We are currently working on a new DVD project that is somewhat of a departure from our normal fare. Allow me to elaborate.
Few involved in aikido have ever heard the name of Yoichiro Inoue. Who is this man? Actually, he was a nephew of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba who spent much of the first 40 or so years of his life at the side of his uncle and who was himself an expert martial artist. Inoue was also a major contributor to the creation of Aiki Budo, the precursor form of aikido. I know it sounds improbable but it is historical fact and thoroughly documented.
Why haven’t people heard of Inoue when names such as Minoru Mochizuki, Kenji Tomiki, Gozo Shioda, Koichi Tohei, Morihiro Saito and other early disciples are familiar to aikidoka everywhere? For example, in Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba’s biography of his father, Yoichiro Inoue–later known as Noriaki–is only mentioned in passing. Readers not knowledgeable in the subject of aikido history would never guess the pivotal role played by Inoue and his extended family in the development of the art from a reading of this book. Subsequent biographers whose works are largely derivative also fail to note Inoue’s important role in assisting Morihei in his early career. A conspiracy… or ignorance? Perhaps a bit of both.
The reasons for this conscious omission have to do with the complex dynamics between the Ueshiba and Inoue families extending from the latter part of the 1800s through about 1940. A spirt of rivalry of sorts and personality conflicts led to a falling out among various family members including Morihei Ueshiba, his son, and Noriaki Inoue. As a result of an accumulation of unpleasant events over the years, the Ueshiba family eventually distanced itself from the Inoues and has made concerted efforts to obscure Inoue’s contributions to the early development of aikido ever since.
I unwittingly entered this fray as a result of my research and writings on the subject, and association with the Inoues during the 1980s and 90s. Therefore I can attest first-hand to the sensitivities that still persist on both sides.
If you would like more details on this fascinating topic you may find my article titled Yoichiro Inoue: Aikido’s Forgotten Pioneer of interest.
The project now in the works will include a short documentary on Inoue’s involvement in the spread of Aiki Budo featuring some rare historical photos. Some years ago we came into possession of some extremely valuable 8mm films of Inoue as he appeared in his late 60s and early 70s and highlights from these will find their way into the final product.
Inoue’s bearing and technique reveals an uncanny resemblance to his uncle Morihei. A viewing of this footage which amply displays Inoue’s skills will give you a good glimpse of what prewar aikido looked like. Inoue is very smooth and fluid in his movements which are punctuated by bursts of power. I also have some footage of him from a demonstration given in Tokyo in front of an overflowing audience sponsored by Aiki News in 1988.
Inoue inspired a number of well-known martial artists during his career, notable among them Karate master Shigeru Egami.
We should have the new DVD tentatively titled “Noriaki Inoue: From Aiki Budo to Shin’ei Taido” ready in two to three weeks. Stay tuned.