in establishing Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK.
Unfortunately in a very few cases this lack of knowledge is the result of instructors who wish to deny their own lineage in Yoshinkan Aikido (e.g. a denial of the Instructor who introduced them to Yoshinkan Aikido for a more favourable, popular or higher ranked Instructor), or to exaggerate their lineage in Yoshinkan Aikido (e.g. claiming to have begun Yoshinkan Aikido or trained Yoshinkan Aikido with an Instructor whom they have been taught by, for less hours than implied).
In other cases the lack of knowledge or incorrect knowledge is the result of instructors who themselves have no real knowledge regarding the history of Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK and have simply passed on incorrect statements about the history, implying that the statements are correct.
It is a great shame that some people may wish to deny their history or the history of Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK for whatever reasons they have. You have the opportunity of changing your future, but you cannot change your past, and therefore I have compiled a short factual history of Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK from the memories of someone who was part of it and who was the second person to introduce Yoshinkan Aikido to the UK.
I began the study of Yoshinkan Aikido in late 1962 under the tuition of Francis Ramasamy Sensei who is now 7th Dan Yoshinkan.
Two years prior to this the late Edwin Stratton Sensei left Malaysia to return to the UK after studying Yoshinkan Aikido under the tuition of Thamby Rajah Sensei, the founder and head of The Shudokan Institute of Aikido.
Both Thamby Rajah Sensei and Francis Ramasamy Sensei had studied at Honbu Dojo with the late Kancho Gozo Shioda and were graded to Shodan by Kancho Gozo Shioda.
I understand that on his return to the UK, Stratton Sensei began to teach Yoshinkan Aikido whilst he was still a serving soldier in 1961
I returned to the UK in 1966, leaving the Army in 1967, which is when I opened my first dojo. Shortly after this, following the submission of a film of my techniques to Kancho Gozo Shioda via my Sensei, Francis Ramasamy Sensei, I was awarded the rank of Shodan by Kancho Gozo Shioda with a letter from him congratulating me on my success and my correct Yoshinkan techniques and encouraging me to develop and expand Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK. This of course, was long before the formation of the I.Y.A.F.
At this time I also established a friendship with the late Jim Elkin Sensei, spending several weekends at his home, he like others who practiced a different style of Aikido had never heard of Yoshinkan Aikido, and it was almost looked upon with contempt. Jim Sensei was practicing Tomiki Aikido and I also trained with the Tomiki aikidoka, their main teacher at that time was Sensei Riki Kugure, who knew Kancho Gozo Shioda. Kugure Sensei explained to Jim Sensei what Yoshinkan Aikido was, and from this moment Yoshinkan Aikido became better known in the UK.
As a matter of interest during my many conversations with Takeno Shihan at the recent Yoshinkan Aikido festival (2006), hosted by Sonny Loke Sensei in Malaysia, Takeno Shihan was asking me about the history and development of Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK, and when I mentioned my connection with Kugure Sensei he was delighted because it turns out that they are long standing friends.
It was some time after this that Stratton Sensei turned up at my house and introduced himself as the most senior Yoshinkan Sensei in the UK, he told me that he had a mandate from Kancho Gozo Shioda to develop Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK.
Following this meeting, Stratton Sensei and I would meet from time to time, often at training weekends when his and my students would get together both for training and socialising, I might add that those times were great with no "Barrack Room Lawyers", no politics, just great Yoshinkan Aikido training.
Later when Stratton Sensei brought the young Sensei Jang Eun Yu (4th Dan) to the UK, we received him with open arms, he and his dynamic approach, were a great influence on us, and most weekends he was brought to Portsmouth to teach classes, by his senior student David Thompson Sensei, a man of great talent. Sensei Yu's first comment, after the first training session, was that he was "very impressed" with the standard of my students and that our "Kihon Dosa was correct and proper".
Sadly those good times came to an end, and Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK was split apart by unnecessary internal politics, in the main caused by certain individuals who manipulated people and situations, to suit their own agendas, and as is often the case, most of these people no longer practice Yoshinkan Aikido, but leave in their wake bitterness, sadness and a fragmented system.
Yoshinkan Aikido is today, still plagued by politics and has its share of people who delight in writing nonsense, all of which adds up to the continual fragmentation of our Aikido which we all profess to love. It is one of the main reasons why our Aikido is practiced by only a handful of people worldwide. The legacy of the great Kancho Gozo Shioda is constantly over-shadowed by individuals egos.
The fact is that I was awarded Shodan by Kancho Gozo Shioda and began to teach Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK long before many of you were born. We early pioneers of Yoshinkan Aikido had no training aids that are available today such as Videos and DVDs, etc. and contact with Honbu Dojo was not easy as E-mail did not exist at that time. Most instructors had no money to support their teaching of Aikido and yet we soldiered on with only the belief in Yoshinkan Aikido, and the words and teachings from our Sensei's to support us during these difficult times.
I would ask that you be thankful for those early Sensei who laid down the foundations of Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK, so that you can be practising Yoshinkan Aikido today. I would ask that all Yoshinkan aikidoka concentrate their energy on forming a consolidated Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK.
Above is a picture of visit of Kancho Gozo Shioda to the UK in 1975, that was published in the Yoshinkan year book. I am sitting 3rd from the left, in the second row sitting next to Thompson Sensei, more than half of the students in this picture are Yoshinkan students of mine. Front row is Yu Sensei, Kancho Gozo Shioda and Stratton Sensei.